I'm not into synthetics because I am vegan or anything, but am intetested to learn that some people are! Mostly I am into synthetic because of the price, and how it will wear for the kind of outdoor riding I will be doing.
You might have seen my past posts on these but here was the line up:
Older model Crosby spring seat dressage, 17" seat. You might remember that this one is the the one I use on the schoolmaster I ride. I love the comfort of it, but it has a large tear in the seat and would require a pretty expensive repair. It might also be a tad bit long in the flap for my 5'3" size! On the school horse, this saddle tips me a bit, not sure if that is because of the saddle or the horse but we are going to try adjusting that with a pad next time.
Next was a vintage (yes, 1979 to be exact!) Passier PS Baum. This is a traditional dressage saddle with flat flaps and no deep seat. It ended up being a 17.5". You can see from the photo it is too big and fairly long in the flap. It was in good shape for it's age. I read online that people covet these older-style Passiers! They love how it doesn't "lock you in" like many of the newer dressage saddles. Now, don't make fun of me in this photo (or do, because it is kind of funny!) I literally saddled up My Boy so that Ranch Boy could snap a photo of me in it, so I could assess how it looked with me sitting in it. I was wearing jeans and my cowboy boots and I know MB's flash bridle is not on correctly....we just walked around the yard it I wasn't actually riding.
Then another Passier which I consigned from a tack shop. This was a 16.5", much shorter in the flap, and made in 1984. It was in immaculate shape for its age! I loved this saddle but most of you agreed from the photos it was too narrow for My Boy (also a default of many of the older style saddles.) This saddle lacked in comfort but I really liked it.
Now we are up to the most recent two. I haven't tried this first one yet because I don't have a rush on making a decision, it belongs to a friend of a neighbor who has had it for a while and is in no rush to sell it so I can trial it longer than most saddles. It is also an all purpose I think, and I want a dressage, but if I could get it for a steal I might just pick it up as an extra. It is a Courbette "the combination." It needs some cleaning but in good shape considering its age and that she evented in it. I do not know the year or other specs, it has a serial number but could not find any contact information for the company.
Lastly, I just got this one to try at my next lesson, loaned to me from V's owner as well (she has gone through a lot of saddles trying to find a good fit.....) This one is probably the newest of the older and the nicest in terms of a more current dressage style. It is a Legend, which I believe is a former Albion brand, from what I have been able to find online. It is a 17". The seat is fairly deep so that size might work for me, although the flaps seem narrow and long. I will add some fittings and hopefully give this a go at my next lesson. Also as you can see it is a bit of a two-tone, I think a dark brown and a lighter brown (at first I thought black, or maybe a faded black.) This one is the higher end of my price range, about the same as some of the synthetics I am eyeing. If this one works for me and My Boy, I would have to weigh getting a slightly older saddle for less versus a new one.....
As you can see from my potentials, brown has been the theme. This is because I have been looking at older saddles. I also like brown and I think it will make a comeback in dressage! But, black is fine too. Most of the synthetics only come in black in the United States.
Other than the Wintec in my last post, I am considering the Thorowgood T4 dressage. This one is made in England. They are a little harder to find here in the states. I think I like this one with the suede seat because it will have more "stick" for trail riding, even if I think it does make it look a little "tackier" and more fake. I love the T8 version with real leather knee rolls and seat, but it goes up $300 and at that point I might as well start looking at lower end leather. I have read a lot of good things about these saddles and they come in a vast range of fits (cob, high-wither, broad back.....all with changeable gullets, too.) I am going to call some stockists this week and try to find out more information about how this saddle rides.
I was also considering the Tekna S Line Dressage (also has changeable gullet system.) But I think this one might be out of the running based on information I have gathered about the flap length, it might be best for taller riders.
I have talked to quite a few stockists about the Tekna and messaging with someone on their Facebook page and was very excited about this saddle at first. It looks great for a synthetic! They make one with faux suede seat/flaps too, but the price is the same for the non-suede and the gal said it is not slippery. One store back east said they sold 100 Teknas and only 4 have come back, and they are selling so well they have cut back on their stock of Wintecs. But, a slight turn-off is made in China. I know a lot things are. But I can really appreciate the Thorowgoods as they are on a SimaTree which is made in Warsall, England.
There were other saddles on Craigslist in the running, but they weren't local (as in not in my town or even within a half hour drive.) Driving a few hours would be worth it if it was the right saddle but it is trickier to get someone to give you a trial off of Craigslist.
One thing I am considering is getting a saddle fitter out here this spring and doing it right. It costs a couple hundred dollars but they have saddles for you to try and at least you know you aren't spending a chunk of change on something that you won't be using in 4 months because it made your horse's back sore. I'm not sure I can wait until spring (which realistically makes the most sense to do, as the weather around here these days is NOT outdoor riding weather and quite a bit of lounging and riding occur during the saddle fitting session) because I am anxious to have something I can use in my lessons, should it also fit the lesson horse. I just think learning to ride in ONE saddle that is great for me and one that I will be using on my own horse makes sense, rather than having to switch back and forth.
Thank you for being willing to tag along on my journey! I am sure you have all had your share of saddle shopping adventures. Any horror stories out there? Any amazing finds or deals? Which saddle that you own is your absolute favorite, won't-part-with-saddle?