This blog has MOVED!

Please visit for the most updated content. All these posts and more can be found over at the new URL.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


This seemed to be a good time to repost this. I first posted this in facebook a couple months ago.

So I seem to have an obsession - horses, but more specifically saddles and to a lesser degree, bits.

I love saddles. Not your average, everyday pleasure saddles, but saddles that have been designed for a specific purpose, usually historical.

Here's some of the saddles I have in my collection:

The 1859 McClellan: I love this saddle. This is the ultimate in close contact. There was some efforts by the military to improve this saddle but it's darn good the way it is. I've done a couple of 50's in this saddle and of all the saddles, it consistently has the least amount of problems and frustrations inherent in it. There are several things that I wish were different, but I don't spend an inordinate amount of time trying to improve this saddle. It is what it is and I try and manage around its limitations. It's designed for the military sitting seat, so when there is weight in the stirrups over a long period of time (like when I improperly post :) It can cause the saddle tree to flex around the hinged stirrup bars and cause a pressure point (I'm using a single, traditional, folded wool blanket so there's not a lot of padding). The saddle blanket also has a tendancy to scoot unless the girth is REALLY tight. UPDATE: since writing this post for facebook, a friend gave me a 1904 McClellan. It has several differences including no skirts or fenders, the ability to adjust the quarter straps, and a latigo girth on both sides. I have not used it much due to Minx being off and the weather being bad, but I have great hopes for it.

English saddles - I currently own a Thorowgood dressage and a Duett Companion Trail.

I love the maintenance free, light synthetic of the Thorowgood. I've noticed it's not really a trail saddle D rings on the back, and no crupper attachment, which is unfortunate because it has a tendency to pop over the shoulder of my Standardbred. Don’t worry – I’ve gotten creative (as usual). There's not a lot of room in the seat. It's not designed for posting and I've noticed I can get a little chafed in it :). It's a secure saddle though and I would highly recommend it.

I LOVE my Duett trail saddle. I currently use it on Farley. The only things I would change would be the weight, and the width of the flap. I think the flap is ridiculously wide :). The weight of the saddle fully decked out for endurance with a toklet woolback pad is ~32 pounds! :0! It’s so comfy. Since my weigh in I have purchased a skito which should weigh less, and eliminate most of the bulk under my leg. Very comfy. It's built on a dressage tree/seat so it's also very secure. I love the position this saddle puts me in. I highly recommend this saddle and would get another one for Minx if I could find one for the right price and size.

For old time's sake I have also pictured a old english saddle I gave away. It was my first saddle. It had terrible stirrup placement and was NOT secure. The only thing I did consistantly in that saddle was fall out of it! LOL. It definately made me a better rider!

Endurance saddles – A more recent acquisition is an older model Specialized International. It is an endurance/English hybrid. It reminds me a lot of my McClellan in the way it rides except (thankfully) it puts my feet more underneath me and the pommel is more trotting friendly. It is supposed to be able to adjust to fit any horse with a system of neoprene fitting pads. I 'm not sure how much I subscribed to the idea that you can refit a hard object (like the tree) that doesn't fit to a horses back by using shims and pads.....The tree itself reminds me of the McClellan but it's been modified probably to fit an arab back, so while the original McClellan fits the Standardbred very well, the specialized tree is a little "curvy". The seat is a little smaller as well (even though it's be about the equivalent that I usually ride in - 17-17.5 english). It's a secure saddle - Minx did a big time sideways spook and I stayed put. It tends to throw me forward in sudden stops, probably because my legs are in a different position than I'm used to. I'm looking forward playing with this saddle's nuances this winter.

Now about bits - my criteria for buying bits I own that one yet? :)

Pictured: 1. Farley in 1859 McClellan, 2. Minx in Thorowgood, 3. Farley in Duett, 4. Minx in Borelli, 5. Minx in specialized international.


  1. Hahaha -
    I have quite a bit collection as well, but since going to the bitless bridle I am liquidating! I'll be posting them up for sale on Ebay whenever I get around to washing them and taking pictures. some 4.5", most 4.75", some 5"

    I'll keep one or two that Arabee went best in, just in case. But she goes so well in the bitless that I doubt I will go back. But then, I've never seen the start of an endurance ride, either. Good to be prepared. She always went well in a jointed pelham, so I think a kimberwicke would work for her too, and only one set of reins, that way!

    Did you get to try your hackamore on Farley??? How did it go?

  2. Nice post! I ride in a Specialized Eurolight which I LOVE because I can modify it to fit Jasper's back as he becomes more fit (and stops trotting with a giraffe neck).


  3. LOL. My arab does a very nice giraffe impression as well. The Standardbred (due to the different build?) does an impressive llama or ostrich when the occasion arises!

  4. Interesting! :-) I've also done a bit of riding with both 1859 and 1904 McClellan saddles and while a lot of people have issues with comfort, I don't. Unfortunately, saddle fit with both of these can be a challenge and I had to stop using the '59 model after my boy's conformation changed. A poorly fitted McClellan will tear up a horse's back in short order- something a lot of people don't seem to understand (at least reenactor riders).

    I also use a Thorouhgood dressage saddle. It's comfortable, light, and easy to maintain. The downside is that I've found that biothane billets don't hold up well and I had to replace mine with leather after a year (I also had to do it for the Wintec I had before).

    I started with a Wintec dressage saddle with the CARE (air) pads but it just didn't hold up well and I actually wound up deflating one of the pads (the Wintec rep was amazed). Then again, I ride almost everyday and I don't think they're designed to stand up to that level of use.

    Finally, I've also had good results with a vintage WWII-era German Army saddle and it's probably the best-fitted one for my horse. However, it's showing it's age and I need to get it refurbished.

    It's definately cool to see McClellan saddles being used.

  5. I totally agree. Either the McClellan fits or it doesn't. I'm lucky that it fits my Standardbred wonderfully. It does NOT fit my Arab. I find the saddle so comfy and can ride all day and not get sore. I noticed that the original 1904 I have doesn't fit my pelvis (for the lack of a better word) as well as my repro 1859.

    Haven't had any problems with my Thorowgood billets yet. To tell you the truth, there are other saddles I have that fit Minx that I like better, so it probably doesn't get the use like yours.

    Thanks for coming around and looking at my blog! As soon as the reenactment season is in full swing (starting the end of this month), I'll have more posts on my work with the mounted artillery etc. Right now I'm doing a lot of prep for my endurance riding.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.