Model: UK Dressage
Category: Dressage Saddles
Purchase: I bought this directly from Len and Lisa Brown (the originators of the OF company) in the early 1990's and paid about $1300 for it.
Likes: I wanted a something similar to my Stubben Tristan but with the intriguing panels of the OF. Unlike their original English saddles which were basically the Brown's western tree decked out with English flaps, this traditional spring tree is actually from England, sent to the Browns sans the panels which they, of course, outfitted with their own. Consequently, the feel of the seat and flaps is much like my Tristan.
The flexible panel system does indeed fit many horses and seems to make them happy to work. My horses always have uniform sweat marks on their backs which is considered proof of the even weight distribution (no more dry areas from death by pressure).
Dislikes: When cantering, I find myself seemingly a moment behind my horses' movements and I've decided it's due to the fact that the large, overall-gripping panels hug the spine even when it's bending laterally. Thus, the rider is fighting the lateral movement as opposed to a traditional English tree which stays with the rider's seat. By that I mean, watch a rider in an English saddle from behind when his horse's spine is bending laterally. The cantle stays with the rider as the spine moves slightly sideways out from under it. Not so with an OF.
I also don't like the attachment of the billets. They're tacked onto the sweat-flap just above its bottom edge so their holes don't start until you're past the leather and onto your horse's flesh, thus your girth buckles will dig into him if you don't pad them somehow.
Quality: Quality and construction isn't superb but is certainly very good.
Summary: When buying a used OF take note of something rarely mentioned but of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to your success with the saddle - always ask what the weight range is for the panels AND how much use they've had as they do wear out (the Browns used to replace them). Every OF was originally made for the RIDER who ordered it. The Browns had to know the weight of the rider who'd be using it because the plastic sheets that they used for the panels came in different thicknesses so they could flex as needed under a particular weight range. A rider who's too heavy for the panels will break them down and injure his horse. A rider who's too light won't get enough flexion in the panels to conform properly to a horse's back.
Author: Wendy Tobler
Usefulness Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
6 reader(s) voted.
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