Last Friday evening I had a rep from County Saddlery come out to fit myself and Simon for a new saddle. The previous company I had out was CWD, and I don’t think you can get two saddles that are more polar opposites than County & CWD. My high level overview of comparing the two sales pitches would be:
CWD – It’s technology! It’s French! It’s super kewl! Did I mention it’s French?
County – This is a saddle. It is made much like they have been made for hundreds of years, and it’s made very well. Did I mention it will always fit your horse forever and ever?
Anyway, let me go on to tell you a more detailed version of the events.
I was extremely impressed with the time the rep took measuring and analyzing Simon. She had tools to do several different tracings, and also palpated his back and generally took a lot of time looking him over before plopping a saddle on his back. She told me that he measures as a narrow tree, which I found interesting since I had been told (by online help) to buy a Medium Wide for my Prestige. She pointed out that although Simon’s shoulder is wide, the saddle tree actually needs to sit behind the shoulder and that he was quite narrow in that region.
She brought out a few narrow trees to sit on him, and showed me one with a shoulder gusset. That extra bit of flocking will fill in the narrow gap by his withers and therefore push the saddle up even more to give him proper wither clearance. I was happy with how the narrow w/gusset looked on him.
I asked about maintenance, because a big difference between CWD and County is that County Saddles are wool flocked. CWD brags about never having to change or maintain your saddle’s memory foam, while County says that wool flocking allows the saddle to always be custom fit to your horse. I asked the rep what she would recommend for an average adult amateur rider, and she said flocking the saddle every 6 months to a year. I automatically pushed this back to a year, and asked the price. She said the fitting + flocking costs $150 (plus her travel), so if I bought a County I’d have to think about around $200 minimum per year to keep my saddle fitted well to Simon.
After she spent a lot of time fitting him, she brought out models for me to try. Unlike CWD, the County rep came with a trailer full of saddles. She had every model in the 18″ seat I needed, and brought her own pads and shims to fit Simon for his test ride.
First I sat in the Solution, which is a medium deep seat. The model I sat in also had a forward flap, which I adored. While I liked the Solution, I felt like every now and then I would pitch forward and then get kind of “stuck” tipped in a bad balance point.
Next we switched to an Innovation, and the fitter added extra shims to accommodate for the wide tree on Simon. This saddle also had a medium deep seat, but a different balance point. At first when I started trotting I felt a bit strange in the saddle, but when I started cantering and jumping everything felt really nice. We got a super awkward distance to a jump, but the entire time I felt perfectly balance. Sitting the canter in it was a dream.
To get another comparison, I tried a Stabilizer next. This is the “hunter” County model, and is extremely flat. I only trotted halfway around the ring before I said, “No way.” It felt like there was no cantle to this saddle and I was extremely insecure.
Finally, she wanted me to try the Solution again with an extra shim added to help the width. When a saddle is too wide, it will push forward and change the balance point. Although I felt better with the extra shim, I still preferred the Innovation at the end of the day.
We discussed leather options, and my favorite was the bull hide… which I believe is their middle leather. The downgrade (cheaper) leather looked and felt like plastic to me, but I loved how the bull looked and felt. Plus like I’ve said before, I’m not the kind of person who is likely to upgrade to full calf or what not. The rep said that County saddles come in a wide variety of colors, and don’t require oiling to darken like some brands. I liked this aspect, because I’m pretty minimalist on saddle oiling and care. I prefer to only need to clean it a few times a month and call it good. My favorite was the “Chestnut”, mostly because it matched my Dy’On bridle perfectly.
At the end of the day, I felt like buying a saddle from County would pretty much be a sure bet as far as fitting Simon. I also liked the saddle quite a lot, but am not sure I was in total love. My total love is still the CWD 2gs, but I have doubts about the fitting and long term back health for CWD and Simon.
Decisions, decisions! I’m not done shopping yet, but since some reps cost $$ to come out and of course it’s time consuming looking around – I won’t be having everyone in the world come see him. There’s at least one more person that I want to try, but then it will be time to narrow down my choices a bit.