Model: Elite Dressage
Category: Dressage Saddles
Purchase: I bought this saddle from Action Rider Tack for 1785.00. The people there have lots of experience with treeless saddles and great to deal with.
Likes: I bought this saddle for a very hard to fit horse who I had tried a number of saddles on. He is broad in the back and shoulders as well as being short backed. I bought the short back version which supports up to a 17 inch seat. I am a dressage rider. I have ridden primarily in very nice quality treed saddles. I was not looking to go this route for any reason other than fitting the horse and did not expect much out of the saddle. I was pleasantly surprised however after trying it. First off, it had a fantastic effect on my horse who had been very difficult/stiff/cold backed since I started him. First ride in this saddle he went freely forward, his neck came out of his body and he finally started to work in his back. Not to say this is the answer for every horse. If I could have found a treed saddle I would have gone with that. For myself - the saddle is surprisingly comfortable. It wraps around the horse that you are sitting on so if it is a round barrelled horse you will have a hard time keeping your knee on the saddle while still maintaining leg contact. This is the case with the horse I ride in it and I have to ride with a slightly out turned knee and foot to keep my leg on the horse. The seat of the saddle is deep, slightly too much so at the back (deepest part of the seat is toward the back rather than the middle. But it does not seem to put you in a chair seat despite this. They have tried to create the feel of a narrower twist in this model as compared to the other freeforms and have accomplished this by putting padding into the center of the removable seat. Surprisingly this works and it does feel like a treed saddle twist. The seats are removable and exchangeable on the base which comes short or long back. The stirrup leathers are also one piece with velcro across the middle of the back and you can place them anywhere under the seat. Knee rolls are present but not too large. Many rings around the base of the seat (front for martingale, back for crupper which is nice and side - I'm assuming for saddle bags? - could do without them. But you can tuck all the rings under the seat. This saddle will slip side to side slightly more than a treed saddle, but not to the point that I feel at all insecure in it. I just broke a 2 year old under saddle using it and did not feel the least bit insecure. I would also feel comfortable riding in it at dressage shows. It would look just fine in the show ring. I can sit in it quite well, but as I said knee position suffers a little as they may need to turn out.
Dislikes: The removable seat sounds like a good idea - then you can, for example, share it with your child or spouse and they just need to buy a different seat. It is not a good idea in my opinion. First of all a saddle that fits includes a flap that fits you and the rest of the saddle. You could not properly fit a child by putting a small seat on this base (they do have a model for children now though.) The other issue is getting the seat and stirrups on straight. I have found this to be a nightmare. Even being out the slightest bit is noticeable when you are used to riding in a balanced saddle. I have had mine off and on a number of times trying to place the stirrups and seat so they feel even. I have used tape measure and calipers but as you are working with velcro you have to put it on, check it, rip it off, try again - can't slide it back and forth. I think it is right now and I'm not moving that seat for anything. The stirrups also will not come off if they catch on something (or you). So I have a safety stirrup on there with the rubber band on the outside bar of the stirrup. You also can't run them up for lunging. Also beware that you need a stirrup with a large opening at the top because the only way to get them on is to put the metal buckle at the end of the leather through the hole in the stirrup. May be best to buy a stirrup with the saddle to be sure. They are single ply leathers which buckle down by the stirrup. Padding is a necessity for this saddle - you have to have some type of pad that has a channel down the back as this saddle has no gullet. I am riding in an Equipedic dressage which works well for it. This is a down fall as these types of pads are usually around 200.00 and you can't just throw a normal pad under it and ride. It will sit on the horses spine.
Quality: This saddle has very nice quality leather. It is well built and has seemed to stand up well to use. I have the cutback base which gives good wither clearance although I have not put it on a high withered horse.
Summary: I like this saddle despite the problems. It is comfortable and secure and could definitely be used as a dressage show saddle. More importantly though - it was the answer for a hard to fit horse. He is a different horse to ride now that I have him in this. If you are having issues and know it is saddle fit then this is a good possible solution. We also ride Andalusian so we have many wide backed horses and this saddle can easily go from one horse to another without fitting issues. I have found it to be a very useful saddle to have in the tack room.
Author: dressage rider
Usefulness Rating: 4.7 out of 5.
50 reader(s) voted.
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