Friday, January 03, 2014

The Great Saddle Saga of 2013 (aka: two McCalls for sale)

It's been an interesting year in the tack department. I haven't blogged about all the details because it's been a lot of trial and error and things have felt a tad ridiculous at times. But now that we've got things pretty much figured out, I will share all in case what we learned proves useful for someone else. :)

Last winter we bought my current saddle (a 15.5" McCall Trail Wade on semi HQ bars).

When we did this, we thought we'd be done with saddle buying for a while. But then Brian started feeling like his 16" seat was too big. When we bought his saddle, we went with a 16" McCall Northwest Wade because there was one available and we weren't sure if he needed a 15.5" or a 16" seat. It's a very nice saddle and he's enjoyed riding in it.

But... Brain rode in my saddle a few times, and realized his 16" was way too big for him.

The interesting thing about the Wade style saddle is the slick fork leaves your legs a lot of room. Since the seat is pretty upright, with your legs more below you than out front, this means you don't need as large a seat as in a saddle with a swell or a saddle that puts you in a more 'western' position. When we first started looking for Wades, we didn't fully realize this.

When Brian concluded he could probably do with a smaller saddle, we grabbed a 15.5" McCall Trail Wade quite similar to mine when we saw it pop up on ebay. Then we sold our two old saddles (my Cashel and his bear trap).

Brian started riding in the new 15.5" McCall Trail Wade. His old Northwest Wade has full QH bars, and both our Trail Wades have semi QH bars. We thought the saddles fit all our horses fine, but this fall we saw a number of things with Bear slowly get a bit worse by degrees. We didn't immediately connect it to the saddle (because there were other things going wrong as well). And over the course of a few months, Brian concluded he'd actually be more comfortable in a 15" seat.

We started looking again, and saw a McCall Wade Lite on ebay. I spoke with the woman who owned it and she was super nice, but it turned out she had an inaccurate understanding of the saddle. We thought it was a 15" seat on Semi QH bars. We bought it, it arrived, and it turned out to be another 15.5" seat on Full HQ bars. *sigh. But Brian started riding in it anyway, and immediately noticed that Bear seemed more comfortable. So it ended up being a happy accident because it clued us in to the fact that the trees in the McCall Trail Wades are a tidge too narrow for Bear.

At this point, we were at a bit of a loss. We owned a lot of (expensive) saddles that weren't quite right for Brian/Bear. The McCalls are great saddles, but as Brian started reading more about trees and bars and the narrower seats he prefers to ride in, he came to the conclusion that McCall doesn't make the exact saddle he wanted.

After a few weeks riding in the new Wade Lite, Brian found a saddle on Ranch World Ads. It was a hand-made roughout Wade, built on a Rod Nikkel tree, made by Brian Castagno. It had been purchased new last summer by someone who'd been waiting for her custom saddle to be built by the same maker. It was listed for about the same price as what a new McCall goes for. Most importantly, it had the bar angle (91.5° bars) that Brian has thought would be ideal for Bear (and a lot of other stock type horses in the general size range we prefer).

So.... yeah. We bought it. It's beautiful. The McCalls are really nice, but wow it's interesting to see what an upgrade to a truly craftsman-made saddle is like. The previous owner left the teeniest bit of wear on the fenders, but other than that, it seems new. Brian loves it. It has a close, narrow seat, and it fits Bear really well. I've climbed on and dinked around in it a few times. It's beautifully balanced. I probably won't borrow it very often lest I make myself jealous. :)

And thus our year of excessive purchasing of saddles has come to an end. Now we need to sell a couple. We are keeping the 15.5" Trail Wade because it's a good spare.

We are selling Brian's Northwest Wade - SOLD (16" seat, full QH bars) and the Lady Wade - SOLD (15.5" seat, full QH bars). We've got them listed on ebay, and you can click the links above to get to a dedicated page for each (with lots of photos and detailed information).

As for me, I've also concluded I'd likely be better off in a 15" seat. But I love my saddle. It fits Steen perfectly. It's comfortable and versatile. And I've had enough of playing musical saddles for a while. So I probably won't be looking to change things up any time soon.


  1. Ugh, saddle fitting. Probably one of my least favorite parts of horse riding. Especially since horses often change over time, so what fit great last year might no longer fit this year. I don't think either of the saddles we currently use are a perfect fit. I just don't want to embark on a crazy saga of buying and reselling until we find what we want. Kudos for you for going through it though!

  2. Yeah. There's no doubt it's a process. There were a number of times this year Brian and I were looking at each saying, "Really? We're seriously considering buying another saddle?"

    The difference in Steen since I got my current saddle is pretty amazing though. His previous saddle wasn't a bad fit, but it wasn't great either. Still, he's noticeable happier now. So it does feel like it was worth it. (And will be even more-so when we sell these two extras...)

  3. saddles... ugh. right there with ya! This year I felt like I literally threw money away when it came to the 5+ saddles I owned. They are like cars really, the minute you take them out of the store they depreciated.. even if they are seemingly good-deal used saddles. I'm glad you guys are finding something that works for yourselves and your many ponies (such a hard combination to find!), hopefully you get the others sold and are good to go in the new year!

    1. It makes me feel a little better to hear other people are also buying copious numbers of saddles in short periods of time. Yeah, it's hard to come out of these transactions on top, particularly by the time you pay ebay and Paypal and UPS. Thanks! And I can't wait to hear how things are going for you in AZ. :)

  4. I have two friends in the market. Link is being sent now...
    Congrats on the custom for Brian. I love my Crystal Smith (saddlesmithsaddlery) saddle, but McCall does make a good saddle.

  5. I have two friends in the market. Link is being sent now...
    Congrats on the custom for Brian. I love my Crystal Smith (saddlesmithsaddlery) saddle, but McCall does make a good saddle.

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. We've looked at Crystal Saddles. She does really nice work. Brian actually tried to buy one of hers a few years ago but someone else got it first. So far Brian is in love with his new saddle. But yeah, I'm happy with my McCall for now. (Though I must admit I drool over gorgeous custom stuff all the time. ;))

  6. Rod Nikkel makes a great tree. They're the trees my BIL puts in his custom wades. :-)


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