Meet my latest purchase: a very thirsty 16.5″ County Competitor that I bought over Ebay from some folks in Georgia with a last minute 6:00AM bid. It’s a two tone (black and dark brown), Made-in-England dressage saddle built on a No.3 fit (AKA medium) spring tree. I got it for a whopping $157.50 (plus an obnoxious amount for shipping and handling) with the idea that even if it didn’t quite fit Big Horse, I could polish it up and sell it for a profit, since it’s a good brand for a cheap price.
This is the same model of dressage saddle that I’ve been using on Ezhno since I bought him, since my lesson program owns a slightly bigger version of it (17″ No.4 fit). I sent pictures of the No.4 fit to Washington’s County Saddlery representative, who recommended the No.3 fit, since the wither clearance on the No.4 fit was a little low (especially once I was on him). Here’s a comparison shot of the wither clearance:
As far as I can tell with my layman saddle fitting skills, the wither clearance is good (even when I’m sitting in it), I don’t think it’s pinching his withers/shoulders, and there’s a definite channel of clearance that goes down his spine. It’s probably in need of a reflocking, but at the same time I’m not super impressed with the fit of it. It’s pretty pommel high when I put it on him without any pads (which is usually a sign the tree is too narrow, right?), but the No.4 fit was also pommel high and was low on his withers… Ugh, why are saddles so confusing?!?! 🙁
On top of that, I’m not as comfortable in the new saddle as I am in the lesson program’s County Competitor. Part of it is that I need to adjust to it and that it needs approximately 1,000 layers of neatsfoot oil on it to soften it up (we’re on layer 9 or so), but I’m also finding its knee blocks to be pretty restrictive. I ended up having a bit of a thigh ache after a ~45 minute ride, which I think I can attribute to a combination of bracing off of those darn knee blocks and clinging to a somewhat slippery saddle (which should be resolved as soon as I’m finished oiling the snot out of that thing). The pain in my thighs reminded me of the days I spent in my old Wintec, which is not a good thing.
I need to ride in it a few more times before I start casting a lot of judgement on it, but as of right now I’m leaning towards reselling. I might decide to have a fitter out before then, though, to educate me a little bit on saddle fit, take some measurements, make some recommendations, and give me an idea of whether or not a reflocking/adjustment to the knee blocks will improve this saddle or if it just doesn’t fit to begin with.