The words ‘custom-made saddle’ might be enough to send some riders running to the hills at the thought of the possible price tag. Then there’s the fact that buying cheap used saddles is easier than it’s ever been, with Internet buy and sell groups exploding in recent years. The actual fit and function of the saddle can become secondary in the pursuit of a good deal; often to the detriment of the horse and/or rider’s performance.
I’m sure every horse person out there has had it drilled into them at some point how vital a good fitting saddle is, and probably also seen the repercussions of NOT having this (i.e. sore backs, behavioural/postural issues, etc). Add to this the tricky business that is fitting a saddle to the rider, as well, and there is often a tendency to ‘make do’ with that used saddle that was such a steal on the internet.
But what are we sacrificing in doing so? There are so many factors that come into play when choosing a saddle; the shape and movement of the horse, the level of competition and desired discipline, the height, shape and individual tastes of the rider. Of course, many brands of second-hand saddles are adjustable by good saddle fitters… But rarely to the extent needed to satisfy all of these factors, and often only considered AFTER the damage has been done.
So what kind of saddle customisations are we talking about that can help to address these huge variations in horse and rider? Well, starting with the obvious, there is seat size and gullet width. These two options are probably the most important and will cause the most issues if not correct. We would always recommend using an accredited saddle fitter to come out and assess both you and your horse to determine the best option. Our KenTaur saddles come with five different gullet chamber sizes, ranging from 1-5 (Narrow – Medium Wide). Unlike many saddle brands, they can be adjusted a full size up or down with a special saddle press, making them adjustable should the horse change shape.
The next important factor to consider is the type of saddle panel. There are two main styles of panel available in the purchase of a saddle; the first being flocked (aka stuffed with wool) and the second being latex (panels that are foam encased in felt). Flocked panels are more adjustable as the flocking can easily be taken out or added to, and is a good option for horses with high withers or highly defined spines due to the greater panel volume and thus the surface area in contact with the horse’s back. Our flocked panels can also have the height of the panel increased by 1cm, 2cm, or 3cm if the horse needs it (e.g. is sway backed).
Latex panels, on the other hand, are more suited to ‘barrel’ shaped horses such as warmbloods or those with a flatter back. The panels are shallower to allow close contact with the back. This provides a more ‘close contact’ feel, though these panels offer less adjustability. Unlike many brands of saddle that are available in only one of these panel options, our KenTaur saddles are available with either flocked or latex – as well as an additional option of a ‘sandwich’ panel (essentially a combination of the flocked and latex panels). This type of panel offers a better feeling of closeness to the horse than a flocked panel, but is more adjustable than a latex panel.
The next thing you might want to consider when it comes to buying a custom saddle is whether or not to have forward cut flap projections. If you are a particularly tall or short rider, you can order your saddle with flaps further or less forward cut. This feature is available on both our dressage and jumping saddles. There is also the ability to choose whether to have short or long points.
Now, just when you’re wondering how much this beautiful custom saddle is going to cost, don’t fret! Whilst it can be a costly exercise, it doesn’t have to break the bank – in fact, it could save you money in the long run when you have a beautifully fitting saddle that fits all your requirements. We offer an extensive customisation process for ALL our KenTaur saddles that is free of charge, with small extra costs for certain additions. You can ‘make’ your dream saddle to suit you and your horse, as well as deck it out with stylish extras such as coloured stitching/piping and shiny or ‘croc’ leather texture compliments. You can also choose the type of leather (classic tanned leather, calf leather or printed French grain leather) and colour (Black, Brown or Tobacco).
The value of a quality saddle that fits both the horse and rider can’t be understated. Whilst it can take longer to arrive due to being built from scratch, there is far less chance of issues to do with incorrect fitting and damage associated with second-hand saddles (that is often hidden to the naked eye). So what are you waiting for?
You can read more about the KenTaur saddles and the customisation process here.