Background: Theo is a 16.2h Perch/Cheval Canadian cross with big honkin' shoulders, very long withers, a short flat back, and an uphill build. This is basically the opposite of your run of the mill stock type horse. He was tricky to fit for English saddles, western saddles proved to be borderline impossible. I spent the better part of 1.5 years trying to get him in a western saddle. He couldn't go in a full QH bar tree but he also struggled with the semi QH bar because it pinched his shoulders. Saddles rocked on him. I finally gave up and settled on a treeless saddle to get us into the ring but it didn't give me the support I needed as we moved up the levels. As Theo's back came up and he got more bounce going, the treeless saddle didn't work for me. Theo was happy but I was struggling. I took a chance and ordered the demo of the Harmony Western dressage saddle as it was one of the few advertised for the discipline.
The Product: The Harmony Western Dressage saddle is made by a subsidiary of Foxtrot and is built on an elastomer tree from Steele Saddle Tree. That means it is a flex tree but as a hybrid, it has rigid parts to keep it from collapsing. It also features a Sil-Cush lining for shock absorption. Every saddle is custom made. You can pick the leather colors, the tooling, the type of horn, anything. The saddle was originally meant for gaited horses but was so popular with western dressage riders that they decided to market to them. The stirrup and seat are designed to keep the rider in the correct alignment for western dressage. It comes in three models based on weight. I had the original with the round skirt and semi QH tree shipped out.
Base price is $2,495 and it goes up from there.
Review: I absolutely LOVE this saddle, as does everyone that borrows it. It fits most of the horses in the barn since it's a flexible tree and the right width for most English discipline horses (aka horses with withers). The short, round skirt suits my horse and makes it flexible enough to fit a lot of other horses.
Every show I go to, someone comments on how attractive this saddle is. I've been riding in it for months now and it gets better looking as it wears. It's the basket weave/floral tooling option with silver conchos and it gives me just enough flair without making us look overly flashy. I also like looking at my swell and seeing pretty flowers.
It fits Theo nicely. We did have to play with saddle pad and cinch options to get it settled but I've learned that's expected with western saddles since you can't flock them. Theo needed a 1" thick, 28" long Five Star wool saddle pad and a Total Saddle Fit cinch to get everything settled. The dropped rigging is wonderful for stability but with a standard cinch, I found the saddle inching up on his shoulders throughout the ride and his saddle pad slipping back. His girth groove was forward of where the cinch landed so it would creep forward and take the saddle with it. The Total Saddle Fit cinch fixed that and the thicker Five Star pad got everything settled and locked in.
With the gear settled, this saddle is rock steady and neither the chiro nor the massage therapist have noted any problems. Theo does all of his laterals as easily in this saddle as his dressage saddle. I took it trail riding and found it very easy to relax with the horn and cantle to keep me feeling secure. The seat is memory foam but under that you can definitely feel the rigid ground seat. Everyone that has sat in it finds it very comfortable but it's not butt candy soft. A good thing if you're in the saddle for hours, an overly soft seat starts to suck, but don't expect it to be a pillow. The twist is wider than my English saddles but my hips adjusted just fine after a couple rides. This is the first western saddle where I don't feel like I need to fight to keep my position, especially in the canter.
The negatives? It's freaking 35 pounds. Some of the ladies can't use it because it weighs too much to get up on their horses. With my tall horse, it's a bit of a show watching me saddle him. There are lighter models with the Ultra Light coming in at 25 pounds, but it has less tooling options and a fleece skirt instead of the Sil Cush and leather. I wanted the tooling and extra shock absorption so I deal with the weight.
Due to the flex tree, you can't drag, rope, or otherwise abuse the saddle. Not a concern in my world, but it is a limitation if I decide to dabble in trail classes or cow work. It's not meant for sports that put a lot of stress on the tree. The flex tree was a concern for me in terms of holding up, but it comes with a 100% Lifetime warranty on the tree so I decided to take the risk.
Also cleaning the basket weave sucks. Why would anyone do this to their saddle? It's such a pain to clean and I'm sitting on large parts of it so you can't even see it. Cleaning a saddle with a toothbrush is enough to make someone question their sanity. That has nothing to do with the saddle quality, the tooling is gorgeous, but I freaking hate cleaning it. I like handling the leather since it's so nice, but the tooling makes me batty.
Conclusion: Awesome saddle that's made for the discipline. It's comfy, stable, and does well on horses that are not the typical western shape. English riders find it comfortable and don't feel like it's putting them in a weird spot. Customer service was fantastic. If you want to invest in a saddle for western dressage competition, check this one out.