As a professional saddle fitter, I have found that some companies’ saddles work better than others. Is this to say that I won’t work with others? Not at all! I often see and work with saddles that fit a particular horse really well but they are saddles that have a very limited range of horses that they will fit that well.
I know and tend to recommend saddle companies who offer saddles that fit… better… than other companies’ saddles. This may sound strange to some of you, but some saddles, English, Western, and Australian style, have more tolerance for changes in your horse’s body. Most independent saddle fitters I know have favorite brands because they know that horses with similar bodies will be comfortable in that saddle.
Are these saddles more expensive? Generally, yes and here’s the trade-off:
Your horse will most likely be more comfortable from the day you purchase it
You will most likely be more comfortable in a higher quality saddle
Your horse’s behavior and compliance level will be better
Resale value is higher
More perspective resale prospects because of higher tolerance of fit and comfort
This saddle will remain more comfortable to your horse for longer
Do I equate price with quality? NO. The saddles that I generally recommend are not at the highest end of the new and used markets. They are expensive and they are expensive because they are designed well, built well, and utilize quality materials.
The other key component to these saddles is that they are mostly sold through representatives or tack stores who use time honored saddle fitting concepts. When I recommend that a client purchase a new saddle, I usually know who will be fitting that saddle for my client and I trust the representative to make you and your horse comfortable. If you are purchasing through the used saddle market, I will strongly encourage you to make sure that I see it before you own it. If I am unsure of the saddle seller, I also encourage you to have me or an independent saddle fitter evaluate the fit. There are saddle sellers and there are saddle fitters. I would like to say that saddle sellers always have the clients’ (both horse and rider) well being at heart, but this isn’t always the case. When you employ a saddle fitter who is not compensated by saddle companies, you know your money spent is for your benefit.