Custom Saddle or Semi-Custom ~ Pros and Cons?

When faced with a decision between A and B, I love to look at it from the point of view of Pros and Cons. Choosing between a semi-custom or custom saddle is no different. What would be a great decision for one person may create a nightmare for another.

CJ rides a custom saddle.Sometime around 2012 we started offering semi-custom saddles. Our initial intension was purely financial. The economy was a mess and we were trying to come up with a saddle that was close to what you might pay for a mass produced saddle at the local tack shop.

We came up with a saddle that wasn’t fit to the horse or the rider. In addition, in its simplest form, it is a totally stripped down model. No horn, straps instead of fenders and no leather stirrup covers. Now we had something close to tack shop pricing and we offered the same odds of it working out for the horse. And if the customer wanted they could upgrade anything they wanted on the saddle.

An unexpected side effect of this was we started getting a lot of calls from horse trainers, who for years had been saying that although they loved our saddles they didn’t need it custom fit to just one horse. So the semi-custom has really appealed to trainers and others who ride multiple horses.

Semi-Custom Saddle

So looking over 3-4 years of data this is what we have learned. Semi-custom is a great choice for trainers and riders who are using the same saddle on multiple horses and who ride only short distances and short amount of time. And it helps if they are not heavy weight riders.

So what about the rider who only has one horse and is trying to save some money? We have found that about 60% of them end up having it fit at a later date. The reason is simple. 5 factors come into play with how much we can get away with when a saddle hasn’t been fit to the horse:

  • How much we weigh
  • How often we ride
  • How long we ride
  • How far we ride
  • How fast we ride

The more any of these 5 factors goes up, the less chance you have of having it working out. (See the article ‘One Saddle, Multiple Horses’ for more information.)

So for trainers, especially ones who start a lot of colts, they are usually on and of a horse’s back in an hour or less. They train mostly on flat terrain in a round pen or arena. They aren’t barreling up and down the mountains sides with their hair on fire. It’s a lot of rudimentary work: turn here, step there, etc.

Custom Saddle

We recommend that if you are riding one horse, get a custom saddle. Have it fit. An ill fit saddle will cause all kinds of problems with not only your horse’s attitude but also impeding his freedom of movement and possibly creating permanent damage to his back. Having a well fit saddle is one of the most important things you can do for your horse.

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