Megan and Spicy Get a Saddle

The day after Runkle's first beginner novice, a County Saddlery representative had come to my barn and we tried a couple saddles. I wasn't in a position to buy custom but was hoping a used one that fit my specs would come up. I really liked the saddles I test rode that day. What I didn't realize was that would be the last time I rode Runkle... In the aftermath of everything a new saddle was really far down the list.

It became clear fairly early on that Spicy and I would need a customized saddle fit to both of us. I suspected with Spicy's inverted, hollow tendencies, that something wasn't working for him.  My lower back pain meant it wasn't working for me either.  I made an appointment for my local County Rep to come back out, almost two years after my first ride. I pulled the trigger on a custom saddle - a huge and kind of terrifying investment - for a couple of reasons.

1. They care deeply about the horse.
These fitters are hyper focused lasers when it comes to the horse's comfort. My rep (we'll call her BR) was extremely knowledgeable, took her time and did many different tracings, as well as palpating and checking his back. A couple traces she took more than once to ensure accuracy.

She also didn't treat me like a horse hating idiot for how my old saddle fit, which I appreciated. My old saddle fit... pretty poorly. I have that horrible hunter/jumper recoveree habit of trying to put the saddle on the horse's shoulders. It's an even stronger urge now because Spicy has the biggest shoulders I've ever had on a horse.  BR put both my dressage and jump saddles on him, and while my dressage saddle fit sort of okay my jump saddle looked like it was floating above his back. I could not believe how poorly it fit him. It was touching in four places with a grand total of about six square inches of surface space on his back. It would have been amazing if I wasn't also imagining the kind of pressure points that created. To keep the saddle far enough back that it wasn't on his shoulder, the billets were at the middle of his belly. It almost looked like a poorly placed rear cinch.

2. Not one piece of the saddle is mass-produced, and there is enough variety to suit every horse and rider.
Every piece of the saddle - including the tree - is hand made. There are 9 different tree styles for all the types of saddles County makes, so if you think your horse is impossible to fit... it's probably not. I had emailed BR earlier in the week freaking out because I had tried a couple saddles and EVERYTHING was touching Spicy's withers. When she got out of her truck I was grazing him in front of the barn and she shrugged and said she had seen worse (she did admit they were enormous when she did a tracing though, haha!).

Each saddle is stamped by it's maker, the one person who creates a leather and beech wood masterpiece for your beastie.

3. 0% Financing for one year.
I don't have the cash to drop in one go on a saddle like that, but you can spread out the pain because one of the reps works with State Farm and they do have a financing option. You basically apply for a credit card through State Farm and the first year is 0% interest, with a decent competitive rate after that. Depending on your credit you'll get coverage for the whole or part, and it's a neat feature that I haven't seen advertised from anywhere else.

Also everyone in the State Farm office is a rider and rides in County Saddles. I've never applied for credit before and spent my wait time gushing to someone about horses. It was a bizarre but not unwelcome experience.

4. Fitting perks
The County saddles are wool flocked, and BR lives twenty minutes from my farm. If Spicy misses a meal she can come up and reflock my saddle. That was my #1 requirement for a new saddle - I wanted something wool flocked with a local, accessible rep that could be readjusted as my horse grew and developed. County took this one step further. In the contract it has a fit guarantee, and if your horse somehow outgrows his tree within one year of your saddle being made, they will take it apart and put an entirely new tree in for $350. So if your excuse is "oh my horse's back is changing" then... you need to find a new one.

5. The difference it ended up making.
I'll admit, I'm someone who didn't pay attention or care about saddle fit for me or the horse. My first saddle was a 16.5" Butet with no blocks. Flat, plain saddle. I put it on every horse I rode with the aid of a half pad and never had any complaints (probably).

The difference in Spicy trying the saddle with his required custom specs was huge.  For a horse that lives inverted, I couldn't believe what I suddenly had under me. He felt stronger, rounder, sounder and less reactive. Maybe for other horses they sucked up bad saddle fit, or maybe his back is more ~*special*~ and less one-size-fits-most, but I had to swallow my obstinacy when it comes to saddle fit.

I also realized a few things about myself. I always thought I had this gigantic ass that needed an 18"+ saddle. My dressage saddle is a 19". After sitting in a few saddles (BR brought several to the appointment, and I sat in 5 different ones) I realized I actually didn't like a huge seat, and more importantly I hated large blocks. I hopped into one saddle that had huge front blocks and before I walked away from the block I was shaking my head. Since large blocks are very popular in most monoflap saddles that was all I had ridden in lately, and it just felt like the saddle was always touching me.

Custom saddles are a huge endeavor most people are not going to undertake. I will keep you posted when the Grand Throne lands (coming to a saddle rack near me in November 2018), but I'm anticipating it to be the second best decision I made this year.

First best being bringing this guy home.

(and before you ask, no I didn't get any purple on it because I didn't like the shades they have. But it's okay because I still have my purple calfskin leathers. I think BR was not-so-secretly relieved.)


  1. I can't wait to hear and see what you ended up with! I, too, have an amazing local County rep and she found my exact spec (not an easy feat) Conquest that had been a demo saddle. Meaning I got a saddle with < 50 rides on it for a used price. She was also so patient in fitting my tricky guy and brought basically every model out to try. My wallet was just relieved we loved the Conquest vs the monoflap hah!

    1. LOL ditto on the monoflap! But I did like the solution (dual flap) the best so it wasn't that much better...

      that's brilliant that you could get a demo! They are great about that.

  2. Who needs money when you have have spicy things like Spicy? HA HA HA glad you found something to fit him and can't wait to hear all about it :)

  3. I absolutely love my County rep, too! And their financing program was a lifesaver when I bought my dressage saddle--they financed the last $1k with monthly payments that could be paid off at any time and without those I would have had to wait forever to come up with that last chunk of change. Totally worth it for the immediate difference the pretty made for both of us!

  4. One thing that has been really fascinating to me is seeing how reps vary from individual to individual -- not even between brands, but within them! I've known a few fitters for Stubben who fit things really differently (they had different levels of training, some from previous saddle fitting jobs at other companies), and two County fitters who have likewise fit things differently. Sometimes they agree across brands, sometimes not so much. It really makes saddle fitting frustrating. I wish there were some kind of saddle fit Grand Arbiter who could fly down and be like "yup that fits, your horse is happy, enjoy and stop calling me every five minutes".

    All that said, I'm so glad you and Spicy are happy with this new saddle!

  5. OOooo!!!! Congrats! Can't wait to see photos! I bet Spicy is going to be one happy pony!

  6. How very cool! And what a really wonderful post outlining so many neat things I didn't know.

  7. Oohhhhh that's so awesome you guys are getting a new saddle! I ride S in his County, which is fitted to him, but I struggle a little in. Still, it's comfortable and the leather is wonderfully broken in. Enjoy!

  8. Going custom is so worth it! Congrats on your purchase :)

  9. I love my antares and I've always loved it. Always worth the investment (10 years strong)


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