Ask anyone — saddle shopping sucks. Especially if you are on any kind of budget other than “new, custom, & French.”
Well, it only kind of sucks. Actually, it’s not that bad. I know what I want and what I am willing to spend and I think I mostly have reasonable expectations for my budget. And I own a fairly average-sized and -shaped TB, which helps.
Requirements, listed in order of importance:
French — namely Bruno Delgrange or Devoucoux. I will not and did not look at other brands.
Condition considered regardless of age.
Must be around the cost of what my old saddle sells for.
Slightly forward flap.
No repairs necessary.
Available for trial.
You see, Eli and I have both been working hard on our hunter chunk physique, and we would like something that accommodates us a little better than the 17″ straight flap Bruno Delgrange PJ (I think it’s a PJ Lite because it doesn’t have blocks). I barely fit in that saddle anymore–PJs run small. As much as I love it, I also like my stirrups about a hole shorter than they should be, so I need a more forward flap, really. Eli would like panels with a bit more surface area, a wider gullet, and a deeper channel. We need a different saddle.
All these things narrow my casual internet saddle browsing considerably. I know what fits me. I have sat in many brands — Devoucoux and Delgrange have models that work the best for me. I am a good judge of what will most likely fit Eli, and I have professionals around me who can help me decide what’s right about fit for me and my horse. And I know how much I can spend. (I most definitely was not looking at 2016 full buffalo stuff. Well, maybe looking … but that’s it.)
Initially, I wanted to make sure there was still a market around me for the Delgrange PJ. I contacted three trainers, and all had interest. A potential buyer was in my saddle the next day. The following day, I rode in the first saddle I had taken on trial. I had a trainer (Eli’s massage therapist!) help me check the fit. Later that day, I got a text from my trainer saying the rider who tried it Saturday would like to buy my PJ. She also wanted my stirrup irons but she’d have to pry my MDCs from my cold dead hand and they were already on my trial saddle, so I think I just sold a new pair of MDC S Flex irons …
Monday, I rode in the trial saddle again. Eli went as well as he usually does, nothing unusual about the ride (we still can’t handle canter poles). The saddle felt very stable and well-balanced while on him. After the ride, I poked around on his back to see if he had any soreness. I thought I might have found a spot just behind his withers on the left, but turns out he was just really itchy there. What would he do if I ever pared my nails short? After Monday’s ride, I felt pretty good about keeping the saddle. I found no reason not to keep it.
I emailed Leah at Redwood Tack on Tuesday to tell her I’d be keeping the saddle. If any of you are in the market for a new-to-you used saddle, I HIGHLY recommend Redwood Tack. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to buy the first saddle I took on trial, because when does that happen? I think knowing what I was willing to try out and pay for made a huge difference in the ease of my search, and my search was not hurried at all–I look at used saddles frequently, even if I am not in the market, just to see what’s out there. Having realistic expectations about what you want and what you can spend helps, too.
So welcome to my tack locker, Little Dev.