Ok, I have now written this post about 4 times and each time it is different and each time I am unhappy with it. Here goes attempt #5.
I ride because it is my stress relief. When I am on my Gemmiecakes I forget the world, I forget work drama and stress, I forget everything (except for my W who is always on my mind and in my heart) except the sounds of the woods, the view between her forward pricked ears and the feel of the wind in my hair (well, if it is a windy day since we all know how slow she is). I love it and I love being on her.
Lately each ride has become more and more stressful for me. Instead of relaxing and enjoying my time on her I spend it worrying about how far forward the saddle is, is the girth rubbing, is the girth too tight, too loose, is she in pain...etc.
It has to stop. I need to go back to enjoying my time on her. Part of the problem is that my focus has changed. Instead of being happy to just plug along in the arena, I want to get back into endurance. I want a goal that goes beyond getting through an hour in a fenced in arena. I want to point her down the trail and 50 miles later arrive at the finish line. I want more. In order to get there I need to worry more about things that you can't get away with on short, arena rides. Saddles need to fit. Pads need to be correct. Are her feet ok. Do I need boots or shoes or can she stay barefoot. What about her nutrition. I am fine with spending more brain cells on this, but what I am not fine with is turning my wheels and getting nowhere.
I bought my saddle back in the spring of 2011 when I had given up on endurance. I was planning to just do fun trail rides occaisonally, flat work in the arena and some small jumps. The saddle fit was ok for that and was (and still is) the best that I have found to date. If I continued with that plan I wouldn't have any concerns. But I'm not because I know we can do a 50.
So, it is with this in mind that I am looking for a new saddle. Again.
I started to look around online again on Thursday and Friday of last week. I've already tried so many darn models, makes and brands, but this is 2013 and there just has to be at least one stone I've left unturned. I began with the treeless forum on yahoo. I had tried a treeless saddle once before and did not like it, but that was a few years ago so maybe something has changed.
I found that something had changed. I was guided to the Flexee saddle. This saddle is neither truely treeless nor treed. It has a formed leather "tree" in it to provide more lateral stabilty. My main problem with the treeless was that when Gem decided to make a sharp 180 degree turn, the saddle slid off her side depositing me on the ground abruptly. This saddle claims to avoid just that.
Unfortunately, I have ruled it out without even trialing it. My main concern was if the leather would withhold many miles of riding or if it would eventually start to lose its shape. And this appears to be the case. After reading many reviews and discussing it on the endurance forum, my concerns were validated. It looks great in the beginning but in short order will start to spread open and then you have a saddle without a tree but without the structure and padding of a true treeless saddle as well. Bummer.
Not to be deterred, I next checked out the endurance classifieds to see if there was a make or model of saddle I hadn't previously come across.