Time for another product review. Jonna of Barbs etc. asked how I liked the Duett and as it might be going out the door (yes, it's up for sale through no fault of it's own), this is a good time.
If you are considering a Duett, please visit their website at http://www.duettsaddles.com/ in addition to considering my opinion!
A quick interruption - If this post seems a little disjointed, it's because I'm seriously jet lagged and I've been working 13-15 hour days on 4 hours of sleep a night. I do like Alabama a lot more than I expected and I'm looking forward to coming back once a month for the next couple of months. I'm practicing on being effective and focused even on a serious lack of sleep, high humidity, and high heat. Sounds like perfect Tevis training to me!
Back to the saddle. I did a lot of research before buying a Duett. They fit small - an 18" is much more similar to a 17 or 17.5" fit. Their saddle trees start at 32cm (regular) and go up in 2cm increments to ridiculously wide. Even though Farley is short (14.2 - maybe), she is fairly wide with a round barrel and a short back. Not an easy fit. I was fairly certain I needed a 34cm (wide). The Companion II model fits the shorter backed horses (versus the Companion I). So I started looking for a Companion II 34/18.
What I Like
They do not come up for sale used often! I finally found one in all black in the sizes I needed, and purchased it. The first time I sat in it, it was amazing. I was very pleased how it fit on Farley the first time I saddled it up. I was impressed with the attention to detail on this saddle for the price. The saddles are $1179 new (check website for current pricing) and I feel that they are a superior saddle for the price. I have seen used ones priced typically $700-850. The stitching is tight, the seat soft, the color is holding up well, and the balance is very good. Here is what I considered the best points of the saddle:
1. The seat - I was skeptical of the stitching on the seat, but I never had any rubbing problems. The seat is moderately padded. The leather is soft, but is durable. It has just enough "stick", even in tights, but doesn't catch or rub.
2. Security - the combination of the pommel, cantle, and seat configuration makes a very secure saddle. I've never even almost fallen out of this saddle. Part of the security came from the wider twist. It seemed to hold me in the seat better.
3. Billet system - there's only 2 billets. The back billet is a "V" billet. The girth falls naturally, even on a well sprung horse and I never had problems with the saddle wanting to walk forward or back.
4. Saddle Bags - I found that the cantle on this saddle was a perfect fit for the stowaway english cantle bags!
5. The quality - This was my first high/better quality saddle and the difference between it, and my thorowgood and no-name saddle was immediately obvious. I can't even give specifics - it was just a different, better "feel". I feel that it was definitely worth the price I paid for it and I would pay it again in a heartbeat (I have not felt this way about all of the name brand saddles I have tried).
What I Don't Like
Nothing in this world is perfect. Most of these things aren't negatives - just things I want to note so that you can consider whether this saddle is a good fit for you!
1. Flap - the flap is kinda wide....Never bothered me until another rider pointed it out....I have really short legs and the length didn't bother me.
2. Weight and Size - this is not a petite saddle. Fully decked out with a woolback pad, cantle bags etc. it came in at 30 pounds. I don't mind a heavier saddle, but it can be a surprise if you are expecting a lighter saddle.
3. Width - I LIKE the wide twist - however if you ride a wide horse AND have short little legs, total width can become an issue. I rode it in a woolback for the first 8 months or so and it was fine. However, I liked the saddle even more after I got a skito, which reduced the bulk underneath my leg. With a woolback it was an effort to get my leg on the horse, however that disappeared with the skito.
4. Billets - I'm not sure whether it was just my billets, or it's a trait of the saddle, but the billets were a little dry. They are very thick and sturdy, just not as soft as I'm used to.
5. Total Billet Length - I had to punch extra holes and use an extremely short girth - 22".
6. Wither Clearance - This is the only reason I'm selling the saddle. Everything else was inconsequential or manageable - this was not. Farley has moderate to high withers. This saddle has a lower than average wither clearance (which they state on their site), which was adequate for almost a year. Unfortunately her back only had to change a little before there the potential for wither pressure was more than I could stand. I think a normal to low withered horse would be fine in this saddle.
So What Happened?
I monitored wither clearance every time I rode. A couple of weekends ago I decided that it was too close for my comfort. I am not unhappy with any other aspect of the saddle or how it fit Farley. The only place I have advertised it is in the sidebar of this blog. I wouldn't mind holding onto this saddle, but if someone was interested I'm not adverse to selling either.
So You Want More Information?
Start by checking out http://www.duettsaddles.com/. I highly recommend that you test ride one if you can. It's a substantial saddle that may feel a bit different than your typical A/P saddle. Most pictures of Farley on this blog are in the Duett saddle. Trumbull tack shop is an excellent source of information, has a very generous trial period on their saddles, and keeps skito pads for the Duett Companion in stock. If you have specific questions, feel free to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll give you my opinion, but keep in mind that's only one person's opinion! If you are trying to guage fit, here's some pointers.
On the horsey side (refers to a 34cm size tree):
1. Slightly wider than a "Wide" Solstice saddle. Different tree shape - Duett has a more upside down "U" shape (hoop tree?), while the Solstice and Thorowgood (NOT broadback) I think have that *other* shaped tree - see the saddle fitter's blog (on the right hand sidebar) for more details on this, I'm kind of fuzzy.
2. Much wider than a "standard/medium" Thorowgood dressage
3. I found the panels are fairly "flat" from front to back, compared to a (unshimmed) specialized.
4. Less wither clearance than the Solstice or afore mentioned Thorowgood.
On the rider side (18" seat):
1. Fit (seat size) is similar to a 17.5" throwgood. Fit is looser than a 17" Solstice
2. Flap is shorter (but wider) than a Thorowgood dressage. Flap is bigger (wider and longer) than the Solstice
3. Pommel rise is shorter/lower than the Thorowgood, about the same as the Solstice
4. Cantle height is similar to the Thorowgood dresage.
5. Saddle fits on all my dressage pads, including a toklat woolback dressage shaped pad.
If you are considering a Duett I hope this was helpful. Overall I really like this saddle and would reccomend at least trying it, if you want an english style saddle for trail riding - either fast or slow - that is comfortable and secure. I know there are some other Duett riders who read my blog - feel free to jump in the discussion in the comments section!