This saddle has a medium deep seat, plain (smooth) flaps, and moderate concealed blocks. The plain flaps are one unique feature to this saddle (and I was not the least bit certain how I would feel about them). However, the most unusual feature is the suede seat! Additionally, the blocks are somewhat squishy (as opposed to the solid, hard things that newer dressage saddles are sporting under the padded flaps).
The fit on the Fancy Pony seemed solid. There wasn’t much side-to-side wiggle. The slope of the panels matched the slop of her shoulders. As I tightened the girth, her ears stayed forward. She turned to look at me, at one point, but that seemed to be more curiosity about what we were riding in today than any reaction to discomfort or annoyance. A common problem we’ve been having is that the saddle will slide forward and the girth will end up sitting right behind her elbow. On this saddle, the back billet seems to come from the back of the flap, stabilizing the back of the saddle as it angles forward to the girth. The front billet actually goes THROUGH the thigh block (but you can pull it out and go over the top of everything, if you prefer). This results in an almost Y-shaped system. I think this may also help keep the girth back out of her elbow region. I am very happy with the resulting girth and saddle position.
I took a chance and put my stirrups in my longest length that I have been comfortable riding in. On some saddles, this left me feeling like I was reaching for them and riding on my toes... I swung into the saddle and took stock of the situation. The seat does not embrace me in a cushy hug like many of the newer-style saddles, but it held me supported like a firm lead from a dance partner. I felt comfortably upright, and my leg stretched down into my stirrup. As we walked off, I considered the suede seat underneath me. I felt like I was following with my hips just fine. I never felt restricted. Fancy Pony stretched and walked, and walked and stretched. Upward transitions were quiet and relaxed. Downward transitions came almost entirely from my core! At one point, I asked for a canter-walk transition (we haven’t actually succeeded in one of these, but we have decreased the number of trot steps in between to 2), and what I got was: canter (balance), canter (prepare), canter (ask) – trot – halt. Oops! However, that trot and halt were so much more balanced than any we have done before! There wasn’t a single walk step, and she was so round! She was really tuned into my body!
When we schooled a few walk-canter transitions, we had a couple moments of tension and hollowness, but I felt like it was more in anticipation of the transition – her desire to just do it rather than improve the quality – than anything else. When we went back to the longer frame and less uphill balance, she stepped quietly into the canter again. It’s not like I wasn’t already pushing her for a higher level of work than she is used to…
What really amazed me was how tall I felt at the trot and canter! I would peek in the mirrors periodically, and my upper body remained vertical. My back felt loose while maintaining strength and stability, and I didn’t feel like I was “chasing my horse” with my body.
All in all, I was very impressed with this saddle! And the suede seat reminds me so much of my western saddle, where I feel like I have a little more control over my seat… Perhaps that is the secret!