In preparation for showing this summer I am doing research on tack. As I've mentioned before, I need all new show tack, both for English and for Western. I've been pouring over catalogs and internet sites for both new and used tack, and spending time on Horse Tack Review. Here is where I'm at:
The saddle I will use most often is my western training saddle. Right now the saddle I use is doing all right. The new pad has REALLY helped with both my slippage and fit issues. It's not an expensive saddle. It's a Royal King training saddle that I bought used from Jr's last owner. It's in fine shape, I think it's comfortable and as long as it remains comfortable for him I'm satisfied with it. The "silver" is cheap and ugly but I could care less.
For showing, I will need a western show saddle, headstall, and reins. I am hoping to find a used set, preferably a Circle Y or better that has a contemporary look. I like the butterfly/California skirting and I don't like the super light oil. I'm planning on black for my show outfit so darker tack is fine with me. I prefer tack to disappear on a horse, not stand out. I don't mind blemishes on the seat and fenders as long as they are unseen in the arena. Matching tack is kind of important to me. Not necessarily exact match, but matching enough at show distance. I would like to find a complete set, but if I have to do it piecemeal that'll be okay. If I end up with a new wet, there are some lower end saddles on Ebay, such as the Showman which looks shockingly similar to THIS SADDLE from Schneiders, just a different keeper placement. I know different "brands" are often made by the same manufacturer. This is the same saddle Jr's last owner had for sale used. Don't know if she still has it or not. Schneiders also has THIS HEADSTALL for a good price and some reins that might pass for a match. Not sure how all this would go together, though. Schneiders is just a few hours away so I can go up and look at this stuff in person, too. I have not checked the local tack stores that have used saddles yet because I'm waiting for my tax return to come back before I start to purchase these things. No use looking now if it won't be there when I'm ready to buy. I'm also checking Craigslist here in Columbus and when I'm ready to buy I'll be putting a want-to-buy ad up. I really can't afford brand new fancy tack and I would rather spend any extra money on more training. My goal is decent, matching, contemporary (though some of those really vintage saddles appeal to me, too and I wonder if I would be laughed out of the arena for that? What do you think?) well fitting tack that enhances our overall look. Remember I'm a designer so creating an attractive visual team appearance is important to me and is something I am pretty good at. I can't WAIT to show you my design for my show shirt!!!! I'm combining Nudie Suit style with 1930's haute couture embellishment in a very contemporary styling. I know that sounds like a disaster, but just wait 'till you see it.
For English I am really struggling with what to do. This is really where I'd like some comments. The ONLY time I will be using English tack is a few pre-show lessons and then at the show. I will only be using it on the flat. NO JUMPING for this girl. I've survived my yucky "beginner set" so I can only go "up" from there. If you look at that picture, be prepared to laugh at many things, my pad, my leg position, Grace's tail braid, the dressage stirrup leathers....etc. Don't judge, it was a rough day - crazy horse hadn't been to a show before and was not happy to be there and I was a nervous mess, should've tried the pad on before bringing it as my only pad to the show....
I'm looking at some different price points, all in the lower end. I can't justify spending much more than what I'm looking at even though I am fully aware that there are much MUCH better saddles out there. One of my favorite saddles was a 1970's Passier dressage saddle that I used on Debon the pinto pony. It didn't look like the modern dressage saddles, it looked more like an all-purpose saddle. It was very comfortable. So I know there's a huge difference between super cheap and super nice. I know I'm not going to get 30-some years out of the saddles I'm looking at. My goal, again, is good looking, well fitting tack that helps me keep the correct position. Because I will only be using it for show, I feel like I can get away with slightly cheaper tack since I will only be using it about a half-dozen times a summer. I am looking at THIS SET from Schneiders but I can't find any reviews other than the one on the site and in their catalog. Again, I can go up to the store and try them out. The lowest option I'm looking at is THIS SADDLE and accessories. All together it would be less than $400, when you add the saddle to the cart the price drops to $224! I see mixed reviews about the saddle and it seems all the positive ones are from kids who probably have no real saddle experience. Most of the reviews say the same thing, stiff leather, color wears off, you get what you pay for, etc. I'm also looking at the Collegiate saddles. I sat in a Collegiate Convertible at Equusnow a while ago that was on consignment. I like the way it fit but they still wanted $795 for it used. It seemed to fit me well. There is actually a Connoisseur on Ebay for $400 and I've seen both the Connoisseur and Laureate for similar prices a few places if you dig deep enough. Collegiate fittings/bridle would run another $250 or so and that would make it around the same price as the Pinnacle set from Schneiders. Of course the reviews are mixed for the lower end Collegiates, just like the Kincades.
So what do YOU think? Is it okay to have more cheaply made tack (so long as it fits) if you're not using it often/extensively? Do any of you have experience with Kincade, Collegiate, or Pinnacle saddles? Know of more tack review sites?