I’d needed to buy a new dressage saddle after getting Archie, but couldn’t find something I liked. Or if I could, finding it with short flaps was impossible or it was way out of my budget. I test rode practically everything at the barn. Of course, Archie had a clear favorite… the Voltaire Adelaide. Go figure, my horse likes expensive French leather just like my butt.
Adelaides aren’t impossible to find used, but they’re $$$, even for a French saddle. I figured maybe if I saved my pennies, I’d be able to afford one from the UK. After all, that’s how I found my Devoucoux, which is pretty much my unicorn saddle (18″ 1AA hello).
And then… fate stepped in. In the form of a used Adelaide at Pelham Saddlery. In an 18″, PRO D10 panel (aka exactly what Archie needed) and 3A flap – except a 3 in the Adelaide measures 15.25″ or in other words, a short flap, and… in (actually UNDER) my budget. The problem? It was GREEN. Like light olive sage green.
Amanda and Emily told me I’d be able to dye it most likely and with that, the green Voltaire was on its way to me. When I pulled it out, I was pleasantly surprised it was actually in great shape. The billets looked practically new, the panels felt great, it was just… green. It fit Archie, it fit me… so the check cleared and I bought dye supplies online and the adventure began.
I won’t bother giving a how-to – Amanda has done a much better job of that with the handful she’s dyed. Just be prepared – I didn’t realized quite how much buffing the damn thing was gonna take. I had a sore arm for a week.
It’s been almost 2 months since it was dyed with consistent riding and I’m still so pleased. I’ve ridden in all colors of breeches, it’s gotten wet (not like, soaked, but sprinkled) and no dye has come off. It needs a cleaning and conditioning session after being in my tack locker, but that’s just normal upkeep. Best of all, it’s improved my dressage riding tremendously and Archie is still going phenomenally in it.
Spring has stuck around and with it has come the return of outdoor jump lessons. Saturday’s was fantastic, although we had a rocky start. See, to get from the barn to the outdoor, we have to walk through a regular man door. Archie has taken extreme offense to this specific door for months – he is CONVINCED it is a portal to hell. We’ve mostly conquered this fear until this last weekend where I managed to pretty much reinstall the ‘demons live here’ by accident.
We were walking out to our lesson and as I was going through the doorway, I tripped – really just stumbled because I am Very Bad at walking. No big deal, except I caught myself… on his rein. Meaning as poor Arch is walking through this doorway he already has lingering trauma with, his mom YANKS on his rein for no reason. He jumps forward, convinced this is The End and pulls away from me. A little freaked out and now loose, he decides to tour the farm solo. When I caught up to him, I was greeted by this:
Oh yes, he managed to break not only my reins (in two places), but also the cheekpiece on my nice Antares figure 8. I was not very happy. Am not very happy?
So, shopping I go for reins (should be easier than it is, but COB LENGTH) and and a new bridle. This is like when your parents go “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Valentines Day, Easter, Arbor Day for the next six years.”
After the Sharon White clinic and my lesson with Tim it became apparent my saddle was not going to quite cut it. It was fine, but my stirrups really needed to be another hole or two shorter (be quiet, knees) which meant my flap was going to be too straight and too long. It had already become evident my quarantine-butt needed an 18″ vs the 17.5″ I was riding in and so the hunt was on for an ever-elusive 18″ 1AA Devoucoux Chiberta. In my price range.
Fun fact: there are lots of 18″ ones out there. With 2A, 3A, and the sort flaps. There are a solid number of 1AAs out there. With 16.5″ seats. Combine shrimp legs with jumbo shrimp butt and suddenly things are more… difficult.
I was browsing eBay a few weeks ago when I opened a listing – it just said 2010 Chiberta monoflap. No details, so I assumed it’d be an 18 3AA or something, but… it wasn’t. An 18″. With a 1AA flap. And the panels to fit Iggy.
IN MY PRICE RANGE.
I immediately freaked the hell out and messaged Emily who found the same listing on eBay.
The problem was my saddle was not sold. Or really, had any interest at all. I fretted for days, checking if it was still available. Then, right before our HT last weekend, someone asked to take it on trial. I said okay, because I just wanted the thing SOLD okay? And then hoped and prayed and crossed all the crossables that it would, in fact, sell.
Well, it did. And within minutes of that, I’d paid for that unicorn of a saddle in my size.
For some amusement, I was showing photos to a friend and she noticed it was coming in the original Devoucoux barrel. I explained a lot of the French saddles ship in barrels like those. Later that day, we were at the barn watching some other rides and I was showing her a really fancy gelding at our barn who is a Selle Francais imported from France. Without missing a beat, she glances at me and casually asks, “Oh, did he come in a barrel too?”
Anyways, the seller very graciously shipped this thing next day air INTERNATIONAL, without being asked which is… insane. And I don’t want to think about what it cost her. Only for it to get pulled for a customs inspection and sit in Memphis for three days.
Welcome to ‘this is where I finally crack from 2020’! I fretted and paced and called FedEx about 37 times who were USELESS. I texted Emily and brainstormed ways to jailbreak it with Michele (I’m sure stealing from US CBP isn’t like a SERIOUS federal crime) and just generally drove EVERYONE insane. Finally, Friday morning I straight up called Memphis CBP and prayed I’d get someone who was in a good mood cause it was Friday.
My prayers were answered when one of those thick southern accents answered the phone. “Oh, I’ve got this.” Cue up that former southern sorority girl and before you knew it, I had this sweet agent making calls and sending emails until we discovered it had, in fact, been selected – but FedEx just… hadn’t bothered to deliver/transfer it to customs. COOL THATS YOUR JOB FEDEX. He told me he’d figure it out and even walk over after lunch and see if he couldn’t get it through that night. We hung up with him giving me his direct line and name, just in case I still had issues on Monday. (No, this is not the start of a rom com, although perhaps it should be… Officer K, you single?)
Well he worked his magic and it cleared customs at 3am Saturday morning and was back on track for delivery. I borrowed a friend’s Amerigo so I could finally have a jump lesson Sunday and then first thing Monday morning…
It’s gorgeous and perfect and buttery soft and grippy. And it was beautiful all day… and just as I finished work, it poured rain for the rest of the night. Which I think was Iggy’s way of reminding me, “hey lady today is my day off!”
Luckily, the next night was clear and I just can’t get over how perfect it is. Actually having a short enough, but forward flap?! Room in the seat?! Miracles, I tell you.
Unexpectedly, because it has the same panel configuration as my old one, this one even seems to fit Iggy better. The only difference is a couple years newer and it has “B” density foam, which absolutely nobody seems to know what means (or they work for Devoucoux and refuse to tell me…) Nonetheless, I’m not complaining about it fitting him better.
So here’s to hoping that concludes 2020’s episode of “Saddle Shopping Hell: Customs Edition”
As I’ve alluded to the last few weeks, new horse has meant new purchases because he doesn’t fit into anything. Like… that lovely Devoucoux monoflap? Yeah. That one.
I bought it because I was in talks with Devoucoux about how we could make it work, it was a great deal and I was confident in it. Needless to say, it’s been… an ordeal. I’m not going to publicly say all the things I’d like to say but I’m not quite a happy camper. And am faced with now selling the saddle I’ve owned for uh, two and a half weeks. AWESOME.
Unfortunately, despite it not being a great fit for Iggs, it’s the perfect fit for me and I’m obsessed with it. Meaning as much as I’d like to pack my toys and go home and never touch another Devoucoux… here I am shopping for a different one.
Seriously, is there anything less fun than saddle shopping? (Yes, there is, don’t answer that question)
On the plus side, I went out on a limb after doing all the reading and e-mailing back and forth with the Horse Bit Bank and ordered the Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring. A++++++ in customer service for Horse Bit Bank, by the way. They responded to all my emails and questions promptly, shipped it quickly, helped me ensure it fit properly and have overall been a pleasure to work with. Saddle companies, TAKE NOTE PLEASE THANKS.
I’ve now ridden Iggy in it twice and it’s safe to say we both love it. He’s so much happier and consistent in the contact and we had some of our best work last night. So much so I’m actually already considering ordering the Happy Tongue Beval as our jump bit. And I’ll 100% order from HBB again. Iggy was never bad, per say, in his french link loose ring, but he also played and played and played with it, liked to either toss his head or go behind the vertical, and just didn’t seem totally… happy? As opposed to our rides where the head tossing was a minimum, he was so easy and happy to push into the contact, and (thank God for the sake of my sanity) the free walk involved no “CLANK JANGLE CLINK CLANG” the whole way.
We’re off to lesson with Kira Connor this weekend while my trainer and half the barn and everyone I know is at Pine Top (ITS FINE I’M NOT JEALOUS AT ALL REALLY IT JUST HASN’T STOPPED SNOWING BUT IT’S GREAT REALLY PROMISE). I’m looking forward to finally having a formal jump lesson on the Iggster (is it weird I want to read that as hamster and now that might be his new nickname…?) and getting a good baseline of where we’re at right now.
You know what I love about Iggy? He’s little. Holly sized. Fun sized. Cute and snuggly sized. Doesn’t-hurt-your-ankles-to-dismount-in-winter little.
You know what now drives me bonkers about Iggy? He’s little. So little. Too little for all the things, little.
Why has this frustration come about?
Two things: pony dressage reins and 16″ girths.
I said it. I thought I was bringing home a normal, albeit on the smaller side horse. Instead I brought home an oversized Labrador Retriever. You know what you get when you google 16″ girths? Dog harnesses.
Or when you find an actual option for horses, they’re either $200 or made of questionable material and a lack of roller buckles (WHY?). And none of them come in brown, meaning I may be going XC in a very appealing combination of brown saddle/black girth this spring. Much fashun, so style.
Don’t get me started on pony length dressage reins.
(Actually, Nunn Finer makes pony length reins in their soft grip which is what I like and will probably buy, but they’re also the same price as the horse ones which seems wrong for 12″ less material…)
My saddle pads are… mostly do-able on him, although he could probably wear a pony size pad too. Cob size bridles abound in my tack box. (Yet his cob halter doesn’t fit in the throat???) Thank God 74″ and 76″ blankets are at least relatively easy to find.
Does this mean I can join the ‘cool ponies who do cool things’ club even if mine technically doesn’t measure? Current members I know of are Jen and Allie, but I feel like membership is welcoming.
I think we can all agree that saddle shopping is just maddening on a good day. Add in the fact that I’ve tried NINE (yes, 9) dressage saddles so far and haven’t found one… I’m losing it.
Doc has a perfectly well-fit lovely dressage saddle. But… it fits his owner. Who has about 7″ on me, I’m pretty sure all in her legs. It’s basically impossible for me to use my leg in it. What the neverending carousel of horrors saddles has taught me is that I need a short flap. Like, 14.5″ or 15″ short. I sat in a barnmate’s and I swear angels sang because I learned I have LEGS! They exist.
Unfortunately, when you add in short flap + not-a-kids-size-seat and toss in a side of princess and the pea pony – large wither, big sloping set back shoulders, curvy back and LOTS OF OPINIONZ, suddenly you find yourself being quotes $6000 for a custom saddle and you kind of just slither away to cry.
Doing BN dressage in a jump saddle surely isn’t the end of the world, but… it’s also not my favorite. And now that I’ve experienced the magical short flap dressage saddle, it’s all I think about. And dream about.
So, uh, if you know of a magical 17.5-18″ MW or W short flap dressage saddle with half/short blocks to fit a curvy back that won’t mean selling organs on the black market, hit a girl up?
Or, if you know anyone looking to buy a kidney, that might work too.
There has been a distinct lack of riding material here as of late and it’s not due to me being lazy (well yes, I am, but that’s beside the point). The truth is that riding has been… hard.
I mean, riding is always hard. If it was easy, I’m pretty sure 99% of us would find a different sport because we like being perpetually broke and challenged and waving in danger’s face. But this hasn’t been, “Holly stop leaning” hard or omg my legs hurt can I have my stirrups back hard. This has been, my horse refuses to move hard.
He goes along happily for Trainer and her too-cute-for-words son (who is Doc’s FAVORITEPERSONONEARTH). And as soon as I get on? Your quarter ran out, lady.
I’ve left the barn in tears twice. He bolted through the open arena door and went back to his stall once. I checked his legs, I checked he was sound, I checked his bit, his face, his feet. “Well,” I thought, “so much for eventing this year. My horse hates me.”
Until I thought, “Huh. I never checked my saddle.”
Since, you know, it was custom fit for him less than two months ago. Lo and behold, it’s sitting lower to his withers than we’d like. Shot pics off to fitter, appointment scheduled, fingers crossed. Cue guilt of, “OMG I was making my horse do what when he was trying to tell me he was uncomfortable, I am the worst rider ever. I do not deserve to ride. I must never set foot in a barn again to atone my sins.” K. Dramatics slightly calmed down (but still guilty feeling), we had a lovely bareback ride Saturday (well he was lovely, I was… well, Big Eq winner, I am not), which has me hopeful this was our issue. We know he’s particular about saddle fit (hello, measures as a medium, prefers to go in a wide). Fitter comes tomorrow.
Please, please let this be the issue. Please, please, please let my horse not hate me forever.