Manufacturer: Bates (View all products by Bates)
Model: Caprilli (View all Caprilli reviews)
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: Bates Caprilli with CAIR flocking and moveable knee blocks. Lightning G Tack, Grangeville New York, $1200.00--- 4 years ago. I bought this saddle to fit a warmblood whose width behind the withers and long shoulder blades made him difficult to fit. I bought this saddle because I had previously bought a PJ Delgrange Light for this horse and was unhappy with the fit for the $3250 price. I was (and still am) DONE spending that much for an English saddle that doesn't fit many horses well.... and will only last 15 years or so even if it does. A Western saddle costing the same amount will fit many more horses, be exquisitely beautiful and last 70 years. So, if no worthwhile English saddle can be had at any price, why spend the money? The Bates is a nice alternative.
Likes: This saddle lives up to its promise of fitting many different horses. It's tree is adjustable in front. Equally important (and not true of all "wide" saddles), its gullet is fairly wide all the way to the cantle. I find this saddle has an obvious "sweet spot," making it easy to balance at the two-point. The regular flaps are too short for many long-legged riders, so think about ordering a long, or long and forward flap versions. The adjustable knee blocks, attached by strong velcro helps fine tune the saddle for different riders, or wider and narrower horses. The quality of the leather is good enough, and reflected in the price. (I'm not usually a fan of choosing lower quality leather, but see above.) The seat and knee rolls (on the flap) are made of bridle leather that breaks in as well as those in Butets and my old Delgrange. But follow manufacturer's instructions and do not oil this soft leather. It will outlast that used on more expensive saddles and feel equally soft. After four years of use (one amateur on one horse), I can say that this saddle has held up as well as any English saddles I have owned, including several Crosbys, a County and Delgrange. The billets are doubled with nylon in between.
Dislikes: The CAIR panels. I think they are too hard and also cause the saddle to rock as I post. I had them replaced with wool flocking (for $200). That was part of my plan in buying this saddle-- producing a $3500 fit for about $1400. I would recommend this modification to anyone buying a Bates, or even another brand of saddle flocked with foam. In the original Caprilli, I think the cantle is too high-- it's not a functional problem that affects the balance of the saddle, but an aesthetic one. I wish the leather were more beautiful, but then I am unwilling to pay the price. But, if you know how to care for leather-- knowing when it needs oil, cleaning or conditioning, this saddle will look nice enough for showing. "Grease jockeys" tend to build up on the smooth-grained leather of the flaps in a way they don't on textured ones. Also, you will need to oil the rough side of the flaps as they tend to dry out-- a result of the mid-grade quality of the leather or tanning process used. I live with it, taking extra time with neatsfoot oil when I need to.
Quality: The construction and quality of materials is adequate for the price. Are these newer versions, priced at $2,000 or so, worth it? I'd say not. But if you want a better fit for horse and rider than the Bates provides, plan on doubling the price you will pay for a new saddle. I have changed the gullet in order to use this saddle on differently shaped horses and the adjustability does work as advertised.
Summary: Given the alternatives available in close contact saddles, the Bates Caprilli is a well-designed, decently-built option. With the comparatively cheap replacement of the CAIR panels with wool, you can produce the great fit that all horses, not just the expensive ones, deserve.
Usefulness Rating: 4.2 out of 5.
30 reader(s) voted.
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