Thursday, June 09, 2011

Massive Disappointment

I have rarely been so impatient for something to come in the mail as I was on Tuesday. UPS didn't show up until after 6:00, but when they did they delivered a large box containing my new Bob Marshal Endurance saddle.

It was too late to go out to the barn for a ride, but we unpacked the saddle and looked it over. It is nicely made of good quality leather, and I was keen to give it a try. Finally after Brian got home from work yesterday, we headed out, tacked up and I mounted, fully expecting to have an awesome ride.

And I have to say, I have rarely been so disappointed as I became over the next half hour. I did like that I could feel the saddle re-conform slightly when Steen sighed. But to be perfectly honest that was the only thing I liked.

From my perspective there are four major issues with the saddle, which combined to a sum of making this what I consider the least comfortable saddle I have ridden in. Ever. In my whole life. And that is saying something as I've ridden in saddles that are way too small, way too large, cheap, brand new, broken down, missing important components, etc. etc..

Of course, the rub of it is I don't want to hate this saddle. I want to love it. I've just waited for months to get my hands on it. And now it arrives and I find myself so turned off by it I hardly even want to give it another try.

Anyway, here is a summary of the four things that makes this saddle so problematic to ride in:
  1. The upper part of the fender is exactly the wrong length. It is too long to be contained by my thigh, and too short to be smoothed down by my calf. As a result, it sits constantly in the crook of my knee, meaning any time I adjust or move my leg to communicate with Steen, it crunches up into the angle of my joint and interferes.
  2. Since the seat is flexible, the cantle is a bit mobile and kind of curls up behind you while you ride. It's also weirdly narrow, so instead of cupping around my back-side like a cantle should, it simply rolls up and the two joints where it attaches to the seat dig into my upper tush. Constantly.
  3. While I accept that you need to have padding if you are not going to have a tree, this saddle has padding in strange places -- like all the way down the side of the saddle where there is no weight to distribute  This means it is so wide it pushes my thighs out at an unnatural angle and makes it hard for me to relax my lower leg. By the time I got off, the hip that causes me problems sometimes was genuinely flared up. While my hip bothers me doing a lot of things, horseback riding has never been one of them.
  4. There is a seam down the center of the saddle. And this is not a smooth, recessed seam. It is a tall seam with a raw edge that sticks up. I looked at photos and read reviews and researched this saddle thoroughly before I ordered one, and how I somehow failed to know that instead of a smooth seat it has a ridge down the middle is beyond me. Have the people who designed this never ridden a horse? I tried hard not to focus on it, but even after half an hour of walking and jogging around on Steen, I was starting to experience some chafage in places I really don't want to be chafed.
The only positive thing I can say for the saddle is that Steen had an even sweat pattern on his back when I got off. He also seemed pretty relaxed in his jog. But he was not well behaved during our ride. Probably because I was so uncomfortable I could hardly focus.

So, needless to say, I am a bit crushed. Of course, it's not the end of the world. I knew there was a chance I wouldn't like this saddle, but I never anticipated I would hate it this much. I can't imagine how any even semi-serious rider makes one of these work.

Almost worse than not liking the saddle, though, is the fact that I'm now back to square one on the question of finding something that is comfortable for both me and my horse.

Horseback hours YTD: 34:25


  1. That is pretty disappointing. I'll admit though, the difficulties of finding a saddle that works for both me and the horse is a fair chunk of why I mostly ride bareback. Despite having like six saddles sitting around the house, we ended up having to borrow one for Nate/Trekker. I'm not overly thrilled with the fit of any of them on Tranikla...although the Aussie I usually use isn't too bad.

    Maybe it's time to find a good saddle fitter, and see if they can recommend something for you? I'm told the good ones will bring out a collection of saddles to try out.

  2. Love the new blog look, by the way! Very classy!

    Sorry about your saddle. I bet you are disappointed. The seam in the middle sounds awful!

    My friend, Vickie, is a distributor for Black Forest treeless saddles. Many of my friends have went this route and swear by these saddles. She was located in Nebraska and moved to TX last year or so. She continues to be successful with her saddle business and has a program to try before you buy.

    Her website is: . If you contact her, tell her I sent you. :)

  3. @ Erica - if only there was such a good thing as a good saddle fitter in Iowa City. We seem to be in an equine-professional-dead-zone. We don't even have a single tack shop in the area any more, much less one with someone who knows what they are selling...

    @Tammy - Thanks! I somehow find it therapeutic to redesign my blog when I'm frustrated about riding. Who knows why...

    I did look at the Black Forest treeless saddles, but not seriously. I will take another look and if I get serious about one, will definitely let them know you send me.


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