Horse Tack Review

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Horse Tack Review Staff

Besides your horse, your saddle can be your biggest investment of your horse tack. The difference between a high quality saddle and a low quality is evident with every ride. In a high quality saddle, you should find better quality leather, stitching, fit and comfort. And this saddle will last you for years to come. A poor quality saddle usually shows itself rather quickly. You may find even before using the saddle that the stitching is off or actually missing in some areas. The leather may bleed or discolor when your saddle gets wet or you are oiling it.

Many riders realize the importance of their saddle purchase, and choose a better saddle first, as opposed to a more economically priced saddle that they may have to replace in a few years.

We continue our horse tack summaries, now featuring English Saddles. In part one, we will feature Bates Caprilli Close Contact English Saddle. This english saddle retails for $1795.00. Here is what our readers had to say:

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: It's a year old and still in perfect condition. I needed a new saddle with an extra wide tree for my 18H Warmblood. I was told to look into a custom saddle, but after finding out that would run over $2,000 I started to look elsewhere. My instructor suggested to try this model and it worked! It has an adjustable tree which is perfect as my horse fills out and slims down during the seasons. I feel like I am riding in a custom saddle with this. - Paula

Dislikes: This saddle made for an over-sized horse for sure. However, I cannot find an over-sized bridle to match the leather. Some come close, but not exact. I think they should make a matching bridle. - Paula

Quality: The leather quality is excellent. The color is 'carmel' but the colors that come close are 'newmarket' and 'london.' It feels like a custom saddle for me, but without the custom price. I use this for lessons, showing, even an occasional trail ride and it works all around. It has a nice balanced seat and the flaps are long enough for my long legs. - Paula

Summary: I would tell any over-sized horse owner to get this saddle. No need to worry about spending so much on a custom saddle and having to wait for it to be made either. Excellent saddle for a reasonable price. I am very pleased. Paula

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Purchase: My stubben Artus was too narrow for my TB with shoulders like a WB and very wide withers. I got this saddle because of the changeable gullet and CAIR panels. I got this saddle from Adams horse supply, with matching leathers and saddle cover for around $1400. The price has since increased. Lizz

Likes: I liked the quality of leather on this saddle. The air filled pannels made it a cushy ride and nice on my horses back. I was able to change the gullets. The saddle is also beautifully made! Lizz

Dislikes: The saddle tended to shift when i rode. The wide gullet fell down then pinched and rub my horses withers. The narrow gullet pinched his withers. This was not a problem until I had ridden in the saddle for a few months and the panels had settled. My horse then became so uncomfortable he began to buck. Most of this was due to my horses asymmetry however. The saddle can not be reflocked which was very disappointing to find. Lizz

Quality: This saddle was very well made. The leather was very nice and of high quality. The seat was very gripy and soft. There are even knee blocks on velcro so you can chose the best position for them! Lizz

Summary: I would recommend this saddle to anyone who can ride in it for a few weeks before buying it. Lizz

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: I was looking at saddles online, and went to a local shop to sit in a Pessoa or Butet. I currently owned a Crosby XL H that didn't fit me right. Anyhow, the local shop didn't have either of the saddles in stock that I was interested in, but did have a Bates Caprilli CC long flap in my seat size. As soon as my rear hit the saddle, I knew I had to have one and didn't care what the cost was. That was all before I knew about the easy change gullet system and the CAIR panels. I got to ride in my saddle for the first time today and have to say I am extremely impressed. This is the most balanced, comfortable saddle I have ever ridden. My legs were literally glued in place and never moved. The seat is French leather and is super grippy. I felt extremely secure, balanced and comfortable in this saddle. My horse seemed to move more freely in his shoulders and had a new impulsion to his step. I have always needed a riser pad, but not with the Caprilli. Posting was effortless as the saddle just sat so perfect on my horse's back. The quality is second to none, and the leather is already broken in feeling the first time you ride. The leather are extremely well made and have nylon webbing inside the butter soft leather to prevent stretching. - Michelle

Dislikes: NOTHING!! - Michelle

Quality: EXCELLENT!! See above. Makes my old Crosby XL look like a poor example of quality craftsmanship. - Michelle

Summary: All in all, I would recommend this saddle to everyone and don't think I could have found a better saddle. Michelle

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: This is a very nice, very correct saddle offered for a reasonable price. Even at $1,700 or so (the current price) it is a good deal. The interchangeable gullet system works well and it is easy to tell which gullet will fit your horse. Be sure to check the screws on the underside of the pommel for tightness from time to time. I find this saddle especially well balanced-- I can find and maintain a two-point position more easily in this saddle than any other I have owned. The regular flap may be too short for many riders. I was happy with a regular flap on a 17 inch saddle, but then I'm 5'3". They make long flaps at no extra charge. The gullet on this saddle is wide-- even back toward the cantle and the panels are generous (thus spreading the rider's weight over the largest possible surface area and easier to carry). - GreenBlackLavender

Dislikes: Drawbacks-- the CAIR panels. I found them way too hard, not forgiving and "fluid" as Bates suggests. However, I spent about $200 removing these panels and putting in wool flocking. Between that change and the gullet system, I have a saddle that fits my horse BEAUTIFULLY for less than half of what it would have cost to buy a comparable, good-fitting saddle (Albion or County). - GreenBlackLavender

Quality: Good quality for the money.... and if you can make it fit you and your horse, why pay more? A $3000.00 western saddle will literally last a life time; the same $3000.00 spent on an English saddle will last, perhaps, 15 years. Take time to oil the leather (but not the seat and knee rolls) especially in the beginning, and you will extend the life of your saddle. I find that the smooth leather on the skirts gets "grease jockeys" more often than leather with an embossed grain to it as used to be common in close contact saddles. - GreenBlackLavender

Summary: Bates saddles are a good idea, well done and priced affordably, but don't buy they hype about the CAIR panels. - GreenBlackLavender

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: I shopped everywhere and put my butt in a LOT of saddles before I decided on the Bates Caprilli. It is the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden in! In addition to being comfortable, it's very well balanced, I feel like I just "lock in" the correct alignment every time I mount up. The leather was supple and had that broken in feel from day one. Any scuffs or scratch marks on the leather just disappear as soon as I clean the saddle. My horse loves the CAIR panels. He rounds up under saddle much more readily now, and has stopped giving me dirty looks at tacking up time. The Cair panels make the saddle very light compared to traditional saddles, which I like since I'm only 5 feet tall so I have a long way to heft my saddle! The gullet change system is great if you ride different horses, or if your horses' weight or shape changes. - Christina

Dislikes: It can be tricky the first time you try to change the gullet. I managed the first time by following the instructions that come with the saddle, but it would really help if you have someone who's done it before show you. - Christina

Quality: This saddle is very well made, I have no complaints about either the materials or the workmanship. It looks and performs just as well as some of the more expensive "status name" brands. - Christina

Summary: This is a great saddle for hunter/jumper riders. The quality is outstanding and I think it's one of the most functional saddles out there. Christina

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: I LOVE the CAIR panels and the easy change gullet system. My old horse has not felt so good under saddle for years--she is happier from the time I tack her up to the minute I am done. She warms up under saddle quicker and I think her back looks straighter than before I had the saddle (she was getting a little sway back). I have taken her over a few small jumps too and she is happy. I have never felt so balanced and in the middle of my horse as I so with this saddle. - Amy

Dislikes: I wish the leather was better quality. The leather on my old Prestige was great quality, broke right in. This is NOT the WORST leather but the flaps are stiff for some time before they break in. - Amy

Quality: The leather on the seat and the knee roll are soft leather, the flaps more stiff leather. The CAIR panels are well constructed and the easy change gullet are made of thick metal so there is no chance of them breaking. The gullets take some practice to change, but not too bad once you know what you are doing. - Amy

Summary: I would definitely recommend this saddle to anyone--especially a multiple horse owner. Amy

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: I love the quality and durability of this saddle: I've used it almost every day for 2 years now and it still looks like new. The seat and knee rolls are very soft leather, and the saddle is comfortable. I do like the gullet system for occasional changes, and I know if my horse's back changes, I will be able to fit the saddle to her. - Eventer13

Dislikes: The easy change gullet system was not as "easy" as it was made to sound. The first time I changed the gullet, it took about 15 minutes (and that was with a helper). Now that I know what I'm doing, it is much quicker to switch gullets, but I still need a helper to hold the gullet plate holes in line with the screw holes of the tree. Although I like the changeable gullet system, if you are looking to change it frequently (like every other day for two different horses) I would say that it is too much of a hassle. If you can afford it, buy two saddles. Also, the screws may need occasional tightening, as they seem to loosen over time. - Eventer13

Quality: As I said above, the quality is excellent. The saddle is balanced, the leather quality is very good, and the stitching has never come loose. This saddle will last. - Eventer13

Summary: This saddle is well worth the price. I especially recommend it to those who may need a saddle to fit the next horse they ride, and don't want to have to invest in a new saddle for him. - Eventer13

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

Likes: First of all, it is very comfortable for my poor back: sitting trot is almost a pleasure! Then, it is appropriate for the various horses that I ride, even without needing to change the gullet. Without being a saddle of great luxury, the completion is very beautiful for the price. The elastiflex tree seems much more resistant to me than a wooden tree. And it is, to finish, a very light saddle (because of the Cair panels), and thus easy to raise and transport. - Agnes

Dislikes: It is impossible to find Newmarket stirrup leathers of the Bates brand in France: I found some by chance on (they come from the USA!). Once sitting on the horse, it is very difficult for me to regulate the stirrup leathers because the bars are a little too tight and because Bates leather is too grippy. Lastly, the loops of the strap and the girth-leathers form a thickness which harms the fixity of the leg: I would have preferred a low girthing for a saddle known as closed contact. But it is only of small disadvantages! - Agnes

Quality: Specificities of the Bates saddles are: - Cair panel system, that gives more comfort to the horse, - the easy change gullet system, - the elastiflex tree which is guaranteed against breakage for the lifetime of the saddle, - the quality of leather, specially the double grain surface pattern creates a grip. Specificities of Caprilli Close Contact : - adjustable Flexibloc system to provide a more secure position for the rider. - Agnes

Summary: To resume, even if the purchase of a saddle were not essential, since I ride approximately 1h per week in a club, I am very satisfied with this very comfortable saddle, of an excellent quality-price ratio, but whose brand does not seem very known yet in France ... what a pity! Agnes