Manufacturer: Equi-bette (View all products by Equi-bette)
Model: Wellington Competition (View all Wellington Competition reviews)
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: Lists for 375 on saddleshop.com; with 25% off coupon I paid $281.25 I ordered this one and the Equibette showjump at the same time. I was in the market for an extremely cheap back-up saddle. I liked the show jump better (see that review also for more details), but for the price, I decided to keep this one too even though I don't really have a specific use for it.
Likes: This saddle has features that you normally don't see at this price. It is actually wool flocked rather than foam stuffed, meaning that it can be adjusted. It also has gusseted panels which are becoming more and more popular, especially on more expensive saddles. I find that they tend to fit horses better than the old "banana" style panels which often allowed the saddle to rock or settle into a bad position. The knee rolls and thigh blocks are well placed, though they are rather large so if you like a true close contact feel, again I'd take a look at the Equi-bette Taurus show jump model. However, if you like a soft, deep seat and the blocks and rolls, you can't beat this saddle at this price.
Dislikes: The leather on the flaps is stiff and will definitely take some oiling and conditioning. At this price, you've got to expect that. The leather on the seat, padded portion of the flaps, and on the panels underneath is all soft and supple. Though I doubt the flaps will ever be perfect by my standards, I am certain that rolling and oiling them will improve them significantly.
Quality: This $220 NEW saddle is exceptional for the price. Yes, the leather is stiff, but honestly, I don't feel that it is any more stiff than some of the new low or mid-price range saddles like HDR. Even though I really have no use for this saddle, I decided to keep it because it does fit my horse and lets me sit in a natural position. I don't find that I have to fight the natural balance of the saddle. I'll probably save it for rainy day rides or when the footing is muddy and I don't want to dirty my good saddle, or as a spare for when I ride other people's horses, or for family members/friends to use.
Summary: Though it certainly isn't butter soft leather, I can't fault the craftsmanship and at this price it was too good to pass up. I'd recommend it as a back-up saddle for someone who normally does dressage or western and wants to try some of the jumping disciplines, or to someone who is running a lesson barn and wants an inexpensive but sound saddle for lower level students to use. I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a primary saddle for someone who rides and shows a lot because I haven't had it long enough to say how well the leather is going to break in. It was certainly comfy enough for a 30 minute hack around the farm but again I can't really say if it would be ideal for someone who spends hours in the saddle. Bottom line, you can't beat the price/quality ratio.
Usefulness Rating: 2 out of 5.
4 reader(s) voted.
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