I have been on the hunt for a saddle for Hola. I got it stuck in my head that I really needed a lightweight saddle (17-20 pounds). The Bob's I'm riding her in now really doesn't fit well (I tweek it as best as I can but it isn't right) and it weights about 32-34 pounds. I would say your average quality western saddle weights around 32-36 pounds and your "lightweight" saddles fall somewhere between 22-30. I did find a few synthetic saddles that weighed between 17-20, the problem was that when I got in to the synthetics I took a massive hit to the quality of the hardware and tree. While there are qualitative synthetic lightweight saddles available, most are endurance saddles and most are expensive (in the $2000 range). I dont want to make that kind of investment in a saddle that is not built for the kind of riding I want to do (cow horse) and that will be hard to get an return on should it not work out.
I tried two Wintec westerns on Hola. The first didn't fit. The second wasn't horrible but there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to be able to ride her in that piece of shit! Sorry, but it awful! I felt like I was sitting 3" off of her back, there was no feel in my seat, the placement of the stirrups was awkward and I felt off balance. I also tried some of my friends saddles to get an idea of tree fit and found that the Arab saddle was the closest and so I took out a new Crates Arab to try. It was close, but no cigar. I also tried a older but well built saddle that was too narrow and far far too small for me (my ass did the muffin top thing out the back.) I tried Laurie's old Saddlesmith which was also too narrow. I tried another friends Wintec Dressage saddle that had a "wide" gullet and it actually was a pretty close fit but unfortunately I don't have the cojones to ride her in a English just yet. So then finally, out of desperation I put on BIG BOB.
BIG BOB is my honkin' heavy Bob's Custom Cow Horse saddle. I bought it last year off of a friend for Abby but found that it's pocket was too tight for my liking. It is very comfortable and has a very secure feeling seat and the stirrups fall in a way that keep you nice and balanced. It is also really f-ing heavy. I would say about 36 pounds or so. Just my luck.
I actually discovered that BIG BOB fit Hola after trying the Wintec. Hola has been getting a wee bit pissy in the last few rides and I think it is because I keep farting around with these saddles that just don't fit right. So I got on her with the western Wintec and it was obvious that I wasn't the only one who hated the feel of that saddle. So I got off and pulled the saddle. I wanted to get on her again in my other saddle just to finish off on a better note. At the last minute I grabbed BIG BOB and paired it with a reinsman pad I have found works well. When I got on Hola again and this time she settled quickly and seemed to move around with a freer feel but still had attitude. At one point she wanted to stop and I pushed her on. That is when I felt her make her first genuine threat. Her head dropped, her back rose and she sucked back... but before she could get to the next step I bopped her good and growled "QUIT!" She hopped forward and went to try again so I grabbed one rein and bopped her again. Her whole body seemed to scream, "Holy shit, I'm gonna die!" and then I made my body go really quiet and just said, "Goooood, now walk on" and to my surprise (and luck) she did. A half a lap later she started licking and chewing and relaxed. It was only then that I felt the tickle of nerves. I think I said to Laurie, "Hooooly Shit that was scary!" Luckily my brain only clicks back in to its default "chicken shit" mode after everything has settled. I finished by having her stand and gently asked her to give her face both ways until she got really soft.
I decided to ride her in the big Bob's again today. I got on and she stood and didn't brace up as she has the last week. I sat on her for a moment and asked her to walk on. She went a few laps around the paddock like a broke old ranch horse. She guided beautifully. I switched directions and did a few more laps and asked her to "whoa". She came to a quick stop. I had only been on her for a few minutes but it was all so perfect and she was so happy and relaxed I decided to just quit while I was ahead. I got off, dropped her cinch, pulled the saddle and turned her loose. I am hoping to get on her again tomorrow.
Last week I ordered an Abetta Arab tree that is 17 pounds from Stateline Tack. I felt comfortable ordering it as it is cheap (under $500) and they take returns. So I will try that on Hola next week and if it works I will keep it but if it doesn't I think I may just look for a Wintec Dressage like I tried and just use that for longer rides or quiet at home rides and BIG BOB for any of the scarier rides. I need a saddle that fits her. I cant afford to give her an excuse to act up and I want her to be relaxed and happy. She's a good filly.