Can you tell me about Barnsby saddles?

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Can you tell me about Barnsby saddles?

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    01-29-2012, 02:52 AM
Can you tell me about Barnsby saddles?

Hello, all. I'm hoping you guys can help me out here. I found an older Barnsby saddle online that I'm interested in. I've asked the seller for additional photos of the billets, panels, underside, etc... but I wanted to see if the brand was actually worthwhile before I went ahead and purchased.

Google tells me that Barnsby is a pretty upstanding brand, and most of the reviews I've read have been pretty positive. For those that have ridden in a Barnsby, what did you think? Were the tree sizes pretty true to size, or did they run small/large? Was it comfortable to ride in? Are they generally wool or foam flocked?

The saddle I'm looking at is a wide tree, 17.5" all purpose model. I don't have the actual model name yet, but the saddle looks pretty good from the photo I've seen of it. I generally ride a 17 - 17.5" and my mare fits a medium-wide or wide, depending on the saddle itself.

Thank you!
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    01-29-2012, 01:23 PM
I can tell you about my older Barnsby. Actually, it was an ancient Barnsby.
First, a little history.
Viktoria Bachke Victoria Bachke - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia was born to a very well-to-do Russian family. An "only the best" type of family. They fled Russia during the Bolsjevik revolution, and ended up in Trondheim, Norway - my home town. She was a renowned musician and avid horsewoman. Her dear friend and riding companion was a "Rittmester" or riding master (Captain) in the Norwegian cavalry. He was also our family's dear friend and riding companion.
She so much appreciated the rittmester's friendship, that she gave him what she called her most prized possession before she died: her Barnsby close contact saddle. When my family emigrated to the US, the Rittmester wanted us to have something truly special to "remember all the beautiful rides we've shared". He gave us his most prized possession - the Barnsby saddle. The Barnsbys were considered the creme de la creme in Europe, he told us later.
So that's some interesting history, but here's the meat of it.
By the time my mother handed the saddle over to me, it had thousands and thousands of miles on it. I used it for starting young horses and endurance riding. It had no padding, no knee-blocks, flat seat. It had a strange shape where, no matter how well it fit the horse, the cantle was always lower than the pommel. It put me in a chair-seat. Yet somehow, the position was very comfortable, and I had excellent control and contact with the horse. The panels were wool-flocked. I believe it never was reflocked, yet the panels were perfectly smooth still. It had an interesting feature where the flocking was in a sort of pocket. I could actually slip my hand in under the panel to reach the flocking to rearrange it if needed to fit various horses. An odd thing was that the channel was pretty narrow towards the back. I believe this was common on the older women's saddles to make the twist narrow. However, I never had a horse get sore from it.
I sold the saddle this summer to fund the purchase of my new Passier. That saddle just kept going and going... The chair-seat and narrow gullet channel always mystified me, considering the overall quality of this saddle. Comparing the leather quality of my "new" (1977) Passier and the Barnsby though, makes the Barnsby leather feel like cardboard. Could have something to do with it being at least 75 years old, I suppose.
Attaching a couple pics of the saddle and of the chair-seat it put me in.
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg pandora.jpg (64.2 KB, 689 views)
    01-29-2012, 01:32 PM
I have an older Barnsby, not as old as above, but I think at least 25 yrs old. Easy to find your sweet spot in it, comfy. As noted, the stirrups are hung to far forward, making it hard to have a proper seat.
    01-29-2012, 02:08 PM
Thanks! The saddle I'm looking at also narrows quite drastically toward the back, which makes me a little iffy about it. My mare is wide throughout, with a very flat back and I don't know how well a narrow channel will actually fit her. Given the fact that I'm not completely comfortable in the saddle yet (coming back to riding after nearly a decade away), I would much prefer a saddle that puts me in a really good position.

I'm also considering looking at a few strictly dressage saddles of different brands because I believe my mare might be more comfortable learning dressage than she would jumping. While she is sound, she's also 16 years old and a retired racehorse. For the sake of her joints, I think it might be best to stick to lower level dressage.

Thank you, both. Your input was very, very helpful and I think I may pass on this particular saddle.
    01-29-2012, 02:22 PM
I sold my Barnsby to get a saddle that put me in a better position. I've often wondered about the Barnsby chair-seat. So we've established that both the ancient and older Barnsbys were that way. I wonder if it may have been the "fashion of the day" in Britain? I would think a famous saddlemaker with an excellent reputation would have been making saddles that were considered "correct". Barnsby makes saddles for the royals, don't they - or at least they did? I wonder if the new Barnsbys do the same? The older German saddles do not put me in a chair-seat. Was it a British thing? Do older British saddles from other makes do the same thing?
    01-29-2012, 02:33 PM
I am not sure. But I know they hold their value, probably because of the comfort & name factor.
    01-29-2012, 03:38 PM
Very odd indeed. I know every Stubben I've ever ridden in puts me in a great position, so well in fact that my back never hurts after a ride. I'm worried that if I purchase a saddle with a reputation for putting the rider in a chair seat position, that I'll have a sore back after every ride.

What about Passiers? I know the reputation on these beauties and I'm a big fan of the leather used. It always feels so nice and I'm a big sucker for buttery leather than just drapes nicely. The few I've sat in have felt really comfortable, but what do you all think?
    01-29-2012, 03:43 PM
I have only ridden in a Passier once & it wasn't mine. Don't remember it being uncomfortable, can't tell you about leg position, I don't recall. Don't get me wrong about the Barnsby, it's a way comfty saddle, but not a good leg position for proper equitation. Comfortable riding, yes.
    01-29-2012, 04:08 PM
Love my Passier. It's from 1977 - an AP close contact.The riding school I attended as a teenager used only Passiers. I never had to struggle to get into the right position. I always swore I'd have my own one day. Finally got one this summer. Same thing. I just end up in the right position, even without knee pads or knee blocks. I think Passier is kind of known for the great position. Narrow twist, real close feel with the horse. The older ones have pretty flat seats, but I don't notice or care, because I'm in the right position anyway. If you prefer a deeper seat or more padding/blocks, you'd probably have to look for a newer one. The Passiers fit a lot of horses, because the tree points are short, allowing room for the shoulder, and the pommel is cutback, allowing for withers. Like any saddle, they don't fit all horses. Mine does have a nice, wide gullet channel the entire length of the gullet.

Buttery leather:absolutely. Love it. That buttery leather can be pretty slippery. I prefer that, because I like to be able to easily change my position, since I ride on some pretty steep, rough terrain. My sister-in-law is not a fan of my slippery leather, because she likes to feel like she's glued into the seat. It's a personal preference thing.
    01-29-2012, 04:17 PM
To be honest, I don't mind if a saddle is flatter or deeper... as long as I feel secure, I'm happy. I'm primarily a bareback rider, so I'm not attached to the idea of knee rolls or blocks. If I buy a saddle with them, great. If I don't, I don't know any better. Haha.

As for fit, I only really have to fit one horse, and she ranges between a Medium-Wide and a Wide tree, depending on what I put on her. She's very broad through the shoulders, with a round barrel and flat back. Granted, a lot of her round barrel has to do with the fact she's been hanging out in a pasture for the last decade, eating and having babies. Once I start riding her regularly, she should tone up, but I doubt she'll ever be smaller than a MW.

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