Friday, August 29, 2014

Endurance Saddles - The Short List

Because I can't just go out and buy a ton of saddles simply because I love saddles (I wish I could have a whole room full of them!), I really tried to narrow down the attributes that were most important to me to see if I could figure out which saddles from my last post would make my short list and get further investigation.  In the end, I decided that adjustability in the tree is most important to me, followed by adjustability in the stirrup bars.  And I really am not crazy about spending what is a lot of money on something that is custom-made for my horse at the moment I order it, but then doesn't fit him three months down the road (I know more than one person to whom that has happened).  I also am not super excited about having to buy a saddle that I can't try first.  No matter how much some random rider/horse loves a particular saddle, I have no way of knowing whether my horse or I will love it as much until we try it.  So, for those reasons, the saddles that made my short list have some degree of adjustability in the tree, adjustable stirrup bars, and a good saddle demo policy.

That leaves me with three saddles from my original list:  the Specialized Eurolight, the Wintec Pro Endurance, and the Reactor Panel Heraldic.  I decided to order a test ride for the Wintec from Smartpak to start with because the Wintec was the lowest cost saddle on my list, coming in at around $1,000 and because I figured it would be super easy.  No measuring ahead of time like with the Reactor Panel and no trying to figure out options like with the Specialized.  Well, despite Smartpak's consistent excellent service in the probably 10 plus years that I have been ordering from them, it turns out that the saddle trial isn't quite as fantastic as I had hoped.  The biggest problem was that I ordered a test ride saddle in mid-June and they told me the soonest they thought they could get one to me was August 18 - that's two months!  And, I could only get the saddle in a 17-inch size, when I really felt like an 18-inch would be a better fit for me.  When I inquired about just ordering a brand new saddle to see if I could get something in my size and sooner, I was told that even the slightest mark on the saddle billets would mean I couldn't return it and get a full refund.  Plus, even the new saddles were drop-shipped from the manufacturer in Australia, so it would still be about 3 weeks to get a new one.

That was when I realized that the saddle trial policy that is offered by companies like Smartpak and Dover comes with a price.  I don't mean to criticize having the saddle trial policy, because it is an awesome option, but it used to be that you could order a new saddle, girth it up and ride in it once or twice for short periods, as long as you either rode without stirrups or ran the stirrup leathers under the flap instead of over it to avoid leaving marks.  I know this because the current saddle I have for Nimo is probably his fourth saddle and I've tried more than I can even remember to get those four saddles.  (Nimo used to get a new saddle about once a year due to changes in condition and shape.  This is also why tree adjustability is so important to me - I'm really sick of saddle shopping!)

Anyway, I went ahead and placed an order to try the 17-inch Wintec saddle, but I also decided that while I was waiting I could just as well look more closely at the Specialized demo.  That experience worked out much better.  While you can call the company to order a demo saddle, you can also order one on the website without talking to a person.  I realize that most of you will be horrified to find out that I didn't want to talk to anyone to order the saddle, but at the time, I was doing 2 hour daily conference calls for work on a project that was particularly unpleasant and had been going on for almost a month.  I hated being on the phone so much, and the phone call to Smartpak was it for me.  The Specialized website allowed you to select from several models, including the Eurolight, and you could choose the seat size as well.  Plus, you enter a few details about yourself as well as any special notes that might be important for saddle fit.  And that's it.  Perfect!  Except that I got an e-mail that said I'd have to wait between 2 and 4 weeks to get the demo saddle.  Still, that was a better time frame than what I got through Smartpak for the Wintec, so I settled in to wait.

I have to say that I am the kind of person who tends to take awhile to make a decision (much to my husband's dismay when he's somehow ended up on a shopping excursion with me despite his best efforts), but once I do, then I'm ready to move full-steam ahead.  So, the two to four week waiting period was just about torture for me.  But, eventually, the Specialized demo saddle arrived.  I'll write about how the trial went in my next post...

7 comments:

  1. Grats on successfully interacting with Specialized customer service - I've heard some real horror stories. Don't get me wrong, I adore my Specialized, and I still get perfect sweat patterns even after six months of really inconsistent work (from 100 mile fit to rather out of shape) - but I bought a used one because I didn't want to deal with the manufacturer!
    Can't wait to see what you end up loving (selfishly, especially if it's a Heraldic - I haven't heard many detailed reviews of them.)

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    1. I had no idea that the Specialized customer service was not that great...although that may explain a couple of things that happened...

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  2. (also I am completely convinced that I'm too fat for English bars / CAIR panels, so I've never done more than take lessons in Wintecs.)

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    1. You absolutely are not too fat for English bars!:) For one thing, I'm pretty sure I weigh more than you do, and they're fine for me. And I know many large people who ride in English saddles without a problem. In fact, I think they provide more cushion than western bars...but I admit to a preference for western bars anyway - they seem more stable.

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    2. Intellectually I'm sure you're right, but the evil little voice in the back of my head just insists I need bigger bars. That's also why I have such a tall horse with solid bone, but I'm sure you understand!

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  3. I did almost all my endurance rides in a Wintec Endurance Pro (two old models) and am very spoiled on no-maintenance, adjustable, lightweight saddles. I will never part with my Wintec, but now I'm spoiled by the unparalleled security of my Eurolight. Someone called it lightweight a few weeks ago and I was shocked - what have you been lugging around? Oh Western. : ) It's all what you're used to I guess.

    Good luck with your trials. I'm excited to see what you decide on.

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