I’ve always been partial to black tack. If I’m being honest, brown is like… my least favorite color. You won’t find a single item of brown clothing in my closet. I’ve ended up with brown tack because that’s the easier-to-find “norm” in the hunter/jumper community, but the moment I decided to go custom I knew I was going to return to my roots and order my saddle in black.
A brand new black saddle means that I’m also going to need brand new black accessories, obviously. Since Raglan did me a favor by breaking his reins during some photoshoot shenanigans (joke’s on you, buddy), step one of Project Blackout was to acquire a new schooling bridle set.
But then I was like, what’s the point of a schooling bridle if it’s not a little extra?
Enter Two Horse Tack, a custom tack shop near Lexington, Kentucky, that specializes in handmade beta biothane tack. What is beta biothane, you ask? Beta biothane is a web coated nylon that is stronger, more durable, and easier to clean than leather. Its color doesn’t fade with time, it can be washed in a washing machine or a dishwasher, and it doesn’t absorb moisture or sweat, which makes it less likely to rub or irritate. On top of that, it also weighs 20% less than leather.
I’ve wanted to try beta biothane tack for a while now, so my broken reins gave me the perfect excuse to put in an order. I got the two color English Convert-a-Bridle and a set of Riding Reins, then threw a pair of Stirrup “Leathers” into my cart so that I’d get free shipping.
Two Horse Tack discourages people from sending in custom measurements—I assume they’ve had too many people fudge it up and then blame them when their products don’t fit—so I sent in some info about Raglan and crossed my fingers that the bridle would fit. Like my last bridle (a horse-sized Ovation hunter bridle) my new beta biothane bridle looked very big when I opened the box. I had to put it up on its top holes for it to fit Raglan (giant horse, why you have such tiny head?), but the nice thing about beta biothane is that it was super easy to take a pair of scissors and trim away all of the extra material.
The fit on the bridle is a little awkward in the noseband area, so if you’re the type that likes to keep your noseband on the tight side you might want to go for the regular English model instead of the cheaper $40 Convert-a-Bridle. It doesn’t bother me and the way the noseband is attached has an added benefit of stabilizing the bit in his mouth so that it can’t move around as much.
I ordered the reins in standard width (5/8″) and a ten foot length, which was definitely a mistake LOL. After using a pair of really thick rubber kids reins for the past couple of weeks, it turns out that I actually like having wide reins. And ten feet seemed like the right amount, but they’re definitely longer than any pair of reins I’ve used before—it’s kind of hilarious how much rein hangs down when I two point. I’m adjusting, but they’ll probably end up as my backup pair of reins at some point. They were only $17, though!
The beta biothane leathers drew me in because they won’t rub your saddle or stretch, plus Two Horse Tack offers a “Short Adult” size (48″) that leaves me just the right amount of extra to feed through the keepers. They felt bulky at the buckle at first, but now that I’ve ridden in them they’ve flattened out nicely.
At some point we’ll need a show bridle (black with pink padding?), but before that happens I want to replace my brown HDR five point breastplate with a black one and order a girth that will fit my new monoflap saddle. I foresee some brown tack Instagram giveaways in my future…
Two and a half months ago I stood in the consignment section of my local tack shop, looking through all of the used saddles and mulling over the impossible task of finding the perfect one. Blessed are those with the butt of an adult and the legs of a child, right?
Selling the Devoucoux to TrainerM kicked my saddle hunt into high gear. I’m thankful to be in a lesson program that lets me borrow equipment, but I don’t want to be an inconvenience! I started scouring local shops, checking Facebook groups, and talking to online sellers. It didn’t take long to figure out that 1.) there are very few high quality used English saddles available in my area, 2.) shopping online for a saddle sucks, and 3.) there aren’t any saddle fitters near me that offer services for riders looking to buy used.
With every saddle I looked at, I got more frustrated. Nothing was quite right, and the saddles that seemed “close enough” already had me thinking about reselling and upgrading down the line. Did I really want to be stuck buying and selling saddles for the foreseeable future? Meanwhile, last year InstructorA went the custom route and she’s had nothing but glowing praise to say about her Prestige, so…
Prestige is an Italian saddlery that dates back to the 70s. Above all else, Prestige strives to combine “artisan craftsmanship with a continuous desire for technological improvement”. They created the first synthetic fiber (nylon/fiberglass) tree, and they craft their saddles from a unique combination of Swiss leather and parchment leather. The craftsmen behind Prestige aren’t just mavericks, they literally defined the words “made in Italy” for the saddle-making industry. You can read more about Prestige on their site!
Olson’s Tack, which is about an hour south of me, has a Prestige representative on staff. She came up north to meet Raglan and I and measure the two of us for our new saddle. She brought three different models out. Raglan’s back narrowed us down to two, the Prestige DX and the Prestige Passion K.
I felt more comfortable in the Prestige DX—which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. The DX is a more eventer-type model that puts the rider deeper in the seat. Riding in the DX was a lot like riding in the Devoucoux; it wanted to pull me into a defensive position that left me lagging behind Raglan’s motion.
I couldn’t really feel how detrimental the Devoucoux has been to my position until I rode in the Passion K, though. The moment I got up into my half seat in the Passion K, it was like night and day. We picked up the canter and I felt like I was really with Raglan for the first time. When I went into my two point I floated on top of my horse instead of being sucked backwards into the saddle. I wanted to canter for days!
And then I hopped over a tiny vertical in it and all of my reservations were GONE.
What’s the price tag on that fantastic feeling, you ask? The Prestige Passion K retails for a whopping $2,950. Add in fitting, customization, and overseas delivery, and I’m in for a grand total of $4,130.50 😱
I paid half of that when I put in the order and the other half will be due when the saddle is delivered in two and a half months—YES, THAT’S RIGHT, I HAVE TO WAIT TWO AND A HALF MONTHS. Was it super expensive? Absolutely. But, at the same time, if I had a friend that was a diehard fisherman and they wanted to by a $4,000 boat (with pink trim) I’d tell them to go for it, so 😎