Just did my first 50 yesterday!! We did 3 LD's before then, including an LD on the same ride on Thursday and intended to do the same yesterday, but decided the day before to go ahead and shoot for the the 50 for the first time. I wanted to turtle, and did so!! The ride was GOREGOUS and I had an absolute blast - I want to turtle on all my rides now and build up my turtle collection!
We only had one issue - my saddle. I got the saddle when I bought him in Feburary and the only regular exercise he was getting before than was on a hot walker, so you can imagine how much his shape has changed. He also dropped a lot of weight including gaining muscle, which I'm now successfully getting back on him. My boy has never shown any signs of soreness before on our LD's and we've gotten all A's on his back and withers, even at the mid-ride vet check, but we got a C at the end and he was very sore!! Still got the completion, but I'm in urgent need of a new saddle. Of course, this situation is complicated by the fact that I don't think I can really be sure about how the saddle feels for him until I actually do a 50 since he's never showed any signs of discomfort before and didn't even show any while I was riding him - I was surprised by how sore he was after we took the saddle off! I want to make my money count, so I want a saddle that will adjust to him, especially since I'm doing my best to put another 100 lbs on him ASAP.
I'm strapped for cash at the moment (and a payment plan would be best) but have two somewhat promising possibilities:
Specialized Saddle - A friend of mine (who rides my boy's half brother!) has one of these and will let me borrow hers to see how I like it, but I'll need to get/borrow the pads to fit my boy as well. There are a few people who can fit him (may or may not be free) and hopefully have a used one I could buy. She's willing to coordinate the next ride or so with me so we can ride different days and use the same saddle (the pads are easy to switch from one horse's shape to anothers). Of course, that means I wouldn't be able to do a lot of conditioning in it, if any, before the ride. For something like $150 I could also demo one of their saddles, but, again, I don't really have cash to throw around at the moment.
Ghost Treeless - The friend that I board with works for a tack shop and has a ghost treeless that's been used as a demo saddle that she's willing to let me test out and then sell to me for a good price (to be negotiated). I like the idea of treeless, but have never ridden in one. From what I've read, I seem to fit the ideal description for a treeless if I decide to go that direction - I'm a featherweight (130lbs+tack), am a balanced rider, and have a horse with withers and a good back. I've never had anyone critique me for these specifically, but I believe I'm a balanced and light rider, putting a lot of weight in my stirrups. I also get off and walk more than other riders do. IF this is a good saddle, I think I'd like to go this direction because of my financial situation (I think it'd be the cheaper of the two and I know my friend will work with me on how I can pay for it), but also because I have more access to this saddle for conditioning and testing it out (and probably riding it on a 50) before actually having to purchase it.
So, what do you think? Have you used these saddles before? Pros? Cons? Any other creative ideas for me?
I think I've got a good chance of getting a great saddle between these two, but had never even heard of either before yesterday lol. I also will only consider saddles that will fit my HAF and Skito pads, since I've invested about $300 into those. I was told that both of these saddles will work with both of my pads. My main pad is the HAF, which looks like the picture below. The Skito has slightly longer sides, kinda like a dressage-saddle shape.