So you’ve ordered a custom saddle for your horse. You had the saddle fitter/rep out to take measurements, you’ve picked the color and type of leather, and even contemplated that cute pink piping (that your trainer gave a big fat NO to), and now you just need to wait 6 weeks for it to come in to be able to ride in it. The excitement is overwhelming. Visions of your horse going better than he ever has before are filling your head. You are the best horse mom EVER to have gotten your creature a saddle made just for him! You’ll never have to worry about improper saddle fit ever again because your saddle is custom and you spent a small fortune on it, so it must be 100% perfect.
The saddle finally arrives and you excitedly throw it on your horse and start riding, but he bucks you right off. What the heck?! That darn saddle rep must have been mistaken and gave you a saddle that is too small! It’s pinching his withers and doesn’t fit right at all, plus the color seems to differ slightly than the swatch that you looked at almost two months ago. Well, before you storm over to the saddle fitter/rep to give him/her a piece of your mind, review the truth bomb I’m about to drop on you in the next few paragraphs.
Why doesn’t the saddle fit now? It is completely possible for your horse’s shape and condition to change in the amount of time it takes for a custom saddle to be made and delivered. His work load or feed could have increased or decreased, changing his musculature and weight. It is the same thing as if you ordered a custom tailored piece of clothing, gaining weight and then blaming the tailor! Horses change just like people do, so it is unrealistic to think that just because it was custom made for you and your horse that it will fit you both perfectly forever. Custom saddles still need to be periodically checked and possibly flocked/adjusted to maintain optimal fit.
Just like your horse’s body, your body may change too. But unlike your horse, your style and preference of saddle leather, colors, models etc. can change too. Just because you loved something two months ago when the excitement was fresh and strong, doesn’t mean that you will still be in love with it later on! If you find yourself being a finicky type of person, you should think extra long and hard about going custom. Will you love it in the long term?
Another common misconception when buying custom saddles is that because they are so expensive and such high quality, that they will last absolutely forever and be 100% perfect in every way imaginable. Well, that also isn’t true. No matter the beautiful quality of the saddle, riding environments are generally hostile to any leather. Sand, sweat, water, scrapes, abrasive cleaner, friction and cats will harm a custom saddle just like they would any other- there’s no getting away from it! Also, saddles are constructed by human hands, there is bound to be an error or imperfection somewhere in the saddle. It is unreasonable to think that it will be perfect. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but perfection doesn’t exist. Gasp!
The last myth that I will touch on is that just because you paid X amount for a custom saddle that a lifetime free of service charges from the manufacturer/fitter comes attached to your new saddle. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it probably does not. A sales rep may or may not be paid directly from the manufacture for return and follow up fitting services. Also, an independent saddle fitter who works with specific companies to sell their custom saddles is NOT paid by the saddle company- that would be coming out of their own pockets. Although you may have paid $4,000 for the saddle, that won’t cover a lifetime of services from your rep or fitter, they need to put food on the table too!
There are many factors to consider before going all in on a custom saddle option. Is your horse physically in the shape you want him to be in? Are YOU physically where you want to be? Are you in love forever or is that color combination just a passing phase? Can you afford the saddle and the follow up service visits? Does your horse really need custom or did someone tell you that your horse is just that unique? Take your time and do your research to ensure both horse and rider will be happy for the life of the saddle!