Trail Riding and Equipment Questions. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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Cool Trail Riding and Equipment Questions.

I trail ride. I am currently looking at anew Crates saddle but i was a bit stunned when I asked the maker if they used Real Fleece on their saddles and he said NOBODY uses real fleece anymore! Does anyone know if that is true? Does anyone know what the new material being used is like? I had bought a brand new Billy Cook and the material they used for fleecing was HORRIBLE! I sent it back!
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 05:12 PM
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Not true. You can get saddles with REAL fleece if you want it and want to pay for it. IT IS true the production line, mass produced saddle makers ARE moving away from it. Gotta squeeze out that profit margin, after all.

I had a saddle (A pre-Greenville/Sulphur split Billy Cook) that I bought for 150.00 because the fleece was rags but the leather was still amazing, and it was a 1980s made saddle. It was real fleece. Took it to a saddle maker to get it refleeced. I was offered real or synthetic. I choose his high grade synthetic because it was a saddle to refub and resell. He said a lot of saddle makers, Billy Cook included even now, would buy cheap fleece out of Mexico. Said the tanning process would never stop and in time, the fleece gets eaten up. Some batches/shipments can be worse than others, etc etc. It was very educational.

I had a 76 Leddy refurbed to keep, I had Leddy's put REAL fleece back under it. It feels amazing.

I've bought and sold a LOT of saddles in the last year and a half, and I can tell the real from the fake immediately - but I also trail ride and I ride a Saddlesmith made Connie Combs gator racer. Mostly because it fits me and my horse well.

I don't mind the fake fleece under it, not like I thought I would. I am, however, developing a distaste for other synthetic products - I won't have another acrylic blend saddle blanket/sweat pad, or another neoprene girth, or another cheap saddle pad, ever again. I keep either cotton string or mohair string girths (roper style) on my saddles. They dry so much better when we tromp through creeks and mud, they wick away sweat better, the saddle doesn't slip when the hair between the girth and the horse gets sweaty. I've not tried one of those air ride girths yet though... I hear they are the cat's meow.

(Not trying to start controversy! I just don't like neoprene girths. )
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 05:23 PM
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Oh yeah, was that one a Billy Cook Greenville or SULPHUR?


A Greenville made Billy Cook comes off the same production line as about two dozen other brands of saddles, all owned by the umbrella company: Action. They make Abetta, Billy Cook (Greenville), Hereford, and a ton of other mid to low end production brands.


Billy Cook SULPHUR (Oklahoma) is still the REAL Billy Cook, he still owns it. But he is not above buying cheap leather and fleece out of Mexico to this day, so you have to watch what you're getting out of Sulphur. I personally like the Sulphur made saddles much better than the Greenvilles. They feel better in terms of how the leather feels, the weight, the tightness of stitching, how firm the Cheyenne roll is, the fleece underneath. They just seem put together much better. I've sold my Oklahoma made Billy Cooks for more money than then Texas ones, every time.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 05:41 PM
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I doubt any production saddles come with real fleece anymore. You can get a saddle maker to re-fleece your saddles but it costs a good bit of money and they have to take your saddle apart to do it.

So I just came to peace with the fact that the fake fleece will go flat as a pancake and I just make up for it with quality wool blankets and pads.

What was great about real fleece is it actually shaped to fit the horse and offered some actual cushion. That's why you could get away with just using a saddle blanket and not a pad. I haven't met any fake fleece yet that has any lasting cushion to it. So I usually use a quality wool felt pad with a real wool saddle blanket underneath as a sweat pad.

And oh my gosh, I am in love with real mohair cinches! I don't ever plan to use anything else. I even enjoy washing them.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 05:56 PM
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Oh, man. So. I'm used to synthetic, honestly. Any REAL fleece saddles I've gotten are older, the fleece is mushed down.

I had that Leddy refleeced with the real deal. Told them I wanted their best.

I was NOT EXPECTING it to make such a change in FIT. I'm used to having to pad out Trigger pretty good. With the real thing? It's soooo thick and cushy, but firm, I can put a thick wool Casa Zia type blanket under it and use no pad at all, and POOF. IT FITS.

Whaaattt!?
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AtokaGhosthorse View Post
Oh, man. So. I'm used to synthetic, honestly. Any REAL fleece saddles I've gotten are older, the fleece is mushed down.


I had that Leddy refleeced?


I was NOT EXPECTING it to make such a change in FIT. I'm used to having to pad out Trigger pretty good. With the real thing? It's soooo thick and cushy, but firm, I can put a thick wool Casa Zia type blanket under it and use no pad at all, and POOF. IT FITS.

Whaaattt!?

Awesome huh? I think we see old cowboy photos and they don't use anything but a blanket and we forget that the fleece back then was actually there to protect the horse. Nowadays the "fleece" is just window dressing which doesn't really do anything for the horse at all.


Sad, but the way things have gone. But you know what, fleece on a saddle is costly to replace. So maybe it's just as well we keep the fake fleece and just replace our pads and blankets when they get worn. It's cheaper that way. I sure love real fleece though. I am making myself a saddle seat cushion out of a piece of real fleece right now.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 07:22 PM
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I see little value to any fleece on the bottom of a western saddle that is used with a wool pad. What is the point of real sheep fleece contacting a (typically) 1" thick wool pad? A pad that can be replaced as needed for a fraction of the price of refleecing a saddle!

But then, I mostly ride an Abetta saddle now. On the whole, I prefer it to my $2000 semi-custom saddle. Probably time for a new pad, though...

BTW: The real sheepskin I put on TOP of my slick seat saddle had excellent grip and good cushion. It did, however, get packed down after a while. Still prefer it to a slick seat...

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post #8 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 09:20 PM
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Even custom saddle builders do not use real fleece anymore, so not just a production saddle shortcut.
I have asked some of those builders and two of have several year waiting waiting lists and a rather hefty base price. You can certainly request it but...
One, synthetic lasts longer. Two, the critters don't care for it as much. Especially for those who don't have the option to keep their saddles in the house or a varmint free place.
In the past pack rats chose to chew on my 5 Star pad or my mohair cinch rather than my saddle which I was thankful for. The worst damage to my saddle was from bottle calves eating saddle strings and being tied next to young horses in the trailer liking to brush their teeth on my rough out.
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 10:10 PM
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Really, it doesn't matter that much. The quality of your pad is what is important. . . . after you know that your saddle tree and leather work is of good quality. Heck, they could have nothing there, for that matter, if the rest of the saddle was well built, and you could compensate with a good pad.


I' ve never even SEEN a real fleeced western saddle.
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-07-2019, 11:07 PM
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"Woolback" is real fleece bonded to a knit backing. Some saddlemakers might use that? There would probably be a lot less waste, cutting uniform material off a roll instead of a hide.

Trailhorserider, I have had it backwards..gorgeous wool blanket on top of my blah felt pad. The other way around makes sense! I'll give it a try.

Last edited by dogpatch; 03-07-2019 at 11:19 PM.
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