The decision on what to do about a new saddle for Jackson has been consuming all of my grey matter. I've bounced things off of Brett until he's black and blue. I've talked to my current trainer, texted my former trainer, emailed the massage therapist... you get the picture. Fortunately, all the roads have led to, or confirmed, the same conclusion.
Last night, my thoughts went something like this. If I buy an off the rack saddle, I am going to have difficulty finding a good saddle fitter to work with me and I'm very spoiled on that front. With my previous horse, I splurged and bought a Trilogy saddle. The Trilogy saddle fitter came to our place and I tried a number of saddles before picking the one that fit my horse, Auke, and me best. Then the saddle fitter came up every six months or so and adjusted the saddle to my horse's changing shape. She was awesome. I would ride Auke in the arena and she would watch his movement. Then she would adjust. I would ride again. Repeat until perfect. Auke never had a sore back. I was thrilled with the saddle. When I sold him, the saddle was part of the package. I don't expect to ever have another extra-wide horse and it fit him perfectly so I was happy to see it go with him to his new life. I want the same experience with Jackson. The woman who sold to me and then worked on the Trilogy saddle went to work for Custom Saddles. She said she thought the Custom saddles were a bit better. Unfortunately, that totally awesome saddle fitter up and relocated with her family to the San Francisco area. The nerve! I sent an email to her replacement down here (who I think fits Steffen Peters' saddles so she must be pretty good too) and we're trying to schedule an appointment. Albion does the same thing and a number of people have recommended their saddles. One of my good friends has an Albion and she loves it. I've tried a ba-zillion of them and they just aren't comfortable for me. It's something about the twist. I must be built weird since everyone else loves them.
In the meantime, my current trainer and my former trainer have both told me that they ride in Custom saddles and love them. The woman who comes up to do massage on the horses said "I told you so." True. Last time she was up she noted the changes taking place in Jackson's muscling and predicted that the current saddle's (a Bates Isabella) days were numbered. The Bates saddle is comfortable for me and I like how my leg hangs, but I'm not thrilled with the air panels. I don't think they are as forgiving as wool and you can't do the custom mushing around of the padding to make a perfect fit.
When I got home tonight from work, I went down to the barn and tried Brett's dressage saddle on Jackson. He has a Passier and has been really happy with it. When I bought Jackson it was too wide for him -- Jackson had that narrow TB build and Flash is stock horse built all the way. From what I could see under the barn lights, the saddle fits Jackson now - nice clearance, no grabby spots. So, maybe I have a saddle to use until I get a new one. I'll have to be really nice to Brett so he'll continue to share. We won't be able to ride together unless he uses his mounted patrol saddle (Tucker trail). Out here, mounted patrol is like old west posse. It's not the totally cool Royal Canadian Mounted Patrol look. It's black jeans, western saddles, and cowboy hats. Yech. But I digress...
At any rate, I'm on my way to a new saddle and that feels good. ...except for the pocket book part. That's gonna be painful.