Friday, June 22, 2012

Down Under

When I first started lessons it was at an English barn.  I had a heck of a time trying to keep my balance, but I didn't know any better. I purchased my own Courbette all-purpose saddle because I couldn't handle the school saddles.   Eventually, through STA, I found LA and her Western barn.  When Gem and I became partners and took lessons with LA, I continued using my Courbette.  It was not a good mix for building my confidence.  I was nervous of Gem's height, I pitched forwarded on his neck when he did his big stop, I was terrified to go on trail rides because I felt exposed.  LA saw my dilemma and let me use her Bill Cook Reining saddle.  Having a horn and pommel was just what I needed.  :-) 

I eventually bought the saddle off of her.  It wasn't the perfect fit for Gem or me, but it was OK.   The bars were actually a little wide for him  (believe it or not, Quarter Horses seem to be stockier than him), so to prevent the gullet/pommel from collapsing on his withers, I had to use risers under the bars to level the saddle out.  The solutions actually worked out quite well.  He never had any soreness after our rides.  For me the saddle was just a tad to small in the seat.  Coupled with the fact that the cantle on a reining saddle tilts a little further back (because you lean back when you are doing those sliding stops!), I was always fidgeting to get comfortable. 


Western Saddle
Now, I am not sure how much my Courbette all-purpose weighs - probably ~20 lbs.  I found out recently that my Bill Cook weighs 32 lbs.  It has always been a bit of a challenge to get the saddle on Gem.  Initially, I couldn't swing it up on him because apparently I was weak as a kitten and couldn't get the height required; I always ended up slamming the saddle into his side.  Fortunately for me, Gem never lost his temper during these feeble attempts.  Being a master improviser, I purchased a little one-step stool and tried to step on the stool as I swung the saddle.  Extremely bad idea; little stools can move and cause you to body slam your horse and almost drop the saddle.  The solution?  I lift the saddle straight up over my head (apparently I now have the strength of 10 men) and place it gently on Gem's back.  However, I use the little stool to step up and adjust the placement of the saddle and risers.  It may take 3 or 4 adjustments to get the saddle position right.  Putting the saddle on Gem is the longest part of our tacking up.  I was contemplating starting to use my Courbette again because of the lightness of it, but I wasn't quite ready to give up the horn when it came to trail riding.  :-)

Enter the Australian Stock Saddle.  I started thinking about getting an Aussie last fall.  It seems to be the best of both worlds.  It's like an English saddle but with a horn!  There are leathers instead of fenders, but with western-type stirrups.  There's no pommel, but poleys (knee pads) keep your legs secure and in place.  The seat is deep and helps support your back.  And most models are lighter than a Western saddle!!!!

You can get some absolutely gorgeous Aussies that weigh in at about 30 lbs. and cost about $4,000.00.  I am not looking for that kind of heaviness or cost.   After speaking to people at two different equestrian shops, I think I am going to start out with a synthetic model which will weigh less than 20 lbs and come in under $500.00.  The brand names recommended were Kimberly, Cordura and Outback Saddlery.  If anyone out there has any experience with Aussies (the saddle, I mean!), I would sure like to get some feedback!!!


20 comments:

  1. There needs to be a LIKE button for those of us that no nothing about horses but like your posts!

    On the upside, for me, you're making me want to learn to ride!

    Good luck with your new saddle; it sounds perfect.

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    1. Thanks, DD! :-) So glad your fur-baby is on the road to recovery.

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  2. My sister has an Australian saddle. She bought it off of Ebay for $200. It was brand new, not used at all. Australian saddles are insanely comfortable, I found it to be much more comfortable than either my english or my western saddle on a long trail ride. I like it because I don't particularily enjoy riding english out on the trail but I like sitting in an english saddle better than a western.

    I'm not sure what brand hers is but it was a very nice saddle. The problem with it now is it came with the same set up as an english saddle, so a buckle up girth instead of the western cinch. Yeah...my dad decided that wasn't good enough. He attempted to switch it a western pull up cinch. That was a mistake...now the saddle is basically useless, but it was great while it lasted.

    It always fit Sadie and Socks better than our stocky horses. I miss it a lot, one day when I can ride again and am less poor I want to buy one. In my opinion, Australian saddles are the most comfortable saddles.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Cjay. I know typing is an issue for you right now and I appreciate your efforts.

      Comfort is very important to me, but I also want security. I think the Aussie will fit the bill. My understanding is that the girth is similar to English, and I am OK with that. She bought hers on eBay?....hmmmm...I might have to start looking there, too!

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  3. Oh very nice :)

    Pay attention to what kind of stirrups and girth the saddle needs. Australian saddles can be a bit funny about those.

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    1. :-) Thought you might like it. The saddles I am looking at come complete with leathers, stirrups and girth, not to worry.

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  4. Sorry I can't be of any help with your Aussie saddle dilemma. I really know nothing about them. I've found it very hard to ride in a western saddle because of the big heavy stirrups and they just feel too confining for me with the horn. When I first got my dressage saddle I felt confined too because I was so used to riding in a flat jumping saddle. The Aussie saddle looks comfortable and a synthetic one should be much lighter for you to lift. Maybe you can find a place (tack store or somewhere online) that will let you try out the one you want to buy. This way you'll know if it's really what you want. Good luck I hope you and Gem find what you're looking for.

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    1. I can understand how a Western would feel confining after riding English for so long, but when I first got Gem I really needed the confinement. :-) I lifted one of the synthetic ones at one of the tack stores and it is sooo much lighter. I did ask about trying one out and as long as it's not dirty and I have the original packaging, I can return it.

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  5. I looked at buying an Aussie, but they were very limited in what they had for short-backed, round Haffies. I went to the Down Under Saddle shop. http://www.downunderweb.com/
    They were incredibly helpful. Their web site has an "About Aussie Saddles" link that may give you some information. They also gave me a DVD, which I no longer have, that talked about the fit, etc.
    I rode in one but it was far too large for me and I couldn't shorten the stirrups enough - since I was just borrowing it, I didn't think it was right to punch another hole for the stirrup. It was hard for me to get a feel of it. The people I've talked to either love, love, love their saddles or hate them. Might you be able to try one? We have a used tack shop that allows saddle trials - just a thought!

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    1. The Down Under site is terrific - thanks!! Sorry it didn't work out for you. Yes, I've heard the same - you either love love them or hate them. I am hoping that I love love it. :-)

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  6. I worked for a long time in a tack shop that sold Aussie saddles and yet never even sat it one! It sounds like a great solution, though. I love riding in my western saddle but dread even getting it out of my locker, forget about getting it on the horse!

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    1. I hear ya. I like my Western, but I have to carry it to the other end of the barn when I tack up (50 ft?) and by the time I get it on my stand it feels like it weights a ton! :-)

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  7. Hi Wolfie, I might be able to offer a little info for you, I'm from Aus and I ride in what's known here as a "half-breed" Fender, sounds funny but it's a cross between a Aussie stock saddle and an American western saddle. I'm sorry I don't know what breed your Gem is, but I assume he's not as wide as a QH from your post, the aussie stock is designed for the Austrailian Stock Horse a lighter framed horse than a QH so it could be just what your looking for. I personally prefer to have the "poley's" (I've always called them stocks) for security, they have saved my getting older and wider butt quite a few times :-). Good luck with your search. J

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    1. Hello and welcome! Thank you for your first hand experience. :-) Ah, just took a look at one online and it looks like the biggest difference is the fenders on the stirrups. What make is your saddle? My horse is a 16.1hh Canadian, but he's not that heavy. He weighs in at about 1350 - he's not wide. My English saddle fit him quite nicely, so I am hoping that the Aussie will be comfortable for him....and my older, wider butt. :-)

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    2. Hi again, my saddles are a Syd Hill (synthetic) and a Marsh Carney (leather). They are not the traditional stock saddles so may not be the brands you need to look out for. A good friend of mine rides in a Bates stock saddle that she swears by, they (Bates) also make Wintec (the synthetic versions) that are quite good too, it all depends on your budget and what you prefer. Hopefully you can find a saddle you can try before you buy, as some can put you in a bit of a "arm chair" position, I don't think you will have too many problems with fit, I have a mare 16.1 and 600kgs similar to your boy and have never had to adjust gullets or use riser pads. Hope this helps....J

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    3. Thanks!! Your comments DO help. :-) I have heard of Syd Hill and Wintec. I am going to take a look at them. I appreciate your observation that some seats can position you like being in an arm chair - not what I am looking for. :-)

      BTW, I have relatives around Sydney and my sister lived in Perth for a while. :-)

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  8. Well, you just KNOW I have nothing of note to add ;o) but what a fabulously informative post. I blush to say I didn't know that Aussie saddles were different but they do sound like the best of both worlds. I shall make a 'note to self' to check them out (hopefully someone here has one I can look at, maybe even try out) when I get back to riding. Thanks and GOOD LUCK!

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  9. Hi Joy! I think the Aussie may be the answer for me. Fingers crossed that it is. And you know that, once again, I will be a trend-setter at the barn... ;-)

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  10. I know shocking little about Aussie Stock saddles, though they are rather prevalent here. I think you get synthetic ones, aimed for endurance market that could be lightweight to boot. Let me know how it works out because I still ride English and I have to work really hard to sit 'properly'. I then just changed from a GP to a good dressage model (those Bates Isabel Werth ones) and I find the deeper seat quite comforting and it does aid in keeping my legs in the right place... but obviously no horn. Maybe I have been missing the plot, perhaps I should seriously start looking into something along the Western/Stockman line. Let me know how it goes Wolfie!

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  11. I am also looking into a stock saddle...but I can't afford to spend a ton of money on one as I have invested a lot of money in dressage tack...are the less expensive ones ok?

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