Close Contact Saddles
Manufacturer: Dover Saddlery
Model: Circuit Elite
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: I ordered this saddle through a Dover catalogue for $800. The purchase price included a free bridle. Apparently, the price varies drastically depending on which sale you catch. I was looking for a second saddle in a reasonable price bracket -- a saddle I wouldn't feel guilty riding with in the rain and could leave at the barn while my show saddle made limited appearances. I had initially wanted a used saddle (because, honestly, who wants the chore of breaking in a new one) but after several unsuccessful months of searching I spent a little more than I had originally budgeted for a new saddle based on reviews I had read. I had never ridden in a Dover before buying this one.
Likes: The saddle is quite comfortable and has held up well. It broke in completely within the first two months and looks fabulous (though I clean it thoroughly more than once a week). I get compliments on it regularly; it really is a lovely looking saddle. I have ridden in the rain and mud with it and a quick wipe down afterwards has completely prevented any water marks or color alterations. I have owned it for two years and have tried it on a number of different horses varying in shape and size. My regular mount is a narrow, petite, TB mare in her late teens who has always been easy to fit. I have also used the saddle on round ponies and more solid, taller, WB types. The saddle has been used upwards of 5x a week and is comfortable for cross country trail rides and marathon training sessions. It goes easily from one horse to the next. There is no wear on the stitching and minimal wear in the pommel area (though I am guilty of riding in jeans). The saddle could easily help an inexperienced rider find the correct position for over fences and on the flat. I absolutely think it would make a great saddle for a new rider who needs a little extra guidance in finding where they should be in their tack or who enjoys a little more security in the saddle.
Dislikes: I hate the color. It is very, very red. I keep waiting for Havana to come back in, but I'm thinking it never will. The dye the saddle came with rubbed off the first few times I rode in it. The seat leather and the knee roll leather are quite nice and take the dye I have tried using (repeatedly and dedicatedly) in hopes of creating a darker, more flattering, color for my bay. The flap, though, is made out of a hardy leather that is not pliable and has a weird plastic texture to it. It will never be supple. I'm also hard pressed to call this saddle a close contact one. I love a good plain flap, but they have gone the way of Havana brown and are very difficult to find in the price range I was scouting. This was one of the least padded I could find (and I sat in a lot of saddles before settling on this one) and it has substantial knee blocks, thigh blocks, knee rolls and cushioning on the underside. It makes for a comfortable saddle, but I feel like I'm losing some of the contact with my horse, and I hate that. While it took limited time to break it in, breaking it in was not enjoyable. While the saddle was still very comfortable, even brand new, it was very difficult to feel the horse beneath it. Sometimes it seemed like the saddle and I were an entirely different unit from the horse. It made for some unpleasant rides.
Quality: I have read that the stirrup bars can be difficult, and I agree. Mine do not always stay locked and I lost an entire leather over a fence once. It was fortunate that I caught the stirrup and leather with my leg -- I'm sure a falling iron connecting with a leg could have been an intensely unpleasant experience for my horse. I do like this saddle, and I like the price, and I like the look, but it is not the same saddle that you get for more money, and you should not expect it to be as such. While I was satisfied with the quality of the saddle I was absolutely not satisfied with the gifted bridle valued over a hundred dollars. One of the keepers broke the first time I used it. I take good care of this saddle, but it has also survived the rigors that come with being a saddle, including one fall face down with little more than a scuff on the cantle and one fall in the ring where the horse went down at a canter and slid on its side. A little saddle soap and the saddle was looking new again. It cleans up very nicely.
Summary: This saddle is a great investment and makes a great learning saddle or even show saddle on a limited budget. I have no functional qualms with it, only preferential ones. You will not get the same saddle for this price that you get when you pay several thousand dollars, but that doesn't mean you won't be getting a good saddle. I would definitely recommend at least looking into the saddle, and Dover does offer saddle trials for many of its models. If you know you want it and can find it used (I couldn't. I think once people buy them, they don't like to sell them) get it used and skip the unpleasantness of breaking it in and dealing with the dye!
Author: H/J Rigorous Rider
Usefulness Rating: 3.33333 out of 5.
18 reader(s) voted.
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