Manufacturer: Big Horn (View all products by Big Horn Saddlery)
Model: Cordura 503 (View all Cordura 503 reviews)
Category: Trail Saddles
Purchase: I wanted a cordura saddle, because they are lightweight and are more useful in the rainy weather we often have in SE Tx. It doesn't matter if they get wet. Dirt just brushes off. They are low maintenance, and as a busy mom, I don't have much time to clean tack. I asked the folks at HorseSaddleShop.com by phone what was the best inexpensive cordura saddle. They recommended Big Horn over Abetta, because they said Abetta trees didn't fit enough horses and they used to get a lot of returns on them, so they stopped carrying them. They said Big Horn saddles were much better made. Unfortunately, they did not have the cheaper models in stock at the time, and suggested I shop for a used one. I found a used Big Horn 503, brown FQHB, round skirt, on ebay for $150. I was surprised at the nice design and quality when I opened the box. Full, comfortable synthetic fleece, good stitching, nice matching suede seat, swells, and quilted jockey in a curvy pattern made for a great look. I have gotten tons of compliments.
Likes: I like the weight at 21 lbs; I can carry all my gear at once out to the horse. If the horse does well, I instantly reward her; I take off the tack right then and easily carry it home--this makes a big impression on a horse. I like the buckle stirrup adjustment, with two parallel holes. This is easy to adjust from the saddle, and no saddle with this arrangement has ever lost a stirrup with me, though I was skeptical at first. I loop the fender around the stirrup towards the front of the fender, then buckle normally to fit a shorter rider. It is the quickest and fastest to adjust of any saddle I have used. As a mom of 3, and with other young riders visiting to ride the pony, I am switching the stirrup length constantly.
Dislikes: I like everything, except that with my horse the girth was set a little too far back, so that the saddle was slipping forward, even when the padding was correct. I had to use a cord around the horn and pull it in through the skirting around the girth rings to pull them forward an inch. I also use a tight rear girth to stabilise the saddle to prevent roll, so the front girth doesn't have to be so tight. A super tight front girth can make the saddle press down hard on the horse's wither and shoulder area, causing pain and behavior issues. I had a lot of behavior issues about my saddle fit with my mare, that were not solved until I got an expensive Saddle Right pad. This is probably due to the fact that the saddle is too large for her.
Quality: This is a very well made saddle on a Ralide tree. I ride every day, and sometimes the horse has the saddle on hours at a time. It has held up well. The ride was kind of hard, so I had to find a fleece seat saver and tuck in some extra neoprene waffle weave shelf liner(available at Wal Mart). I used it for a year. It got a small tear from a thorn in a fender and I fixed it with a Walmart nylon tent repair kit ($3).
Summary: My horse made a lot of progress in training for the year I had this saddle, from a horse that was getting dangerous to handle and ride, to a family horse a 9 year old can canter around on and who can go to a lesson, summer camp, or playday and no-one gets hurt. I am grateful to the Big Horn company for making a safe, affordable saddle, that can handle a buck, shy or runaway and keep me in one piece and roughly in the same place. Ask me how I know! I feel very comfortable in this saddle, ready to handle anything my pony decides to dish out that day. I just need to find a saddle that will fit my horse a little better.
Usefulness Rating: 2.88889 out of 5.
18 reader(s) voted.
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