Manufacturer: Bates Caprilli (View all products by Bates)
Model: Close Contact with CAIR, 16.5" LF Caramel (View all Close Contact with CAIR, 16.5\" LF Caramel reviews)
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: Purchased online in '04 through Four Winds Saddlery for $1435; package included Bates Gear Bag and Bates Leathers. I needed a new saddle, as my growing young WB outgrew my beautiful (British) Gidden (medium tree) close contact. I bought this saddle based on the fact that it was the only one that I found to be soft enough in the seat. I lost a lot of weight being sick, and riding was literally bruising my seat bones. So, I tried lots of saddles at the H/J show barn where I was boarding. I found the Bates to be so incredibly comfortable, compared to everything else--and I rode in every expensive "name" saddle you can imagine.
Likes: Besides the excellent comfort, I think the leather is of decent quality--my saddle still looks new after a year and a half. It was soft from the first ride, and I think the caramel color is good looking. The gullet system is a great idea, especially for my young horse. The CAIR panels do leave a very even wear on the underside of my saddle pads after riding. My horse has not been sore-backed at all, according to my chiropractic DVM, and he had been previously. I feel balanced and correct in this saddle without the blocks. I was an equitation rider in a very flat saddle for years, so I probably would use them if I were riding over fences more.
Dislikes: It's too big for me, but that's a personal problem, not a manufacturing issue. I wish I could have found a 16" LF, but I was told that they didn't make them at the time I was ordering. The gullet system is not necessarily "easy" but you can figure it out in a reasonable amount of time, and it helps to have someone else working with you, especially the first time or two.
Quality: Again, the leather and stitching looks great after a year and a half; however, I've noticed a bit of a "sag" in the seat where my right seat bone hits. I doubt that anyone else would have this problem!
Summary: Overall, a fine saddle for the money, and the gullet system is priceless. Personally, I like the brand so much, I'm looking for the Bates dressage saddle as an option for now. I just don't want to be saddle shopping every year until my horse is mature. Granted, the Bates won't fit absolutely every single horse and rider, but for those of us dealing with young ones or multiple rides, this is a fantastic solution.
Usefulness Rating: 2.25 out of 5.
4 reader(s) voted.
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