Manufacturer: Claridge House Saddlery
Category: Dressage Saddles
Purchase: I bought this saddle online from Libertyville Saddle Shop. The online purchasing experience was simple and pleasant and all of the items I wanted to purchase, including the saddle and all of its fittings, were in stock and arrived at my house in two days. The items were packed well and arrived in good condition. I got the saddle on sale for less then $300.00. Retail is $375.00. The saddle is available in a wide range of seat sizes and regular or wide tree. Being a small rider with an approximately 16H half-arab/NSH, I opted for the 16.5 seat and medium tree.
Likes: This saddle is similar to the Wintec Pro Dressage model saddle. It is made with the "Equi-suede" micro fiber material. I like the micro fiber because I tend to ride a lot of green horses and for that reason, I like any advantage that helps to keep my bum in the saddle. It is however more of an entry-level type saddle and does not afford all of the options that the Wintec models have but, by the same token, it does not carry the same price tag, either. While the saddle does not come with the CAIR system or the changeable gullet, I have not yet encountered a problem with fitting this saddle to any horse that does not have an extreme type of conformation. My horse has an average wither and an average build but with the modified cut back style, it fits a high-withered horse very well. I chose this saddle because I was looking for a saddle that I could school in, trail ride and barrel race (yes, in a dressage saddle!) in all types of weather. My horse and I won Reserve Champion in the gymkhana last week in the pouring rain and had no worries about our tack. I also like the removable/re-positionable knee blocks. I like them very much off my saddle and in my tack trunk. The saddle also has very nice oversized panels that distribute weight broadly. I like this for my older, long-backed horse.
Dislikes: The one absolute worst, unforgivable flaw this saddle has are VERY poorly designed stirrup bars. Stirrup leathers come slipping off at the slightest provocation.... Sometimes with no provocation. This issue makes this otherwise very sensible entry level saddle a really dangerous choice for the beginner rider. Fortunately for me, my horse has thus far been unimpressed with stirrups crashing to the ground as we trot 20 meter circles. I can see, however, where this sort of thing could be a real hazard. I know I probably should have sent the saddle back because of this issue, but I find it to be otherwise very comfortable, low maintenance and well worth the $280 I paid for it. I have taped the stirrup bars to discourage the leathers from slipping off, and so far, this has worked. Pray for me. A taller rider might find the flaps to be a tiny bit short. Personally, I dig 'em just the way they are.
Quality: I have no complaints about the quality and construction of this saddle. I have had it only two months so I cannot represent the longevity of it, but I definitely think that the quality is worth well more than what the price tag would indicate. If I were to brush off the two months' accumulation of dust, I'm pretty sure that saddle looks just like it did the day I bought it. Who cares, though? It is synthetic - why bother cleaning it? I can personally attest to the low-maintenance quality of this tack! Having ridden in the Wintec models that carry twice the price tag of this model, I say that unless you NEED to have the CAIR panels or the easy-change gullets, don't waste your money. Buy the Claridge House Saddle and save $500. But don't forget to tape your stirrup bars!!! The stitching seems to be of good workmanship. Nothing has thus far come unraveled. The saddle is comfortable for both horse and rider and is a great option for the rider who needs a little added security or just wants to cheat a little.
Summary: If it were not for the issue with the stirrup bars, I would rate this saddle a 5 every day of the week. But, all joking aside, this issue IS a potential safety hazard and should be addressed by the manufacturer. This saddle is not comparable with your Keiffers or your Tony Slatters, but it is an EXCELLENT value for you dollar (don't forget to tape your stirrup bars!) if you are looking for a schooling saddle, trail saddle, beginner saddle or simply hate cleaning tack. However, because I do feel that the issue with the stirrup bars IS a big deal (although clearly not big enough to make me return the saddle!) I can only in good conscience give the saddle a rating of 2.
Author: Heidi Bosworth
Usefulness Rating: 3.4 out of 5.
10 reader(s) voted.
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