Manufacturer: Bates (View all products by Bates)
Model: Caprilli 17" Close Contact Saddle (View all Caprilli 17\" Close Contact Saddle reviews)
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: Purchased new (with tags) from a private saddle dealer for $1200, including fleece cover & shipping. (I located the dealer through E-bay from horse-related auctions.) I needed a saddle with the flexibility that the Bates saddles offer through the changeable gullets and the CAIR panels. I ride multiple horses in training and need to be able to accommodate their different shapes as easily and comfortably as possible with minimal expense. The more comfortable the horse and I are, the better we ride! I chose Bates over Collegiate because of the CAIR panels, the movable flexiblocks, and because I found such a fabulous deal. Wintec was a consideration for me, but I preferred real leather in the end.
Likes: Flexibility: My first requirement when researching to purchase my saddle was flexibility to achieve proper fit on different horses. I've seen the physical and behavioral side-effects of poorly fitting saddles and don't want to perpetuate those problems. The Easy-Change Gullet System and CAIR panels are a lifesaver in that regard. In about 10 minutes, I can swap out the gullet plate to fit a narrower or wider horse. (I ride Quarter horses and QH-TB crosses.) I've also seen marked improvement in willingness to lift the back, collect, and flex through the entire length of the spine. I am also able to ride with only a baby pad or thin all-purpose pad instead of using thick fleece and foam corrective pads. Leather: The leather is supremely soft and breaks in very quickly. Since it is both work and show tack, I gave my saddle two good conditioning treatments with Passier Lederbalsam (Wonderful stuff!) before my first ride for protection from the elements. The first time I rode in it, the saddle felt broken in before the end of the ride. Also, I trial-rode several saddles from a local tack shop before making my final decision and the new Bates they loaned me was practically broken in after just two good rides. I felt I needed to apologize when I returned it because I hadn't expected it to break in so quickly! Comfort: I've ridden many an English and Western saddle in my day. This Bates ranks as the most comfortable English saddle I've ridden, by far. The seat is balanced, deep enough for security without hindering the rider's movements, and padded with just the right amount of cush for the tush. Without the flexiblocks, the knee rolls are unobtrusive, but still comfortable. I also like the flexibility to add and move the flexiblocks at the knee and thigh when I'm working with a green horse and want a little more stability. Quality: Addressed below.
Dislikes: My only complaints are petty, but I must list them to be truthful. Beware: Since the leather is so soft and supple, take care not to treat it very roughly! I've caused a few scratches with my belt buckle and wedding ring when I was careless. The good news, though, is that the marks will buff out with a bit of good conditioner and a rag. I've heard and read complaints that high-quality leather should never get any marks or scratches, but I disagree. If you treat any good product carelessly you will damage it. Would you toss your grandmother's china in a box with no packing to move across country? Regarding the gullet system, a second pair of hands makes the process of changing a gullet plate faster and easier. Unfortunately, that second pair of hands isn't always nearby when you need them! It is certainly do-able by one person, but requires a little more time and patience.
Quality: Construction and quality are absolutely top notch! I am a stickler for quality and durability when I invest this much of my hard-earned money. I truly believe I have found an excellent example in this saddle and that I will see many more enjoyable years of service from it. I have also seen and ridden used Bates saddles. Other than normal wear-and-tear, even the 8-9 year old models were still very comfortable and in excellent condition. When you can find them used, these saddles seem to hold their value very well on the market when in reasonably good shape. I was able to purchase a new model for only slightly more than a used one, so I chose the new. The tree is fiberglass and is warranted for life by the manufacturer. I visited a large local tack shop that had samples of the tree and air panels to view, touch, stand on, etc. The owner said that they have never had a saddle with a broken tree or deflated air panel returned in all the years since Bates began making them. They did, however, have a customer once who purchased the wrong saddle and tried to return it months later. To try to claim that the saddle was faulty, she ran over it with her pickup truck. Unfortunately for her, even though the metal gullet plate was deformed, the manufacturer certified that the tree and air panels were still intact! Additionally, the Bates saddles, by virtue of the Easy-Change Gullet System, allow you to see areas you never see in other saddles. When you change the gullet plates, you partially take the saddle apart and can see inside. The workmanship is just as good inside where you won't see it as outside where you can see it. As an aside, I was instructed not to use neatsfoot oil on the saddle. There is a compound in neatsfoot oil that reacts with the protective coating on the stitching in some saddles and leatherwork causing it to rot and deteriorate. This is why Crosby saddles got a reputation years ago for falling apart. As an alternative, a good leather conditioner or leather darkening oil can be used to soften or darken your fine leather saddles, boots, and bridles.
Summary: Bottom line, I would purchase another Bates saddle or recommend one without question! I'm very happy with mine and I feel I absolutely got my money's worth. Shop around and ask questions because there are very good deals to be had. For example, I found a gentleman in Germany selling new Bates saddles on E-bay for roughly 30% below US retail with free shipping.
Usefulness Rating: 3 out of 5.
1 reader(s) voted.
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