Manufacturer: Stage Coach West (View all products by Unknown)
Model: Bar J Southfork (View all n/a reviews)
Category: Trail Saddles
Purchase: After searching for some time for an extra extra wide Western saddle for my Gypsy Vanner, I found that a tack store called, Stage Coach West, in NY state sold their in-house brand, "Bar J" saddles -- Amish-made -- using a Steele Draft Horse Evolution tree. This may be the only extra extra wide draft tree made in the U.S. with a 9" gullet and truly flat, wide bars. Most draft horse saddles have 7 1/2" or 8" gullets and my Gypsy has a 13 1/2" gullet. My other horse, a Haflinger, has a 10 1/2" gullet. Wide bodies like these need wide, wide trees! Bar J is Stage Coach West's in-house brand and they make several models of Western saddles in different tree and seat sizes. They sell medium, wide, and extra wide trees, with the Draft Evolution tree being the one I needed. I chose the Southfork trail saddle because I wanted a Western saddle with a horn and one that was also lightweight and had a short round skirt for my short-backed horse. I called and spoke with the shop a few times before ordering the saddle. They were extremely helpful and patient with me. They have their saddle maker make enough of these saddles in the different trees and seat sizes to have them in stock most of the time and this allowed me to buy a saddle and have it delivered via ground shipping. Other saddle makers that use the same Steele trees usually have some lead time to make the saddle, up to 12 weeks. I got this saddle in about a week. I paid full price of $1,399 for this saddle, which is a full-leather, Amish-made saddle. The shipping was free. This price is cheaper than the other saddle makers for a full-leather saddle of this type. After receiving the saddle, I called the shop to ask what the four billets on the saddle were for as I was expecting no rigging (even though the website photo does show the billets, I wasn't sure). The staff member who helped me, said that the four billets are to use with an Enduro-balanced-rigging (EBR) system, also known as Tucker-style or Endurance rigging. She even sent me an EBR girth for free after my confusion. Who does that these days? Although the girth did not work on my Gypsy (she is a beach-ball with a head and I really need a double girth), the saddle fit her well and with my double cinch and waffle neoprene saddle pad, is secure. I was able to use three of the billets with my girthing system, using a latigo for the fourth attachment point for security. I finally have a beautiful saddle that fits my horse and fits me AND is secure! Yay! Also, I have found this saddle to be very comfortable and have been riding it in the arena and out on the trails. I just love the leather-covered Endurance-style stirrups too, they are comfy and secure too.
Likes: The Bar J Southfork is a well-made saddle and I could not find any flaws. It's quality Amish craftsmanship and is beautiful. I get a lot of compliments from the other riders at my barn. It is a beautiful rich brown leather color with a black seat. There are six good-sized round conchos on the saddle, both front and rear that have a nice big gold star in the middle of each one that adds a nice bit of bling to the saddle, along with stainless steel Dee-rings. Finding out that this saddle came in an extra extra wide tree with wide, flat bars was a find. It's difficult to find any type of draft saddle like this, especially one that is so well made where I did not have to wait for weeks and/or months for the saddle to be made. The skirt is also short and this saddle fit my short-backed mare too. I am surprised also at the comfort of the saddle and have already ridden some longer trails rides with no issues with my seat.
Dislikes: As this is an off-the-rack saddle, there is no opportunity to customize the saddle, although I'm sure if you called the shop, they could have one made with any changes you might like. You would just have to pay for the changes and wait for the saddle to be made like any other saddle maker. I wish the saddle was a few pounds lighter. It's about 24 pounds, which is pretty lightweight for an all-leather trail saddle. I originally wanted the Fabtron Cross Trail saddle, which weighs only 22 pounds, but Fabtron does not make the saddle wide enough for my horses. The extra pounds are not an issue though, this is me trying to find something for feedback for improvement. I should lose a few pounds myself before complaining about a few pounds on a saddle!
Quality: As far as I can tell, the construction and quality of this saddle is very high. I've read other reviews where saddles in the same price range had issues with stitching or leather quality, but my saddle is top-notch. I brought the saddle to my local saddle maker and tack store owner to find some matching tack and he said that the saddle was very well made by someone with an eye for quality. The fleece on the underside of the saddle is acrylic. I don't know if that's good or bad, but since I use a neoprene saddle pad, it doesn't matter.
Summary: If you are looking for an off-the-rack all-leather saddle made by an Amish saddle maker and your budget is modest like mine, I think that Stage Coach West's Bar J saddle brand is a great option. This is especially the case for someone seeking an extra wide tree for those hard-to-fit mutton-withered, wide-backed horses, also known as 55-gallon drums. I can't speak for longevity and wear and tear because my saddle is relatively new, but I've already abused it somewhat and it still looks brand new.
Author: Fat Pony Owner
Usefulness Rating: 4.33333 out of 5.
3 reader(s) voted.
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