Saddles for native ponies - thoughts please

Charlie31

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Can I have people's thoughts on saddles that have been designed specifically for native ponies please? So far I have been considering the Native Pony Saddle Company and AH Saddles. Am aware of the split between the two parties involved here but both seem to offer sensible solutions / good products so if anybody can recommend or advise against either of these that would be good. Feel free to pm me if you have a bad story that you'd rather not share in public.

If anybody also has another suggestions that would be good but these are the only two options I have seen so far. The horse in question is a bit (but not very) croup high and drops away behind the withers then rises again gradually towards the bum. His shape means there isn't much room for the saddle lengthways so the saddle shape and design has to accommodate all of this. He's not your typical roly poly sort though and only takes a medium to medium/wide fit.

Would also be interested in the more traditional makes if anyone can recommend anything but sadly none of the saddlers round me seem to have managed to find something suitable so far!

Thanks in advance.
 

Merlod

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I had a black country made for my boy too :) he also has an "off-the-peg" BC dressage saddle which fits great too. Sisters native has a nice little ideal saddle. All the saddles I own are traditional type (walsall leather, quality wool flocked) and I have them checked yearly by a master saddler. I think they are far superior to adjustable things which sadly seem to be taking over.
 

Cowpony

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Mine sounds quite similar in shape to yours, plus has a very big shoulder. I have an AH saddle currently being custom made (needed black, and short flaps to accommodate my short legs!). So I can't really comment yet on how it is, but the one I tried was beautiful and my horse seemed to like it. SBloom on here is the South region fitter for AH so it is worth pinging her with any questions. She is very helpful.
 

Tiarella

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Andrea hicks/Steph bloom actually know what they're doing if that's a helpful comment? :D I have an AH saddle and love it. Steph spend hours with the rider/horse and looks at the combination in such detail. 100% worth the money, even though I'm still paying it off now haha!
 

Charlie31

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Oh that's a good recommendation, thank you! I must admit that this was one of my main worries with AH saddles as I don't think they're "formally" trained. Do you think that matters?

With your Black Countries, do you know if you had to have a different tree to the standard off the peg one or not? It says on the BC website that they offer different trees to suit different shapes but no saddler has ever offered to measure for anything other than the width. I do wonder if he needs a different shaped tree to that which comes out of the box as standard. I sometimes think maybe the saddlers are the problem rather than the saddles themselves!

Merlod, would you mind telling me which saddler you use? You're not a million miles from me and it might be that your saddlers is within reach.
 

FfionWinnie

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They wouldn't actually measure for the tree. BC I believe have two trees one more suited to cobs which has a rounder front to it than the other one. That's just my lay person interpretation of what I was told by one fitter.

Your horse doesn't sound particularly native shaped so you may get on better with a fitter who covers a broader range of makes so you can try a few and see what works for him.

Otherwise you could email photos to a company like saddles direct to get an idea of what they have available second hand for you to try.

I did this recently and while I haven't yet seen anything I wanted to trial, they were able to confirm what I am looking for and that my horse is not a difficult shape to fit to, the fourth professional opinion I've had which agrees about that, which is a good start :)
 

tda

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We have a selection of Dales ponies with varying shapes - I've had Native Pony Saddles in the past, but now have 3 Ideal GP, and have had others WH style, which are great.

I think Im goig to try BC next time I need a saddle
 

Merlod

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Oh that's a good recommendation, thank you! I must admit that this was one of my main worries with AH saddles as I don't think they're "formally" trained. Do you think that matters?

With your Black Countries, do you know if you had to have a different tree to the standard off the peg one or not? It says on the BC website that they offer different trees to suit different shapes but no saddler has ever offered to measure for anything other than the width. I do wonder if he needs a different shaped tree to that which comes out of the box as standard. I sometimes think maybe the saddlers are the problem rather than the saddles themselves!

Merlod, would you mind telling me which saddler you use? You're not a million miles from me and it might be that your saddlers is within reach.

Couldn't PM as your inbox is full but I use Maurice from Colne - I had him come out last year to try a BC dressage saddle after seeing it in the shop and it was perfect so I bought it and recently we took my sisters pony up the saddlery to try different saddles in their on site arena which was really helpful and chose a nice little ideal gp. I'm afraid I didn't take too much notice of what type of tree BC used on my sec D for the custom saddle.. it was about 7 years ago I had it made but I would assume it's the flatter one/ cob fitting one as he is flat and round and they gave me extra point/balance straps too :)
 

ester

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Ideals do seem to suit a fair few. I have a VSD and a dressage on the welshie. My mum has a no shoulder, big barrelled, croup high mare and she also has an ideal vsd but on a different tree type to standard - requiring a good fitter to get that one right! I can do somerset recommendations if that helps?
 

JFTDWS

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Wouldn't touch AH with a barge pole.

Mine was made by a local specialist (East Anglia) who I'd recommend if you're in these parts, and who I'll be going back to for a jump saddle when I can.

I have also used Ideals and Jeffries to some success as well, depending on the style/tree/horse.
 

Charlie31

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Thanks everybody - lots to think about here.

FfionWinnie - thanks for the suggestion to contact Saddles Direct, I hadn't thought of that. To be honest I'm completely confused as to whether he's a typical native shape or not. I have been told though that his croup high type shape makes him more difficult, and a couple of saddlers have suggested that ideally I would need a size bigger than his back can take so that's an added complication. A couple have also suggested flatter trees may be the way forward and this is what has led me in the direction of the native pony type route. I do still think that despite all of this a saddle off the big brands could be a viable option if somebody was prepared to put a bit of time and effort into it rather than just trying to sell me a solution off the shelf though. I guess it's a matter of finding that right somebody and I haven't done so far.

Merlod - thanks for recommending Maurice and sorry my inbox was full - I seem to have a very piddly allowance! I don't think he would travel to me but I wouldn't consider it too far to drive to him and it does sound like he's prepared to go the extra mile to find something suitable.

Ester - Somerset recommendations would be good too please. I'm in South East Wales but have been unimpressed with the local saddlers I have tried. I don't think Somerset is so far away as to be out of range, at least for some of them.

And JFTD - would you mind PM'ing as to why you wouldn't touch AH with a barge pole? I've cleared my inbox now! Sadly East Anglia is way too far for me but thanks for the offer of the recommendation. If you are able to share any further info with me privately though I'd be really grateful and it might help in my very confused decision as to what to do next!
 

BlackRider

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I'd highly recommend the Heather Moffatt Flexee, you can adjust the gullet to suit (or use without), and the tree will mould to your horses back.
 

MiJodsR2BlinkinTite

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I have bought two "native pony" saddles from the "other company" i.e. NOT Andrea Hicks but the one they split from.

Can't/won't say too much on here, other than to say that I would not personally recommend them and my feedback on them would be negative in the extreme. Their after-sales service and backup particularly left a lot to be desired.

If you do some research, on here and in other horsey forums, on The Saddle Exchange (which is the "other" company), you will come up with plenty of feedback is all I will say.

I will PM you OP.

Currently I ride my boy in a treeless saddle, the Tor GP made by Tree Free saddles of Buckfastleigh, Devon ....... lovely comfy little saddle, fits anything, works for us.
 
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little_critter

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I have an AH Phoenix gpj and love it. It puts me in a great position for both flat work and jumping (it's a little more jumping cut than their GP saddles, but their GP saddles are straighter than most)
Great service from Steph, which reminds me I must get her out for a check up soon.
 

Charlie31

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Thanks for all the feedback and sorry my inbox was full, for some reason I have a limit of three messages across both my inbox and sent items so reach my limit rather quickly! I've emptied it all now so if anybody can be bothered to PM me again it should get through.

Lots of good suggestions though and I guess the mixed opinions on AH Saddles was to be expected. Why is choosing a company or fitter so bloody difficult? I will think on some more...
 

ester

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I have bought two "native pony" saddles from the "other company" i.e. NOT Andrea Hicks but the one they split from.

Can't/won't say too much on here, other than to say that I would not personally recommend them and my feedback on them would be negative in the extreme. Their after-sales service and backup particularly left a lot to be desired.

If you do some research, on here and in other horsey forums, on The Saddle Exchange (which is the "other" company), you will come up with plenty of feedback is all I will say.

I will PM you OP.

Currently I ride my boy in a treeless saddle, the Tor GP made by Tree Free saddles of Buckfastleigh, Devon ....... lovely comfy little saddle, fits anything, works for us.

I always forget that they are the saddle exchange!
 

H4flinger

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I have just received my Fiona Cork saddle and I'm really happy with it although I haven't had chance to ride in it yet, my rider likes it and the one I tried on him at the demo was fab. It's lovely quality and Fiona spends a lot of time getting the measurements right all the way across the horses back which is great for my bum high, no wither show cob. I've had the panels underneath taper so the seat is 17.5" but they are only 17" cause he's also short backed for a horse of his size. She does a huge range of widths so even if your horse is narrower, she caters for those types too. Also, while they are show/ WH saddles they're very versatile, some customers even event in theirs apparently. I'd definitely recommend!
For me, customer service is everything and I've been put off two companies (mentioned in this thread) for being ignored/ not called back etc. It took me two years to finally decide what to get, I found a silhouette show saddle second hand in the meantime that I had fitted and it is extremely comfortable so I would consider them too. Would also recommend Ideal as my old H&C is exceptional just doesn't fit either horse anymore and is only 16.5" but I will never get rid of it haha.
I noticed you also wondered whether being formally trained matters, personally, I've had experiences with formally trained fitters and master saddlers who have said saddles that are completely unsuitable fit the horse that very obviously don't. I'd rather have someone that has hands on experience with horses themselves through owning/competing etc. and understands different horse shapes as mine are both very hard to fit and many fitters just try to get away with far too narrow trees. Hope this helps :)
 
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Charlie31

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Thanks for this. I’ve just looked at Fiona Cork and her saddles do look to be too straight cut for me (I like to ride short on a forward cut GP) but I do like the way she describes her fitting process and all the measurements she takes, and the fact that her saddles are made by Albion means they’ll be good quality too. Perhaps it’s worth a phone call and a discussion anyway, you never really know until you speak to somebody do you?

I know what you mean about the training side of things. I have had a few saddles for this horse and have tried various master saddlers in my quest to get the right fit and unfortunately I’ve mostly been fairly unimpressed. I just get very nervous at the thought of somebody who doesn’t have any training for some reason as what’s to say they know any more about fitting than I do? Perhaps this is just a mental block on my part though and I just need to get over it!

Agree that customer service is of utmost importance too. Sadly I have experienced pretty poor service off a number of the saddlers I’ve tried and it seems somebody can tell you a fairly shocking story about everybody that’s out there. It’s a shame really, buying a new saddle should be an enjoyable (if expensive) experience but it generally just fills me with dread nowadays.
 

FfionWinnie

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Have you considered solution saddles. Their rental facility could take some of the stress out of the situation. I'm renting a saddle at the moment and while I don't know if it's what I will buy, the fact I can do this is a very good option for me to rule them in or out.

I'm also going to try wow tomorrow and while I don't think there is a rental facility, you do get the specification of what you need given to you, if you want to buy your saddle second hand. The consultation takes 3 hours and you get to try various combinations I believe.

You are right, everyone can tell you a horror story about everyone and you have to try and make a semi informed decision to set fire to a large sum of money based mainly on trust!

My next course of action will be second hand from saddles direct on their trial facility because I know my horse and she is able to quite clearly tell me in her performance and attitude if a saddle fits her or not. At the end of the day it's her opinion on fit that matters!

It's a lot of money and previously I would have been aghast at spending hundreds on fitters, trials and everything else before I even bought the saddle but spending thousands and finding it's not suitable would be a lot more painful.
 

Slightlyconfused

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Have you considered solution saddles. Their rental facility could take some of the stress out of the situation. I'm renting a saddle at the moment and while I don't know if it's what I will buy, the fact I can do this is a very good option for me to rule them in or out.

I'm also going to try wow tomorrow and while I don't think there is a rental facility, you do get the specification of what you need given to you, if you want to buy your saddle second hand. The consultation takes 3 hours and you get to try various combinations I believe.

You are right, everyone can tell you a horror story about everyone and you have to try and make a semi informed decision to set fire to a large sum of money based mainly on trust!

My next course of action will be second hand from saddles direct on their trial facility because I know my horse and she is able to quite clearly tell me in her performance and attitude if a saddle fits her or not. At the end of the day it's her opinion on fit that matters!

It's a lot of money and previously I would have been aghast at spending hundreds on fitters, trials and everything else before I even bought the saddle but spending thousands and finding it's not suitable would be a lot more painful.

I'm having a saddle from one of the companies mentioned and so far they have been fab with me and my horse but it is a worry when you hear bad things as I'm spending alot of money on this saddle.

I do recommend saddles direct to trail from, we tried an ideal from there and while it was a fab saddle my horse hated it from the moment it was on his bad. He arched his back I felt like he was ready to explode. Was told by another fitter I should have ridden him through it not gotten off him after five strides or walk but I knee my horse and he has never done that.
 

H4flinger

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Thanks for this. I’ve just looked at Fiona Cork and her saddles do look to be too straight cut for me (I like to ride short on a forward cut GP) but I do like the way she describes her fitting process and all the measurements she takes, and the fact that her saddles are made by Albion means they’ll be good quality too. Perhaps it’s worth a phone call and a discussion anyway, you never really know until you speak to somebody do you?

I know what you mean about the training side of things. I have had a few saddles for this horse and have tried various master saddlers in my quest to get the right fit and unfortunately I’ve mostly been fairly unimpressed. I just get very nervous at the thought of somebody who doesn’t have any training for some reason as what’s to say they know any more about fitting than I do? Perhaps this is just a mental block on my part though and I just need to get over it!

Agree that customer service is of utmost importance too. Sadly I have experienced pretty poor service off a number of the saddlers I’ve tried and it seems somebody can tell you a fairly shocking story about everybody that’s out there. It’s a shame really, buying a new saddle should be an enjoyable (if expensive) experience but it generally just fills me with dread nowadays.

She does do a working hunter one which is more forward, I ride short and prior to getting my show cob had only had gp styles cause I only did local showing but I actually prefer it for everyday as I feel closer to the horse, it's personal preference though. I'm sure she could offer some advice, it doesn't hurt to ring. Ideal may be a good option cause they have various gp styles and do make to measurements if you aren't off the peg. Farringtons saddles are also very good quality but I believe you have to go through a saddler who deals with them, I briefly had a working hunter one and it was lovely just too narrow.

I know you're probably looking to buy soon but I found looking at all the different saddle stands at shows helped me decide. I dreaded getting one made due to an experience my mum had with a saddler who I am yet to see a bad review for but that made me spend longer looking into things rather than just going with what people said.

I used to feel the same about training but having had some dodgy experiences, I don't think being qualified necessarily means they are better. You can get good untrained fitters and bad trained ones as well as very good trained ones and terrible ones without training. Every fitter/ saddler can have off days or make mistakes too so theres bound to be people that have had bad experiences wherever you go, peoples expectations of things also differ.
 

Charlie31

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Have you considered solution saddles. Their rental facility could take some of the stress out of the situation. I'm renting a saddle at the moment and while I don't know if it's what I will buy, the fact I can do this is a very good option for me to rule them in or out.

I'm also going to try wow tomorrow and while I don't think there is a rental facility, you do get the specification of what you need given to you, if you want to buy your saddle second hand. The consultation takes 3 hours and you get to try various combinations I believe.

You are right, everyone can tell you a horror story about everyone and you have to try and make a semi informed decision to set fire to a large sum of money based mainly on trust!

My next course of action will be second hand from saddles direct on their trial facility because I know my horse and she is able to quite clearly tell me in her performance and attitude if a saddle fits her or not. At the end of the day it's her opinion on fit that matters!

It's a lot of money and previously I would have been aghast at spending hundreds on fitters, trials and everything else before I even bought the saddle but spending thousands and finding it's not suitable would be a lot more painful.

I have Solution Saddles in the back of my mind as a possibility further down the line but would like to try a bit more with treed saddles yet before giving up on them. Solution is the only treeless brand I know of really but people do seem to rave about them. My only worry is the system looks quite complicated and I also reckon I'd have to have a saddle length that goes beyond his last rib. I know it explains on the website that this isn't a problem but it might take me a while to get my head around that one!

The other problem is that where I live it's really difficult to locate fitters for some of the less mainstream brands. It doesn't rule anything out completely but does make some options a bit more logistically complicated to try.

I am very inclined to try the Saddles Direct option though and get a few different saddles to try. Even if I just pick things and send them back it will give me a feel for what might or might not fit and this will help with future decisions. To be honest I probably trust my own judgement more than that of most saddlers these days anyway so maybe I'll even end up getting something via this route!

Totally agree that the option to have a fitter out and trial something is a good one. I wish more people would do this. As you say, much better to spend a couple of hundred quid to find out something doesn't work than a couple of grand doing so. If there were more fitters around me who did this I reckon I'd just get them all out and have several months of trying things before making a final decision. At least then I could be vaguely confident that what I'd got was the best option rather than buying and trying yet another saddle only for it not to work out. :(

I'm having a saddle from one of the companies mentioned and so far they have been fab with me and my horse but it is a worry when you hear bad things as I'm spending alot of money on this saddle.

I do recommend saddles direct to trail from, we tried an ideal from there and while it was a fab saddle my horse hated it from the moment it was on his bad. He arched his back I felt like he was ready to explode. Was told by another fitter I should have ridden him through it not gotten off him after five strides or walk but I knee my horse and he has never done that.

My problem is that my horse doesn't always tell me when a saddle isn't comfortable. That's very sweet of him but my last saddle gave him quite a tight back and he quite cheerfully jumped around BE jumps and cross country courses without ever saying a word. At least if he bucked me off I would know where I stood with it! :D

She does do a working hunter one which is more forward, I ride short and prior to getting my show cob had only had gp styles cause I only did local showing but I actually prefer it for everyday as I feel closer to the horse, it's personal preference though. I'm sure she could offer some advice, it doesn't hurt to ring. Ideal may be a good option cause they have various gp styles and do make to measurements if you aren't off the peg. Farringtons saddles are also very good quality but I believe you have to go through a saddler who deals with them, I briefly had a working hunter one and it was lovely just too narrow.

I know you're probably looking to buy soon but I found looking at all the different saddle stands at shows helped me decide. I dreaded getting one made due to an experience my mum had with a saddler who I am yet to see a bad review for but that made me spend longer looking into things rather than just going with what people said.

I used to feel the same about training but having had some dodgy experiences, I don't think being qualified necessarily means they are better. You can get good untrained fitters and bad trained ones as well as very good trained ones and terrible ones without training. Every fitter/ saddler can have off days or make mistakes too so theres bound to be people that have had bad experiences wherever you go, peoples expectations of things also differ.

Good advice to take a bit of time to make a decision on why to try. It will still be a gamble whatever I go with but what works for one person won't work for another and it's a good idea to make lots of phone calls and do lots of research first I think.

I think not only do Ideal make to measurements but a lot of the other manufacturers will if you look at their websites. The challenge seems to be finding a saddler who will actually do that instead of plonking something on the horse straight out of the box and telling you "that will do" or "well it's all a compromise isn't it?" When I find that saddler who's prepared to go the extra mile I will never be letting him or her go!
 

FfionWinnie

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Agree I thought the solution system was complex from their website however the complexity of mine is a saddle and a wool lined saddle cloth. So in reality nothing at all complex. I wouldn't have known it's not a treed saddle riding in it.

They have hired me everything I need which included brand new accessories including the only girth that I've used which doesn't rub her at all. Minimum, I've come away with that knowledge. I could have spent the trial money twice over on girths and not got that far lol.

At the fitting which lasted 4.5 hours and included 6 saddles for me to try, she had 3 types of saddle cloth and 3 different girths they thought may suit her too.

They aren't for everyone and I'm sure it does depend on the fitter (tried it on my other horse and she didn't seem impressed at all!). The first few I rode on I thought utterly no way will this do then tried the one I didn't think I wanted (but they had thought may be the best one!) and it felt good straight away.

Certainly not pushing you towards the saddles as I don't know enough about them, however I certainly can't fault the trial facility. Whatever the outcome I'm not going to feel like it's a blind leap of faith.

Another place near me you can take the horse up and try on whatever second hand saddles you fancy. They even let you buy them and return after a week if they aren't suitable so you can get them fitted if you want.

The problem is what do you do in the short term if you can't find one. I've been using a Christ lamfelle bare back pad and it's allowed me to keep the horse in full work (although not much competing and no jumping). Again it's not something I would use on any horse.
 

sjp1

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Barry Swain saddles!! And Annette Pennie who is an amazing chiropractor to fit them. She is fab, and his saddles are amazing. Flat trees for wide flat horses and owen panels in serge so there is nothing to restrict the shoulder. She seems to be quite marmite, if you want your ego massaged, I would give it a miss, but she will look at the horse and tell you if there are any problems with it and she only recommends Swain or Swain & Humphries saddles. She doesn't sell them, so you don't have to worry that she is making money out of the recommendation, but she deals a lot with remedial saddle fitting. I guess she sees the mess that is created out of saddles being fitted which aren't right and which have to be changed quite often.

My boy had a massive problem going on with his shoulder due to 'saddle fitters' recommendations. Contrary to some people's belief, the Swain trees are flat. The Swain saddle is the only saddle he hasn't bucked with, and I picked it up second hand very reasonably and she fitted it - it actually needed no alteration, just some fibergee underneath it until the damage caused by previous saddles came out, and now we are fibregee less.

And no, am neither affiliated to, or paid by, either Barry Swain or Annette Penny!!
 

Charlie31

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Looks like I need to do some more research into both the Solutions and the Barry Swain then. Does anybody know of a decent website explaining about the Swain saddles as I know they're different but can't find any decent info telling me how. Either way I think a trial is definitely the way to go as these are both different types of saddles and I wouldn't like to just buy without knowing whether my horse liked them or not first.

I really like the idea of a place where you can go and try on loads of second hand saddles, we have nothing like that round here! Shame really, I reckon if somebody set it up loads of people would go for it. Perhaps it should be my new business venture!!

Anyway, at least I think my existing saddle is okay-ish for the time being. It's still not right and moves around much more than it should but the physio has confirmed his back is okay so as long as I don't overdo it I can continue to use it for the time being. It's not ideal though so obviously I do want to try and sort out something better as quickly as I can. At least I had already decided that I can't be bothered competing this year so we're just happy hackers for the time being which makes it easier.

And would you mind telling me which girth you found that didn't rub FfionWinnie? As that is another problem that I am still to get to the bottom of. Although I suspect the girth rubs due to the saddle moving around as the numnah also rubs when he's clipped too. Wool everything for us over the winter months! So maybe if I can sort out the saddle issue the girth issue will no longer be a problem either. Fingers crossed!
 
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