December 23, 2013

Advantage Saddle Trial Day 1

First let me say that I think....think....I may have finally found something that works. I am so thrilled I can hardly contain myself!!! Poor K over at Advantage saddles keeps having to deal with my massively long emails, poor descriptions of what I am thinking, and multiple exclamation marks and smiley faces. I sure hope she has a wonderful Christmas, she deserves it after dealing with me.

I came home Friday to a nice large box on my porch. I was excited to tear into it. I opened it up and my first impression were:

1.) The saddle was much lighter than I expected
2.) The leather was of nice quality and was smooth and soft
3.) Even with all the wear and tear a well used demo saddle gets, this one was still in very nice condition

With the saddle was a nice pad with a non slip underside, a mohair cinch, western fenders, EZ ride stirrups (which was great because they are on my "want list" and I have never had a chance to try them out before), and shocking of all a return shipping label. I have never, through all my demos in which I said I would be returning them , ever received a return shipping label with the saddle. I was impressed.

It being dark out I wanted to wait until the next day to try it out. The hubs worked in the morning and we headed over to the barn after W got up from his nap. I knew there wouldn't be time to hit the trails in it, but it was smarter anyway to try it out in the arena just in case she started a bucking fit like in the RP saddle I tried last.

Gem ran like a mad woman all over the pasture when I showed up. To the point she was heaving and lathered in sweat. Silly mare. I think she has been looking for an excuse to move those legs while on her mini vacation the last 2 weeks. She eventually calmed down and came trotting over to me.

I tried the saddle on her without the pad first to see the fit. It actually fit pretty darn well. The loin area has lift built into it for a more swayed horse and K warned me that it would lift off her back a bit. She said it wouldn't mess up the overall fit or ride though so when I put it on her and cinched it up and the back raised up about 2 fingers width I wasn't overly concerned. I tucked the leading edge of the saddle right behind her shoulders and hoped with everything in me that when I cinched it up it would stay. I snapped a ton of pictures, but most are blurry. I am not very good with my cell phone.

Isn't it pretty? Fits her pretty well.

Left shoulder (her smaller one)

Back pre cinched up
Right (larger) shoulder
 I ran my hand between the saddle and her body and it was pretty smooth. There was one area on either side of her wither pretty much right at the d-ring you can see in the upper right picture that was a little tight. Not super, pinching, painful tight, but tight enough that I made a note of it.

Next came the pad and then I cinched it up. I was really nervous as I tightened the cinch. First, I had to remember how to tie a western cinch knot, but that came back to me like riding a bike. I watched closely to see fi the saddle would pull forward, but it stayed put. Test #1: passed.

With pad and cinched up tight. Still in a good spot

Look how far forward the girth can be!! Any farther and it would
be in front of the entire saddle!

When I cinched it up the back tilted up.

All cinched up. Look how her girth is in her armpit, but the saddle
stayed behind her shoulder :)

I led her out to the arena and watched carefully to see if she would react at all. Nothing. I called the hubs over to watch so he could see if she was moving weird in it.

I got on up and we went off at a walk. She hates the arena. Have I mentioned that? There are pigs out by the entrance and she has seen them before but for some reason she decided she hadn't ever seen them and that they were very scary. So were the barrels in the corner that have been there since we moved in. And the hubby in the center of the arena. And the gate on the opposite side leading out. Sigh. Anyway. It was a good test to see how secure I was in the saddle. While the fit for Gem is of utmost importance, if I am going to fall off at the slightest movement or am really uncomfortable it still would be a no so I paid attention to me as well.

First thing I noticed was that the saddle was ginormously too big for me. If I sat back in the leather padded seat, my legs were way out in front and I was shoved into a chair seat which was neither comfortable nor secure. If I slid up so that my legs hung below my hips, I was sitting on the hard middle leather and was not comfortable. I made a note of that. We walked a lot and she settled in and I got more comfortable with everything. The fenders were on the shortest hole and were still too long, so before I trotted I got off and switched them out for my English leathers.

I immediately realized that my stirrups were set to jockey riding length in this saddle and so after much fussing about I finally got a decent length although they were still a bit short. We trotted some and she went along with ears pricked forward and never a care.

I looked down and noticed that the saddle had not moved at all. It was still nicely tucked behind her shoulders. I then asked her for a canter which is the gait that always made every saddle in the past shoot forward over her shoulders. We cantered right, we cantered left, we spooked, we made tight turns. I looked down. The saddle was still firmly behind her shoulders where I had put it!!!!! This is the first saddle to EVER stay put. Test # 2: passed.

I then noticed that my tiny regular English stirrups were cutting into my foot pretty badly. I had not noticed this ever before since it was all I knew, but I had spent the first half of the ride in the EZ stirrups that have a huge wide foot bed. Once out of them I noticed the difference, big time. So I got back off, lengthened the stirrups one more hole and changed out for the EZs. I got back on and we rode for another 30 minutes or so, mostly cantering.

Once I was satisfied that I had been on her long enough to break a sweat (it was 65 and humid out) I got off and we went back to the barn to untack and see the damage. I had been on her for an hour. This was long enough in the past to cause bloody, raw girth rubs so I was anxious to see how she fared.

I lifted the saddle straight off her back and saw this:

Supper roughed up hair by the withers, left shoulder

Left shoulder

Hmmmm....I made a note of that. The interesting part was no sweat. At all. Her chest was white with lather. He butt was lathered. But not a single drop under the saddle. I was not too happy with the roughed up hair though. I pushed everywhere on her back and she was not sore at all. She had moved out nicely without any complaint whatsoever and the saddle stayed behind her shoulders. Yay!
So....overall impressions from my first ride:
1.) Saddle is way too big for me. It is a 16" and I am hoping a 15" would be small enough. I also would like to add a full seat sheepskin cover which ends up taking up more space as well.
2.) I didn't like the fenders at all. Once reason I had switched from western to English in the first place. I like my leg on my horse, not on leather. With the fenders off and just using leathers it was great. Super close contact feel.
3.) I need to relearn how to ride with a longer leg. I ride with such short stirrups in my english saddle and I never realize it. It was always comfortable. A lot of endurance riders ride with a longer leg position and I think I need to spend time getting used to that.
4.) The girth rigging is amazing. It was so far forward and allowed the girth to sit where it wanted to without moving the saddle. I am so pleased with it. the downside is that the ring on the rigging that slides to let the girth sit where it wants to is now put directly under my knee. It rubbed after only 20 minutes and became sore after an hour. No way it would work for endurance.
5.) Gem moved great in it. No complaints. No fits. Nothing. She wasn't sore anywhere. Oh, and no girth marks at all. The rigging allowed the buckles of the girth to be up higher and away from her elbows. It was great!
6.) I don't like the messed up hair at the front.
I shot off an email to K Saturday night and received a quick reply. Quick as in timely, not as in short and useless. The woman is amazing.
I will fill you in on her ideas tomorrow. I plan to try to hit the trails in it on Tuesday afternoon after the hubs gets off work and see how it fairs on the hills. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for such thorough description! That is a really pretty saddle. I guess using the fenders would mitigate the knee-on-girth rubbing, but then you'd be using the fenders. I also wonder what that rigging does to the saddle balance -- seems like it'd have an effect similar to a point billet, sort of a good news/bad news thing? Will be curious to hear what happens next!