Dixieland Gaited Saddles
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Butterfly Skirt Trail Saddle w/horn
Manufacturer: Dixieland Gaited Saddles
Model: Butterfly Skirt Trail Saddle w/horn
Category: Trail Saddles
Purchase: I custom ordered my saddle from Dixieland via email to the owner, Cynthia Wright. I needed a new saddle to fit my Spanish Mustang mare and had tried at least 12 new and used saddles from local saddle shops with no success. I paid a total of $1428 with shipping.
Likes: Beautiful, soft leather. Exactly the way I ordered it. Lightweight. The wool felt padding instead of synthetic fleece is very nice. The custom flex tree fits my mare as well as one of my other horses.
Dislikes: Let me start off by saying that now that the saddle is fixed, I like everything about it. Here are the things I DID NOT like upon receipt of the saddle:
1. The way the stirrups hang. This was the first strange thing I noticed when I took the saddle out of the box and put it on a stand. The leathers are hung very far back on the tree, near the lowest point of the seat. This might be ok for some riders, but not for anyone I know, and definitely not ok for me. I have long legs and I ride with my feet in front of me, not under me.
2. There was an insane amount of padding in the seat. I did not request extra padding so I assumed I would be getting a "normal" seat. Wrong.
3. They added a crupper D ring to the back of the saddle behind the cantle (where the skirts meet) that I did not request. I'll never use it, and it's annoying because it wiggles around and makes a lot of noise.
4. Rigging location. Before I gave the OK for my order on my saddle I made sure to ask Cynthia if their regular rigging location would work for my mare. She assured me that it was just what my mare needed. Wrong again. When saddled up in the correct place on my mare's back, the girth migrates forward into the narrowest part of her barrel, directly behind her elbows. This was causing the billet, latigo, and girth to all pull at an angle, and while riding the saddle was always wanting to pitch to the left.
5. Noise and movement in the seat. While riding it seemed like the seat under my crotch area was "free" from the tree of the saddle and was always making terrible popping sounds. Very uncomfortable and annoying.
6. Customer service. Cynthia seems like a very nice lady at first until you have a problem or a complaint. They sort of tried to fix things for me (sort of...), and that was such a failure that I turned her down when she offered to let them "try" to fix it again. Then she developed the "my way or the highway" mentality and could care less if it inconvenienced me. She also lied about me on a public forum where I had started a thread about my saddle.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Please see the full story in my summary. It gets much, much worse before it gets better, but there is a happy ending so please take the time to read it.
Quality: Terrible. Dixieland saddles appear to be of high-quality craftsmanship but once you take one apart you see the real story. I don't know if all of the saddles Dixieland produces turn out like mine on the inside, but mine was a train wreck.
Summary: I'm just going to take it from the top. In April of 2011 I ordered my custom saddle. It took about 6 weeks for them to build it, and since I was making payments on it, it took about 8 weeks before it was shipped to me. Saddle arrived early July, 2011 and upon receipt I was ecstatic. It was beautiful, perfect, a dream come true, etc. For about 2 days. Excitement wore off and reality set in, and during the 2nd ride in the saddle I started to realize that I was really uncomfortable. My legs were too far under my body and I was fighting the stirrups to get them forward where they needed to be. This was causing my body to feel pitched forward and very off balance. The stirrups also felt uneven, like one was longer than the other. I tried adjusting them to different holes several times (same length, one longer, one shorter, so on and so forth) and could never find a happy medium. Throughout the rest of the 2nd ride and all of the 3rd ride in the saddle I began realizing all of the other issues that I listed above, such as the rigging being too far back for my mare, the seat having too much (seemingly unnecessary) padding, lots of noise and "movement" in the seat. After the 3rd ride I was very upset so I emailed Cynthia and calmly expressed all of my concerns to her. Her offer was to move the rigging forward for me and shave down some of the seat padding. As far as the stirrup issue, she suggested that I try turning the fenders again (I had already done this once as soon as the saddle arrived). I explained to her that that was not going to fix the fact that they hang too far underneath my body. She had no reply for that. So late July, 2011 I shipped the saddle back to Dixieland. They received it on August 5th, 2011 and the first email I got from Cynthia was her complaining to that I did not pack the saddle very well (I repacked it EXACTLY the same way that she sent it to me), and that I did not include a note as to what repairs needed to be done (we had already discussed it in detail via emails and she never told me to be sure to include a note). I reminded her of all my problems and of everything she said she'd be willing to fix, and this is the exact reply I got from her:
"We can move the rigging further forward, but I would like for you to give me an idea of how far forward you would like it. Do you want it set like full quarter rigging? I have looked at the seat and can't see anything with the padding that needs to be trimmed down, but we will do our best. We can change to a different ground seat, which will eliminate the possibility of any noise as the tree moves, but I do not think it will make a difference with the feel of the seat
I do see that one fender is pulled a little higher in the tree than the other, so that can give the feeling that the fenders are uneven, so always make sure you have the fenders pulled the same on both sides. Thanks, Cynthia"
After a few more emails she just said "we can only do our best" and I crossed my fingers. On August 15th, 2011 she emailed me saying that all of the changes were complete and the saddle was ready to ship back to me. I asked her exactly what changes were made and she stated that they moved the rigging forward, changed out the ground seat, and shaved down the seat padding.
On August 17th, 2011 the saddle arrived back at my home. The first thing I noticed is that it looked like they only moved the rigging forward on one side. I pulled out the tape measure and sure enough, there was a 1.5" discrepancy. It also appeared that nothing was changed whatsoever in the seat. I was in complete shock and disbelief and disgust. I skipped emails and called Cynthia. No answer. Left her a voicemail, plus sent an email to tell her to call me ASAP because I had some major concerns. When she finally returned my call and I told her about the crooked rigging, she was silent. I asked, "Are you there?" and her only reply was "I don't know what to tell you. We've done the best we can do." The conversation continued on and she offered to cover shipping for me to send the saddle back to them AGAIN so that they could attempt to "get it right". I said no. Why should I send it back to be further maimed? I kindly asked for a refund and she flat-out refused. The only offer she could make was to take the saddle back and sell it to someone else for a lot less than I paid, and send me the difference. I refused this offer...if I wanted the saddle sold, I could do that myself. We (husband and I) filed disputes with Paypal, the bank, and the credit card company. Much to her disgust, I did get some of my money back.
Now I had a paid-for custom saddle that I couldn't use, so I sought the help of another saddlemaker (Lacey at Y-L Saddlery in South Dakota) that I was friends with online. She was caught up on the story of this saddle and all of my problems and offered to help. She said she could fix it. I shipped the saddle to her on August 31st, 2011. She received the saddle and began working on it to repair the crooked rigging and the seat issues. On September 27th, 2011 I got an email from her that included pictures of my saddle with some of the leather removed to show the ground seat, and in that email she told me that the ground seat that was in my saddle was nothing more than a piece of flimsy black plastic, cut to fit under the seat, and not attached to the saddle tree ANYWHERE. This is where all of the noise and movement was coming from. More utter shock and disbelief. After getting even further into the saddle they discovered that the cantle was attached to the tree crooked, the stirrup leathers were like rubber bands - stretchy and very low-quality, and the slot in which the fenders hang from the tree allowed them to move front to back a full 8 inches. So, technically, I should have been able to pull my stirrups to the front of the saddle where I needed them, but she explained to me that I couldn't because the edge of the plastic excuse for a ground seat was in the way, blocking them from sliding forward to where I needed them. They were able to fix everything at a very reasonable price. A new, molded-in, leather ground seat was put in. This freed up all of the area in the tree where the stirrups hang and she put a block in behind them so that they wouldn't be able to slide back underneath my body anymore. The horrible, thick piece of seat padding was replaced with a thin layer of quality memory foam padding. The rigging was moved, evenly, into the proper location for my mare's conformation. Both stirrup leathers were replaced and she re-turned my fenders for me for free. The saddle arrived back to me on December 16th, 2011 and everything was perfect. It is now January 12th, 2012 and I have ridden in the saddle more times than I can count and I cannot complain about a single thing. It is now a dream to ride in. It feels like I have a completely new saddle now. Y-L Saddlery are life savers and without them I'd be out nearly $2000. The next time we have a custom saddle built it will be through them, and I will continue to spread the word about my terrible experience with Dixieland.
Usefulness Rating: 2.57143 out of 5.
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