Man, did I have a blast riding yesterday—like a kid at Christmas! I’ve always been an equipment junkie—in every sport that I’ve done, I’ve discovered the virtues of using the best equipment you can get (you should see our collection of skis!). So it was with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that I finally got to ride in the brand new prototype saddle that I designed, made by the exceptional craftsmen at Circle Y Saddles.
After nearly a half-century of riding (more than 30 years professionally), I have a pretty good idea of what I want in a saddle. For me, functionality is paramount; but comfort and aesthetics follow closely as important qualities. I have been working with the designers at Circle Y over the past year to develop a line of signature saddles—saddles of my design that I am willing to put my name on—and riding in the new prototype for my performance/trail was the culmination of this venture. I was so thrilled with the saddle that it almost brought tears to my eyes!
This saddle, which at this point remains un-named, is the third saddle in a line of five saddles that will be in my signature series that will be coming on the market soon. The line includes a high-performance saddle for riders doing more demanding disciplines like cutting, working cow and ranch roping; an arena performance saddle for reining and “dry work”; the performance/trail saddle for those riders who spend time both training in the arena and out on the trail; a trail saddle and a gaited-horse trail saddle. With these five saddles, we have something to fit the vast majority of western riders.
All my saddles have unique qualities that I felt were important and with the help of the design team at Circle Y, all of my ideas were incorporated into the saddles. First and foremost, they offer a balanced ride, putting you in the best position for good balance, fluid riding and effective use of the aids for better communication and control. The stirrups hang right under the seat and the cut-away under you leg gives you a very close contact with your horse (not to mention lightens the saddle significantly). The stirrups are ergonomically adjusted so that your foot and leg is in the correct position for cueing and for comfort—reducing knee and ankle pain and putting your leg close to the horse. We eliminated the fleece underneath the saddle to give a close contact and the gel inserts between the bars of the tree and the horse’s back give the horse a great fit and more comfort. Except for the high-performance model, all my saddles have the revolutionary Flex2 tree, which again gives a closer contact feel, fits the horse better and makes for a more comfortable ride for you and your horse. And one of the best features of the Flex2 saddles is how light-weight they are. This is an important issue for me—I got no interest in hucking heavy saddles up onto my horse’s back if I don’t have to.
The performance/trail saddle also feature a unique rigging (how the cinch attaches to the saddle). It is double-rigged, allowing for a better fit in the middle of the horse’s back and less pressure-points at the shoulders and withers. What makes the rigging more unique is that the cut-away under your leg means the double-rigging looks more like two Js rather than like two Us. This helps diminish the bulk under your leg; again, for a closer contact feel and greater comfort. Between the double rigging and the Flex2 tree, it gives a superior fit, even for hard-to-fit horses like mine.
Each saddle in my line will also have a customized saddle pad—made to match the saddle. The pads are made from wool felt, with a contoured shape to protect your horse’s withers, matching leather at the wear points and cut to perfectly match the outline of the saddle; it is a perfect compliment to the saddle. Even with all the high-tech materials on the market today, it’s hard to beat wool felt for saddle pads. Although getting the pad will add a little to the cost of the saddle, in my opinion it is money well-spent, in terms of functionality, comfort and aesthetics.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also developed more interest in comfort when it comes to saddles. When I first sat down in my performance/trail saddle yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised at the cushiness of the seat—a feel I could definitely get accustomed to—especially on those days when I sit in the saddle all day while teaching. With extra padding and a memory foam liner, the seat gives exceptional comfort but still gives a good feel of the horse. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have the same ability to cue my horse with my seat, with all that padding, but Dually very quickly put my fears to rest. He worked as well—or maybe even better—than normal, shifting his balance with the slightest rocking of weight on my seat bones. We even practiced canter pirouettes, in addition to the regular routine of spins, roll back and slide stops.
Amazingly, these saddles have a broken-in feel, right out of the box. Because of the high quality materials that Circle Y uses and the “Softee®” leather in the seat jockeys and fenders, the shock absorbing skirt and the pre-twisted stirrups, you could ride in this saddle all day the very first time with exceptional comfort. I am very happy with the beautiful 3-D looking tooling and conchos, as well as the contrasting colors of the seat and the saddle strings. Certainly, it is a beautiful saddle and one I am proud to have my name on.
I still have to test-ride the two proto-type trail saddles to complete the collection. But they look great and based on what I felt with the performance/trail, I am quite sure I’ll be happy with them. Both the trail saddles are designed with strictly trail riding in mind (and with the special needs of the gaited horse’s shape) but will also give the rider good balance and position.
The biggest remaining task, before we can get these saddles on the market, is to name them. While I am clear on each saddle’s purpose and type, coming up with good names seems like a daunting task, so I may need some help from you. Please let me know if you have any ideas for names or even for a theme in the names.
I am on my way to Ohio this weekend for a big clinic—then off to Sacramento next weekend. I can’t wait to get home and ride my horse again. My biggest dilemma now will be which saddle to use! I know, I am spoiled.
Enjoy the ride,
For training tips from Julie, visit the Training Library at http://juliegoodnight.com/q&a.php and check out her online store--full of training tools and DVDs-- at http://juliegoodnight.com/products.html