Wintec 500 Dressage w/ CAIR and Easy-change gullets
After almost a year of continued bucking fits despite innumerable saddle fitters, vets, farriers, and chiropractors, FINALLY, on the recommendation of one brilliant tack store owner (Horse's Mouth, Williamsville, NY) I traded in my Stubben for this Wintec last week...and my boy hasn't bucked since. I couldn't believe it. The fact that I can change the tree size to match his current weight/fitness likely eliminates the majority of the fitting issues right there, since he does vary considerably in size througout the season, and the smooth, squishy, air-filled panels certainly seem a no-brainer compared to the idea of lumpy wool-stuffed ones! There's been no more ruffled hair or dry spots; in fact, I've never seen sweat marks so even and symmetric in distribution with any other saddle. Did I mention it's also about HALF the weight of a leather saddle? I gotta say, the only problem I've had with this is the pride issue of its not being leather...nor very expensive; once you realize, though, that your horse doesn't give a darn what it's made of or how much it cost as long as his back doesn't hurt, you'll come to your senses and say goodbye to hallowed European saddlemaking tradition forever. What's even nicer is that no one else will have to know your dirty little secret: from a show-minded perspective, it certainly LOOKS like everybody else's black leather saddle at a distance, since the flaps are cut very traditionally and the material has the familiar nice, low sheen of leather, so it's not like the judge is going to sneer at your saddle. He'll probably be too impressed by how happy and relaxed your horse looks, anyway! I have to admit I'm not going to MISS endless hours of saddle soaping...the care label that came with this actually reads, "JUST HOSE OFF." :) Side note: I also tried the more expensive Wintec/Bates Isabell model, but vastly preferred the 500; the Isabell's Equisuede (or pebbled leather in the Bates model) is too "sticky" and the seat is WAY too deep...it even seems a little pommel-high even when the tree is adjusted at the correct width. The Wintec 500 only comes in smooth Equileather, which allows greater sliding movement in the seat by virtue of exerting less friction, and plus the seat design itself is much less intrusive, being on the flatter side of deep. I find it to be very comfortable and supportive without being restrictive, especially with the customizable (Velcro!!) knee blocks. Likewise I ruled out the Wintec Pro because I didn't like the Equisuede. I very well may have considered getting the 500 in leather if Bates had manufactured such a version...in any case, I wholeheartedly recommend this saddle--it just makes sense that these innovations would make any horse happy--even those of us with temperamental ones.