OK, I'm just going to put this out there and see what comes in. Boyfriend and I are planning a ride through South America, starting in Chile and ending up in Venezuela. Two horses under saddle, two packing; camping; off-road trails; mostly if not exclusively at the walk while travelling; regular periods dismounted; estimate 10-15kms per day at the beginning and working up to an average of 25kms per day after that; regular off-days and off-weeks.
I am looking for saddle advice, bearing in mind that these saddles are for all-day every-day riding. Our saddle horses are the ones pictured below: the bay has highish withers and a normal-but-on-the-long-side back, will have a 200lb rider plus saddle weight but no extra items; the smoky brownskin (thanks, horse colours and genetics forum for telling me what that colour actually is!) has flatter withers and back, will have a 140lb rider plus saddle weight and light saddlebags. Both horses will drop weight and muscle up as we travel but the basic morphology will stay the same. Sorry about the not-that-useful photos but you can at least get an idea of their toplines and general shape from them.
We have been using classic Chilean saddles up till now. Problems are that the saddle pad is directly on the spine and the saddles themselves are v high and put the rider in a chair position. OK for the cow-work they're meant for but not for long-distance riding. You can see a photo here: On Horseback in Chile - Chilean Saddle and Tack as used on our Trailrides in the Andes, Patagonia, Chile
- look at the last one on the page.
I won't put in our thoughts so far because I want to hear your ideas - all of them! - and the reasoning: but I will say that the idea of a suspended seat is interesting. Ditto a saddle which could conceivably be used for both the bay and another horse, but for the same rider. Budget is up to around $1000 per saddle, not including blankets etc.
If you've got other questions, comments, then fire away, but am really looking forward to getting ideas from your collective experience!
PS - Oh yes. Key point. The bay won't be pregnant any more...