I am looking for an endurance saddle, or at least a saddle with larger bearing surface that allows for a more forward leg placement.
I have tried Podium Endurance and Sommer Evolution. Both of them placed my leg further back than is comfortable for me. I used the Podium for two weeks and developed such pain in one hip I was limping around like an even older lady than I am Never had any kind of hip problem before and it disappeared along with the saddle.
The Sommer Evolution I was lucky enough to be able to borrow for a trial and I think I lasted about 3 km before I turned for home. No way was I going to be able to ride in that one.
I ride quite comfortably in a Stübben Romanus jumping saddle and my horse is also quite happy with it. Why change? First because as the distances get longer I want to avoid eventual back problems. And secondly it is a pain to change stirrups and remove/replace lambskin seatpad every time I go for jumping lessons so it would be very handy to have two saddles.
Reactor Panel looks very yummy but the price is a large tad higher than my budget.
Ozalynda is trying to find an english saddle with wider, flatter panels and a good open gullet to keep pressure off of the spine.
If you were in the USA I would suggest a Smith Worthington Trail Max as it has the wide panels, open gullet, All-purpose build and double foam in the seat. The Arabian saddle Company also makes saddles like this. but most english saddles have a narrower twist (that's why they are comfy for your hips) which means a narrow panel which concentrates the riders weight in a smaller area.
I can't suggest the treeless saddles, even though I prefer them, because they have a wide flat seat and are hard on your hips. You might want to look at saddles made for Icelandic horses, they typically have wide panels but have pretty forward stirrup bars. There are also several endurance saddles made in Europe of an "english" style. Gaston Mercier is one, pricey of course. Take a look at the Duett saddle web site: http://www.duettsaddles.com/index.htm
Although the company is American, the saddles are from Germany.
most english saddles have a narrower twist (that's why they are comfy for your hips)
Is *THAT* the reason? It could very well be, but it never occurred to me. I thought it was the stirrup position (I have very long upper legs).
I also ride a fairly narrow horse (akhal teke) and I feel very comfortable on him.
I looked at the Smith Worthington website. The Trail Max is said to have a wide twist, while the Danzig has a medium twist. Are they panel saddles like Reactor Panel or Orthoflex? One of the other things I disliked about the Podium was the feeling of being perched way over the top of the horse. I understand that Orthoflex is a bit like that as well?
The Gaston Mercier saddles are intriguing indeed and I would love to try one out. But at the price, I would want to be really sure. I was convinced that the Sommer Evolution would be the answer to all my problems, so I was quite surprised to find it to be the opposite.
I have the Smith Worthington and it works well for my horse - works OK for me, not great simply because it's about a size too big - but if you are looking for something with more forward placement, I don't think it will work for you - it is definitely a VSD type saddle, more of a dressage than jumping tendency. Almost all English-style endurance saddles I've seen are the same way, as you have found.
Typically, the wider the panels under the seat of an english saddle then the wider the twist. Most english saddles have panels that are narrower in the srea under the riders seat and thigh, then the panels spread out at the rear and front of the saddle. I have a Smith Worthington Trail Max and it's not noticeably wide to me. I've also owned Stuebens and they may be a bit narrower. I tried to find photos of the underside of the Smith Worthington but couldn't locate any.
Also, if the stirrup bars are further back it does put more strain on the hips. I ride a Bob Marshall Sport Saddle and it has stirrups set right back under your hip and it is hard on my hips as it forces your legs outward at the hip.
I don't care for the "flex panel" saddles because I can't stand being so far off the horse's back. After riding in treeless saddles for years a normal treed saddle feels weird to me. Oh, one "treeless saddle" that has a narrower twist is the Freeform. Not real narrow but the stirrups are moveable.
You might want to look at saddles made for Icelandic horses, they typically have wide panels but have pretty forward stirrup bars.
Also, since so far Stubben's been working for you, Stubben does make Icelandic saddles. http://www.stubbennorthamerica.com/stu09Icelandic.html A friend of mine had the "comfort" model, and I remember being comfortable, but that was a while ago for not a very long ride so my experience with it is somewhat limited. But might be worth looking into.
Those saddles look to be flex panel saddles from the photos. Yes, they'll also feel odd to you, like you are much further off the horse's back. It's much worse for a short legged person than a taller, long legged rider. I'm short so any saddle that lifts me off the horse's back feel awful.
Oz - You might try an australian type saddle. I ride an Akhal Teke, I like a forward set saddle, I have long legs, and I love my aussie (endurance) saddle.
They do take a little getting used to, you'll probably want to trial several to find one with kneepads that don't interfere with you - mine is an endurance model. It basically sits like a GP, with wider panels. Has never sored myself or my horse. Our typical ride is around 20 miles, 6-7000' elevation change, so it gets a workout. And multi-day camping and packing.
But honestly, if you love your current GP - that one might be just as comfortable for both of you up to quite long distances.