So far, to date, I have owned seven saddles and tried three others.
From everyone I've talked to, this is a normal progression of the saddle fitting process.
When I took the Isabell back to Dover the woman who helped me kindly suggested I look elsewhere for a saddle to suit me. I think she was tired of me returning saddles. I was okay with that, mainly because I was tapped out on the Wintec, and they were the only saddles Dover carried that I was willing to spend the money on for what is going to amount to a second, backup saddle.
I was feeling very defeated.
I drove to Down Under Saddlery, because they have a fancy bareback pad that has stirrups on it. I have a very hard time getting down off of Ashke without some type of stirrup because of my issue with my right leg. I had a real hard time getting out of the Isabell, because the cantle is so high. It helps to be able to stand in the stirrup and swing my leg over, rather than roll forward onto my stomach and slid my leg across. Doing it the slide way results in incredible pain. I was not real impressed with the bareback pad. The seat and stirrups were velcroed on and I was unconvinced. It was on sale and I decided something was better than nothing and told the guy I would take it.
While he was in the back grabbing one for me, I started looking at the used saddles. I found an Aussie style saddle with western wool flocked panels in a wide, with a 17" seat (18" for English and 15" for Western). I can remove the western fenders and use my English leathers and stirrups (which I like better). And there is no horn. The polleys are fairly big and I felt very secure in the seat. Because this saddle is considered a crossover (Aussie bred with Western) the stirrup leathers hang straight down and are not tilted out in front of the saddle. I'm hoping this holds true when I put the English stirrups on it, because it will hold my leg in a much better position. Finally, there is no overgirth, which I think works better, because the overgirth really focused the pressure in a specific spot, and this type of girthing should distribute it better. It is cinched with a Western rope girth to a single billet strap, which seems kind of weird.
When the gentleman came walking out of the back with the bareback pad, I asked him if the crossover was a wide. He said yes and we pulled it out. I ran to my car and grabbed the back-mapping wires I had thrown back there (fortune favors the prepared or the stupid lucky. Whatever.) I raced back in and we turned the saddle over. The roll of the saddle matched Ashke's back almost perfectly. The wires at each spot (every four inches) matched the lay of the saddle really well. I am feeling very confident that the fit will be very good. And the best thing was the saddle was less than $500 (when did less than 500 become a exciting number? Have you priced dressage saddles lately? Yeah, $500 is a great price.) The gentleman helping me pulled another one out and had me try it as well, but it had a horn and the channel for clearance over his spine was not as wide as the first saddle. I liked the panels better in the first one as well. The first saddle also has double fenders which will allow me to remove the fender attached to the stirrup and use the English stirrups instead. So, I got it.
For the first time since I began to suspect the Trekker was failing us, I am excited to go to the barn. I have been fighting the pull of inertia and the desire to not deal. As much as I would like to like dressage saddles, it's not really what I want to ride in. I have really enjoyed learning dressage and I know that I want to continue to learn with Cassandra, but I don't feel comfortable in a dressage saddle. If it had worked for Ashke, I would have learned to ride in it, but it's not the style I want to ride in. I think there is too much cowboy in my soul. I want to do Working Eq, and both the Alta and this crossover will allow me to feel secure as we are doing the obstacles. Speaking of which, I need to talk to Rachel about building a course. . . .
I have everything I can crossed in the hope that this saddle works for both of us. Please send a prayer, or light a candle, or send a positive thought my way that the light at the end of this tunnel is not a commuter train being driven by an idiot on his iPhone.