I'm looking for a relatively lightweight western saddle for my 18yo TB to do some trail classes in. He has fairly high withers (and has lost some topline conditioning this past year) and a broad shoulder. Are there particular western tree types for this back shape?
What's the best type of pad?
Trying not to spend a ton of money, since I also need a new dressage saddle. What are the best brands to look for used? Or a decent synthetic, so it doesn't weigh so much?
Thanks for any advice - western saddle shopping is out of my comfort zone!
If you like synthetic, try any of the Fabtron or Big Horns with a gaited tree. They allow for a higher wither. And as always, you have to try the saddle before you buy... most saddle shops have trail periods.
I have never been able to find a western saddle that clears shark-fin TBs withers with consistency, at least not for my horses. I've had to settle for using one of these with a thick cutaway pad. For really high-withered horses, I use the riser with a built up pad. It works pretty well, no one has ever seemed to have gotten sore from it. It does make the saddle sit a little uphill, but I ride too forward anyway so it doesn't bother me.
Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO
I love the Dakota Saddles. They are all semi-custom and made to order. Yes, gaited bars tend to allow for a higher wither clearance. Not all saddle makers have the same use on gaited saddle trees, but most have more flare front and back (a good thing on all saddles), high wither clearance, and a variation to their bar spread.
I have an OLD George Lawrence saddle, made in the 1940s that was made for the narrow horses of the time.
It fit my shark-fin, narrow TB very well for two years...until he started getting a lot more muscle on top.
The saddle still fits his withers just fine, it is just now a bit close at the rear of the tree. It doesn't move at ALL going up and down hills, I've finished rides and noticed that the cinch was pretty loose...but the saddle never moved and never made any dry spots.
It isn't too hard to find these, for $500 or less. Some of them will have had refleecing, or other new leather replacing old and rotten parts.
If nothing has been replaced, such a saddle will have value as a collectible (probably in the $500 to $750 range) but if there has been work done to make it rideable, prices can go down to $250 or so. These saddles don't fit most of today's horses, so nobody buys them.
The style of my saddle is a bit different, it is a 'Form Fitter' with a very big pommel/swells. It doesn't have the look of today's saddles, but when you're in it, it is REALLY comfortable (I can ride it all day without a sore butt, it was made to properly support a human pelvis to ride all day long, unlike most of the modern tree styles you see in production saddles).
With the high pommel/swells, you also don't come out of the saddle should your horse spook and whirl. You'll get a bruise on your thigh, though! Bronc-riding saddles have this same pommel/swell, though without the horn, because it is really easy to stay in the saddle if the horse tries to whirl out from under you.
But anyway, they don't look funny once you're sitting in them. Mine has a lovely full basketweave tooling. They're SUPER cheap for the quality and if you have a really narrow horse, they fit nicely.
Oh, and the way the cantle and pommel are made, the seat sizes are smaller than you might think. Mine is a 14 inch, I usually ride a 15 inch western saddle. My husband usually rides a 16 inch western saddle, and he can fit in the George Lawrence 14 inch saddle. It's a tad small for him, but he does fit. So if you see one locally and it says 13 1/2" or 14'', go try it anyway!
You might also find other 40's antique saddles. A N. Porter, Arizona saddle or a Hamley saddle will also be all-day comfortable. Some of the other oldies will be ok for trail classes or a bit of riding, but the master treemakers were such as Meanea, N. Porter, Hamley, Heiser, etc.
Thanks Fillabeana - I don't think that would work for this horse, however.
He has a decent high wither, but he isn't narrow at all. In fact, he's quite wide at the chest and shoulder with a steep drop from his wither. That fact that he's getting older and losing condition isn't helping either!
I was looking at a Dakota and going to call the Horse Saddle Shop, but I think I will check out that Crestridge too, if they take measurements.