In 2015, as my passion for Dressage began to grow, I acknowledged the need for a Dressage Saddle which would put me in a position where I could be more effective with my aids. I’ve always struggled with maintaining a correct lower leg position and keeping my upper body from tipping forward, and while I am aware that a saddle won’t cure all, I hoped that I could find one that would encourage me to sit up tall and promote a longer leg.
However, having bought a brand new GP saddle only a couple of months before, I wasn’t exactly flush with cash. And having a horse who gets fat on air, I needed something that was adjustable as she changed shape. Having ridden in a friend’s Wintec Isabell, this seemed like a good option given the changeable gullets, CAIR system to allow for adjustability in the height, and moveable (big) knee blocks to keep my position secure.
I managed to get my saddle second-hand locally which allowed me to try the saddle out on Betsey beforehand, and I could immediately feel the difference in her paces when I tried it on – this made sense given how much more freedom she now had through her shoulders. The saddle also forced me to get out of her way and sit up taller, thus allowing her to move forward and over her back.
I won’t lie, I found it HARD to ride in this saddle at first. The big knee blocks locked my legs into place, and the deep seat gave me no option other than to sit down on my rear. This is a good thing, people, trust me! It doesn’t feel like it at the time, as you flop about like a potato, your legs burn, your ass hurts and your hands develop a mind of their own and move all over the place. My natural instinct was to tip forward, but my new leg position wouldn’t allow me to, and so it was a battle of wills between my seatbones and my for a few months. I began getting lessons with Sandra Blake Farrell so I could learn how to ride in my new saddle, and be more effective with my new found position. Over time, my seatbones started to connect with the saddle and I began to ride more effectively. Between the saddle and the lessons, I noticed a massive change in how I rode:
When Paddy came along I assumed the saddle would be a perfect fit for him, given the adjustability of the Wintec range – however Paddy’s shape is quite different to Betsey’s in that he is a bit croup-high (as he still has more growing to do – a bit terrifying for little me given he’s already 16.2!) and still has more filling out to do in front. This meant that even though the gullet size was just right for him, the saddle itself sloped down in front, thus tipping me forward when I rode. There was little I could do to remedy this, bar a) waiting for him to fill out, or b) using a front riser to level the saddle out in front.
In the end, I opted to wait until he filled out before fitting him with a dressage saddle – we don’t have any major aspirations to move up the levels in Dressage this year, and so my GP is fine for now. Betsey’s new owner now has my Wintec Isabell and I hope that it gives her as much success and improvements that it gave me over the year I owned it. I was so disappointed to part with it as it was truly a comfortable and versatile saddle that significantly improved my riding and position.
My advice to horse owners would be to ensure you try any saddle you intend to purchase on your horse before buying – regardless of whether they are adjustable or not. Every saddle is different, and equally every horse is different. What suits one horse perfectly may not suit another, and a even the same size tree can be a completely different shape in two different saddles. My Wintec Isabell was a perfect fit for Betsey, and I am so disappointed that it doesn’t fit Paddy as perfect as it fit her. I would highly recommend this saddle to anyone thinking of buying one – just make sure to try it on your horse first.