Yes, the cushions add both grip and comfort, two reasons why I use them.
I also ride with a longer dressage-like leg length. My saddle is AP, but probably more dressage than jumper so I feel balanced. I had knee rolls but removed them.
As for bareback pads, I don't know AERC rules, but in my area, the rule book states: must use a saddle. The definition of saddle is left open to interpretation. On a longer ride at speed, I believe that bareback might be tough on a horse's back (and rider's bum! )
Your saddle looks nice! Much more cozy and secure than mine. I actually haven't done a "real" ride in it, but it fits me well enough and fits my horse better than a plethora of other saddles I have tried on him. What kind is yours? I'm not exactly in the market but if someone offered I just may trade my Crosby for something more appropriate.
Here's a photo of it:
As you can see there is not much to it. Would a lengthened leather with an endurance style stirrup function ok? I don't care very much if it looks silly. Is there any padding that can go over the leathers?
Heya, just butting in here and haven't read everything on the thread. I used to ride endurance and always did it in English saddles. I'm going to be blunt though and tell you why I wouldn't ride in this one. Two reasons:
1) Rider comfort: This saddle doesn't have a deep seat, and doesn't have nice soft leather cushioning at the knees. It's not the sort you can spend hours in comfortably on trails.
And, more importantly:
2) Horse comfort: This saddle has insufficient surface area to distribute rider weight comfortably across the horse's back, something that is so important on long rides. Its cut also looks restrictive to the horse's shoulder movement without providing much knee support to the rider.
Would you not buy yourself a nice ergonomic wide-strapped backpack with hip strapping and back cradle if you were going to hike regularly with heavy loads, rather than suffer with an old school bag or rucksack with narrow shoulder straps only?
I get that budgets can be restrictive, but you could get something so much more comfortable than that for the both of you second-hand under the guidance of a professional fitter, without the huge outlay of new. I recommend contacting one.
If you're usually a Western rider, you could also try an Australian stock saddle as a compromise. They are much lighter than Western, and designed for long hours of work for horse and rider.
I ride a lot of trails on my current horse and have an Ascot Romana AP, which is the most comfortable saddle I've ever had for myself or any horse. It was professionally adjusted to the horse (gullet, stuffing) and that was really important. It is deep-seated and designed cleverly to be off the horse's shoulder so as not to restrict the horse's movement, while providing lots of comfortable and secure knee support for the rider. I wish I had had this arrangement for my endurance mare 20 years before, but the technology wasn't there yet and we played around with sheepskin saddlecloths to try to get a less perfectly fitted saddle more comfortable for the horse.
Oh, and I pretty much always ride dressage length stirrups, it's more comfortable.
I actually just made up my mind tonight I'm not going to ride in this saddle. It is not comfortable in any way, and I do not feel confident riding in it. My horse can be a bit feisty and find monsters randomly and this saddle offers zero support. Honestly I think I'd have a better chance staying on bareback. I have ridden in dressage and more AP styled saddles with knee blocks, thigh blocks, and an actual seat and felt much better about riding in those kinds. I did at one time regularly ride in a saddle just like my Crosby (flat plain slick flap and seat) but was a Beval. It was very uncomfortable and I did not ride in it more than an hour at a time. I just think I am going to pass on this one and instead try to sell it so I can buy a different saddle. In the mean time I will use my 40+ lbs western.
Thanks all for the replies, I have no idea what saddle I will end up with but whatever it is I will invest in sheepskin covers and endurance stirrups.