Horse Tack Review

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Close Contact
Close Contact Saddles

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Manufacturer: Wintec (View all products by Wintec)

Model: Close Contact (View all Close Contact reviews)

Category: Close Contact Saddles

Purchase: I bought this saddle used off Ebay from England for $550 CAN including shipping (just the saddle- no flexiblocs or other accessories). It's approximately 3 years old, a 17.5 with CAIR. It's a rich havana brown colour (same as Wintec 500 All-Purpose brown saddles) which I don't think is made any more in the close contact- it's certainly easier to find matching accessories and easier to match with various colours of horse, unlike the caramel colour which doesn't always look good on certain horses and requires more expense to find decent quality leather of the same colour. I decided to buy a Wintec C/C after riding in a friend's (16.5 in caramel) on her very "exuberantly" trotting Arabian mare. This mare basically posts for you and I really liked how the saddle, with flexiblocs, gave you a ton of lower leg support on the way down.

Likes: I absolutely love my Wintec C/C. It fits my hard-to-fit high-withered, round-backed quarter horse perfectly and there was an incredible improvement in his overall movement after a few months of riding in it. I still haven't gotten around to buying flexiblocs, but the lower panels stick out enough to provide enough knee-blockage. I love using this saddle for training young horses because I stick to it, but yet not so much that I can't move with the horse in it. I've had young horses spook badly in it, and older ones coming off winter break try to buck in it, but I never leave the saddle, it doesn't wiggle, and I feel totally confident on every horse in it. It is so close-contact that it's like one step up from riding bareback (which I do a lot of), and it's expertly balanced on the horse's back. I have added new Wintec brown stirrup leathers a 52" Wintec black shaped girth and prefer them over leather ones. I've been riding in this saddle hard over the last year that I've had it, and it has no wear at all. I love the look of the saddle and it looks great in the show ring because of the havana brown colour- it looks more like real leather than the caramel coloured version.

Dislikes: The Easy-change gullet system was not as easy as it professes. However, this was not the saddle's problem. I bought a new gullet set when I bought the saddle, and noticed it was very difficult to get the extra-wide gullet into the space provided. Upon comparison of the medium-narrow gullet that the saddle came with, I realized that the old gullets were actually a half-inch shorter than the new gullets. Apparently Wintec increased the length of the gullets by a half-inch in this three year period. With a lot of arm strength and some help, I finally managed to get the extra-wide gullet into the saddle. Since that, I have changed it a few more times to the medium-wide gullet and back and it seemed to be a bit easier. The only other complaint I could make that is not very huge of an issue is that when you ride with a dressage or western stirrup length instead of jumping length, your legs will swing forward a bit. I don't consider this a huge problem because it allows your hips and lower back to open up and move more freely. When you have the stirrups at regular or jumping length and are more closed at the waist (riding forward hunter-style), your equitation position is nothing less than perfect.

Quality: The stitching is excellent. The equileather is durable and holds up to all but a horse falling on it (as seen on a friend's saddle when her horse slipped in wet sand- the scratches were still very less minimal than they would've been on a leather saddle). The CAIR panels and flocked lower sections of the saddle are in brand new condition. The saddle is lightweight (probably about 10-15 lbs) and gives you superior feel of the horse. It holds up to rough riding without a mark. Sometimes the little screws that hold the inner section of velcro are a bit finicky, but they are only a problem when changing the gullet and do nothing to affect the saddle's ride-ability. When the gullet is adjusted accordingly to the horse, there is excellent balance and weight distribution through the entire saddle. It doesn't roll or slide forward/backward even on my flat-backed, no-withered quarter horse mare (even when she is bucking!) Excellent, excellent construction in the entire saddle- well worth the $650 retail price.

Summary: The only other saddle that might beat out my love for my Wintec C/C is the more expensive version- the Bates C/C. I am a very picky rider about my tack for firstly my horse's comfort, my comfort, and overall quality. I am not always wild about synthetics because they are often shoddily put together, but the Wintec (and their entire line) are really the best you can get in synthetics. The C/C is perfect for experienced riders, especially if you're riding green horses and want something that is going to be there during the rough times of training, or if you are an experienced bareback rider and don't want a saddle interfering with your riding. This saddle is not so great for inexperienced or beginners riders because there is so "little" of it around you, unlike a Dressage or All-purpose saddle whose cantel and pommel are higher and closer to the rider offering more support. With the Wintec C/C, you have to be comfortable riding with relatively less saddle around you and with no solid contact on the horse's mouth. It is perfect for jumping, trail riding, cross-country, endurance, equitation or hunter under saddle showing, and training/regular schooling. Also, if you like using a chestplate, get a larger size than you need or buy longer attachment straps. The attachments for the chestplate are set farther back on the saddle than most so you need some more room for extension on the top attachment straps.

Rating: 5

Author: Sarah from MacFarlane Show Horses

Date: 2007-03-03

Usefulness Rating: 3.21429 out of 5.
14 reader(s) voted.

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