Manufacturer: Black Forest
Model: Ponderosa Town and Country Synthetic Saddle
Category: Trail Saddles
Purchase: Over the past few years I spent a great deal of money on custom fit saddles and expensive pads. Even with all of the time, money and effort I put into getting good saddle fit I still had to rotate saddles in order to avoid friction wear spots over my short-backed Arab's loins. In researching the problem, a saddle-fit book suggested that as a last resort some horses with this problem do well with a treeless saddle. I bought the Black Forest saddle six months ago at Silver Saddlery in St. Cloud, MN, for $549. I actually ended up paying more because Black Forest recommends using a special pad. The pads vary in cost from $160 to $190 depending on the rider's size.
Likes: I tried a demo saddle since I was very skeptical of treeless saddles. Surprisingly my horse moved more freely in this saddle from the first ride. He rounded his back and moved off happily. After several more rides in the trial period I ordered my own saddle. Since that first ride the only time in the past six months that I haven't used this saddle was when a friend needed to borrow it. I have not had to rotate saddles even when riding many long days in a row. The only sign of wear over my horse's loins was when his winter hair started coming in and the summer hair rubbed out there first. There was no damage to his coat and my horse remained comfortable. Several friends have borrowed the saddle to try and have universally been impressed. One has already purchased her own Black Forest and two more plan to buy them as replacements at a future date. I very much like the light weight of the saddle--even with a full cantle bag attached the saddle is a dream to lift. I like the fact that there are lots of D-rings in convenient places for fastening trail essentials on long rides. The saddle is very secure and stays where it belongs. It is also deep seated and although I came off once this past summer when I wasn't paying attention and my horse had an Arab moment, in general I feel very secure on even somewhat challenging trails. I greatly appreciate the fact that this saddle fits on any horse. After years of worrying about change in fit as a horse matures or gains / loses weigh, it's a relief to know that the Black Forest is going to fit every horse every time.
Dislikes: I initially was not comfortable with the amount of padding on the saddle. It seemed too thick and flat-topped which made me feel separated from my horse. This wasn't actually the case since I came to realize that the horses movements can easily be felt through the saddle. I have also come to appreciate the padding on those long rides when other people were complaining about sore seat bones. I do miss the twist of a regular saddle and the close contact with my horse's sides. I don't like the fact that I have to girth the saddle more tightly than a regular treed saddle in order to keep it in place.
Quality: The saddle is an economical synthetic and looks somewhat cheap, although it is well put together. The synthetic backing on the billet straps has checked and worn, but the straps are still solid. Other than the billet checking, I haven't had any problem with the saddle's durability.
Summary: My plan is to upgrade to the leather version of the Black Forest in the near future. Even though the synthetic is in good shape, I expect that with the amount of riding I do the leather saddle will hold up longer. I've talked to numerous riders on the trail who have Black Forest saddles. Every one of them has spoken highly of their saddles and described the problems this saddle has fixed. The Black Forest is an economical saddle that will surprise many people who have used traditionally treed saddles. The comfort of my horse was the deciding factor when I chose the Black Forest and it was a good decision.
Author: MN Trail rider
Usefulness Rating: 2.7 out of 5.
10 reader(s) voted.
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