Day 12 Of The Confident Rider Challenge
Even though we are talking about leather vs. synthetic saddles today, there will still be a challenge for the day! I had planned on talking about getting your horse to stand still. However, I have already covered that a lot. So I wanted to share my experiences of leather vs. synthetic saddles. I thought this would be something good to talk about because we will be getting into the saddle very soon. And you may be thinking about the saddle you will be using for your riding. And since I have both a synthetic saddle (Collegiate Bicton All-Purpose saddle) and a very nice leather saddle (Devoucoux Biarritz Close Contact saddle) I thought I would share my experiences with both saddles.
Synthetic saddle are made from man made materials. They are lightweight, and less expensive than their traditional counterparts. A synthetic saddle definitely wins in the care department too. There really isn’t a lot of care necessary for a synthetic saddle.
And one of the biggest benefits I have found with the synthetic saddle, at least the one I have, it really helps to give me a more secure seat. The material is almost suede like. And my breeches grip a little better to the sides of the saddle.
Bicton All Purpose Saddle
I found this saddle after doing a search for synthetic saddles because of the Wintec saddle I had been riding in during my riding lessons. I learned that I didn’t need an expensive saddle to progress in my riding, at first. And I liked that I could just grab the saddle and go. So I started looking at the Wintec saddles first. And then I found this one, the Bicton.
The price is what attracted me to this saddle in the first place. For less than $400.00 I would get a saddle, stirrup leathers, stirrups and girth. Then I found a few reviews of this new saddle from Collegiate. And I thought, why not? The first time I rode in this saddle, I felt more confident. It was like I was stuck to the saddle. I did a full review of this saddle in June.
This was the saddle I used when I first cantered in my lesson. My trainer even said while she was watching me ride I looked more secure, and because of this, it was time to canter. And everything went very well for my first canter. I was more than pleased.
I even used the saddle on Frisby at home to continue with my progress. And I didn’t worry about anything happening to the saddle. In fact, it still sits in my tack room, waiting for the day it gets to be used again!
But I found as I progressed through my lessons, this saddle locks me in a little too much. Meaning it’s a lot harder to get into a two-point position with this saddle. But for getting started, and to build confidence, I love this saddle.
And after my confidence level increased on the lesson horses, I decided it was time to really invest in my future with riding, and a good saddle. I have had many leather saddles over the years. I am always searching for a great deal on a fantastic saddle. And I did come close, I found a Schleese saddle on eBay for $650.00. While this is a great saddle for Frisby, because it is very wide, it is too wide for Ethan.
And leather saddles are more traditional in the show ring. They do require a lot more care than a synthetic saddle, but if you are planning on showing in bigger, rated shows, you should start saving for a high quality leather saddle now, and ride in the synthetic one until you get your beloved leather saddle. That’s what I did.
And it really is true, you get what pay for. All leather is not created equally. So the better the leather, the more expensive the saddle. Like I said before, I always tried to go the cheap route when it came to getting the ultimate saddle for myself. But then I decided if I really wanted to progress with my riding, I needed to make an investment of my saddle. So I did.
Devoucoux Biarritz Saddle
I have always wanted a French saddle. I looked at Antares, Devoucoux, and Bruno Delgrange and finally decided on the Devoucoux. But then finding one that I could afford became my challenge. I knew there was no way I could justify buying a new one. If you go to Devoucoux’s website, they don’t even list the prices of their saddles. Yeah, they are that expensive. However, you can find a nice used one for around $3000.00 and if it is an older saddle, it will be even more affordable. I found one from a high-end saddler for $1800.00 It is an older model, but it is in very good condition. I saved up my money and bought the saddle.
And the first time I used it on the lesson horse it was a bit odd. It is definitely different than the synthetic saddle. I have a lot more freedom to do what I need to for changing my position in the saddle. And the saddle fits Ethan very well. It is more narrow than the Schleese saddle, so it doesn’t really fit Frisby as well. When I use it on Frisby, I have to add a correction pad so I’m not riding downhill. But it fits Ethan perfectly, and that is who it is intended for.
This saddle lives in my living room. My saddle is in the corner like a decorator statement when it’s not being used. And I never leave this saddle out in my hot tack room. I want this saddle to last, so I care for it accordingly. It is cleaned and conditioned after every ride. If I take care of it, this saddle should last me the length of my riding career, I think.
I feel very balanced in the seat, and although it doesn’t hold me in like the Bicton, I adore this saddle. And after a few rides in the Bicton on Ethan I will transition to the Devoucoux. And the Bicton will be my back up saddle for training as well as putting on the other horse, in case someone wants to ride with me.
Synthetic For Confidence
But of the two saddles, I would honestly say for building confidence, and getting used to riding more consistently, I would go with the synthetic saddle. I don’t worry as much when I ride in the cheaper saddle. And it is so easy to care for, I can leave it in the barn without worrying about it.
It’s lighter weight and deeper seat make it ideal for getting started with consistent riding.
Almost Time To Ride
But for my first few rides on Ethan, I won’t be using either of these saddles. I am starting him under western tack, because I feel more confident in my abilities in the western saddle that I have. That way if Ethan does do something ‘scary’ I feel better about staying in the saddle. I don’t think that will happen though. We have been doing so much groundwork for the last several months and consistently for the past few weeks that our first ride should be pretty uneventful. At least I hope it is! (See, I still need confidence building too!)
So in getting ready to get into the saddle later this week (YAY!) I want you to go through your tack, and make sure your saddle fits your horse correctly. Check over everything, make sure it is clean and well fitting. Then, take your horse out into your arena and watch how he moves in the saddle. Have him walk, trot, and canter in both directions. Does he seem uncomfortable? Or is he accepting of the saddle as if it weren’t even there? Before you climb into the saddle, you need to be sure your horse is comfortable in it. So work him in his tack to make sure he is comfortable in it.
And if you need a correction pad, new saddle pad or girth, get it now and then keep working your horse in it. When he seems comfortable and accustom to carrying the extra weight of the saddle, then you can think about climbing into it. Use today as a practice and fine tuning session of your horse working under saddle. And get ready for tomorrow when we will be reassessing our confidence level from the ground, in preparation for getting into the saddle!