Buy, buy, buy again.
How many western saddles have I tried? I've lost count. But my treeless wasn't holding up as I upped Theo's bounce so back on the market. I had my heart set on the DP Vario Flex, but there was this one other saddle that kept coming up in my searches. When my annual bonus arrived, I went ahead and had the demo sent out. If nothing else, I figured I could at least quit visiting the site and staring at the pictures and options.
This is the Harmony Western Dressage saddle (www.westerndressageridinggear.com). It's by a division of Foxtrot Saddlery. Now don't do what I did and immediately turn your nose up at the Foxtrot part. These are not run of the mill, cheapo saddles. These are custom made saddles that are focused on western dressage. This means you are naturally lined up, shoulder/hip/heel. No fighting the chair seat! It's also very pretty.
The demo program is great. You have a Paypal approval for the price of the saddle and they send you the Travelling Saddle with a cinch and saddle pad. You ride in it for a week like it's your own. When I asked for an extra day, it was no problem. Customer service has been excellent.
The tree is elastomer which is helpful for me with the horse that has the insane back where nothing fits. It's definitely got a tree, I can feel that added stability and support, but I didn't have to worry about the rock (curve). I got the width right and the rest sorted itself.
I love riding in this saddle. After fighting every western saddle I've sat in, it was such a relief to sit down and not feel like I had to fight it even when cantering. It's wide compared to my English saddles, my SI is still debating the wide twist, but I'm so comfy in it. Theo is quite happy in it and moves out at the walk beautifully. I've done two trail rides and I find the deeper seat and horn to be a great support for keeping me chill through Theo's natural, looky behavior. Instead of grabbing his face I put my right hand on the horn and ride him western down the trail. Loops in the reins and neck reining convinces Theo everything is fine. I don't worry about ripping the horn off because it's part of the saddle. It's a proper, heavy (35 pound) western saddle. I can't rope off of it, the tree isn't strong enough, but it's very stable.
It's not perfect, I have saddle pad slipping problems. It's also a flexible tree so tightening the cinch after mounting is kind of crucial. Which is most of my saddle pad slipping problem. I'm still messing around with pads. I hate the pad it came with, it's so freaking long it looks like it belongs with a different saddle. My existing Five Star pad looks much better, but it's a bit thinner than I want under this saddle. Guess I'll have to do some saddle pad shopping. The cinch it came with is a Smart Cinch and it makes it possible for me to tighten the cinch from the saddle. Score!
So after eight days I emailed the company and asked if I could just buy the demo. It was the exact color and size I wanted, it matched my bridle, the tooling options picked were beautiful, and I wouldn't have to wait 6 - 8 weeks with show season right around the corner. Sure enough, they sold me the demo. I win!
I'm going to dump my treeless saddle (and a bunch of other tack) at the local consignment shop. I have to finance my crazy expenditure some how. I'm already shopping for the perfect 5 Star pad to go with this saddle. I'll keep the cinch since I can actually tighten it from the saddle.
Fingers crossed that I now have all three saddles and I can take a break from the hell known as saddle shopping.