Tuesday was a nice girls day ride with Liz. I truly needed and enjoyed it. After some unexpectedly amazing news, I met her and our farrier at the barn. She was extremely kind and caught Jean-Luc ahead of time so that we could go on a brief trail ride together after the shoeing.
Liz and my BM informed me that Jean-Luc was an easy catch and stood like a proper gentleman. Our farrier had not trouble shoeing, which is normal, and things went off without a hitch. After getting new shoes, Liz and I saddled up, just barely missing a rain storm, and headed out.
Her lovable husky, Keni, came with us, and we both relaxed making the idle girly chat. Jean-Luc acted a little hot, but I didn't think much of it. He tried to nip once or twice at Keni and quickly corrected him to let him know that biting pups was not acceptable behavior.
As we were coming up out of a small wooded area and into a little grassy meadow, though, Jean-Luc uncharacteristically heaved both back legs in the air, bucking one strong buck and then just standing there. I was in shock, and extra surprised I didn't come off. Anyone that has ever ridden with me, especially growing up, knows I used to live in the dirt. But not this time. This time I was able to sit that buck, I believe in large part thanks to my King Series Classic Distance Rider Saddle.
I have owned this saddle for just around two months and there are plenty of reasons to love it, and a few that might make someone else consider purchasing something different.
WHY DID I BUY THIS SADDLE: I wanted something comfortable. I was looking for something I could sit in for hours and not have my knees, butt, or back screaming in pain. I wanted an easy 8 hours in the saddle before I had to even think about getting off.
HOW OFTEN DO I RIDE IT: 3 - 4 times per week
WHAT FEATURES MET MY NEEDS: The fact that this saddle did not have wide fenders that would hurt your knees and ankles when torqued to the side was important. I also liked that the saddle did not have a horn I could get skewed on. I also liked that the saddle is light - 22 lbs total.
UNEXPECTED DELIGHTS: This saddle is not made of the best quality leather, but it holds its own for sure. I really like that there are so many places to hook things.
WHAT DID I CHANGE: The saddle came with some stirrups that were super heavy. I traded them out for some ratty aluminum ones that I plan on fixing up soon. I also added some para chord strings to the back and extra carabiners for latching things on. First and foremost though, I will let anyone that plans on ordering this saddle that they will likely need to punch new holes for the stirrup length (Unless they have the legs of someone like Micheal Jordan?) The stock length of the stirrups was comically long.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER: I knew what I was getting into when I purchased this whole set up for around $350. Don't use it. Be sure to purchase a proper girth at the same time you purchase the saddle. I honestly can't think of anything I would use the girth that came with this saddle for. It's beyond questionable.
Make no mistake, for the price point this is a good saddle, but I wonder how long the leather will hold up. It already looks like there are years of use and few spots absolutely have some extra love already. That said, the first time I used this thing was on a 3 day trail ride where I spent no less than 8 hours each day in it. I rode it through rain, sun, and wind. The thing was pretty abused but rides like the day I got it.
I have also had some trouble finding the ride pad for this saddle. It is a little too big to use just an English Pad, and while Western pads work fine I am a minimalist. The pad pictured is also an endurance pad that is ever so slightly too small because of the saddle's skirt.
CONSUMER SATISFACTION RATING: 7/10
All in all, I give this saddle a 7/10 rating. I can't tell you how many people ask me if it's a Tucker. While it clearly is not, I even fooled myself once when looking at someone's real Tucker and thought they had the same saddle I have - go figure.
The saddle saved me from being dumped but isn't as secure as an Australian or Western. It is easy to put on and off, and great if you need something to sit in for hours. I liked the Classic Distance Rider because its design reflects the historic McClellan saddle of the 1800s. If you don't already know, George B. McClellan, a career Army officer in the U.S. Army, was in charge of designing a saddle by studying the latest developments in engineer and cavalry forces including field equipment. (or so Wikipedia Says) Based on his observations, McClellan proposed a design that was adopted by the Army in 1859. The McClellan saddle was a success and continued in use in various forms until the US Army's last horse cavalry and horse artillery were dismounted in World War II.
Today, the McClellan saddle is used by ceremonial mounted units in the US Army. The saddle was used by several other nations, including Rhodesia and Mexico, and to a degree by the British in the Boer War. The saddle came in various seat sizes that predominantly ranged from approximately 11 to 12 ½ inches. (It looks like many of the Pandora Saddles used by today's endurance racers).
I am pleased that I have something one might consider "classic" and look forward to adjusting this bad boy so that she fits my needs. Like my believe in cars, I believe every saddle needs a good name, what shall I call her?
I would say one of the most terrifying, yet simultaneously fun aspects of purchasing a horse is shopping for all the accessories that go with buying the horse. One thing I never realized, was just how much emphasis riders place on the overall look of their tack. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about quality. I am a firm subscriber to, “you get what you pay for.”
I am referring to the overall look that riders strive for. Shortly after bringing Jean-Luc home, people started to ask me a question I found strange.
“What’s your horse’s color?”
“Ah, he’s a palomino paint?” I cautiously would respond. Clearly, I mean those asking the question had eyes.
However, like usual, I was the one confused. What they really wanted to know, is what color scheme would I be using for my tack? Clearly. Since Jean-Luc is white and gold, our options were numerous.
Choosing his particular color scheme is a story for another day, but it suffices to say that we went with burgundy (wine color!)
Now, together Jean-Luc and I have several fun new tack items, but I’ve been purposefully slow to pick up one crucial item – the saddle.
Saddle shopping is intense! This singular item could very easily surpass the price a person pays for the horse. Taking the purchase seriously is a must, because the saddle will largely contribute to the success of the horse and ride as a team. So, where does one even begin?
I started by asking myself what type of riding I primarily wanted to do with Jean-Luc. The answer – trails. Long, obstacle filled, slow going, trails.
Because most of my riding will be on trails I began to look at endurance, western style saddles. I went back and forth with this though as I am currently rolling around in a pretty large 40-pound western saddle that belongs to BM’s man. It’s a beast to haul around, but it reminds me of a Cadillac – too big, too heavy, protective, and something you can roll in for days. It’s basically everything I’m looking for, minus the too heavy part.
From there I asked myself if I wanted leather, or synthetic. Synthetic is often easier to keep, clean and cheaper, but I do love the smell of a good leather saddle. In the end, I find the comfort in a leather saddle a little higher as well. So, leather then.
All these answers pointed me towards a saddle introduced to America the early seventies and made popular thanks to, The Man from Snowy River. Honestly though, people have used this style of saddle for generations all over the world.
Traditionally, Australian stock saddles were created to hold a rider in securely and comfortably through some of the most intense terrain on the planet. The earliest versions borrowed heavily from traditional English saddles as the premise for their design. Since everything is out to kill you down under, they added a much deeper seat, higher cantle, and front knee pads to really suck a person in when their equine counterpart comes into contact with one of many outback terrors.
By adding these design features, the Australian saddle also became one of the most comfortable to spend days, upon days in. So, light weight – check. Conformable – check. Sticky, and holds me in when Jean-Luc doesn’t agree with what’s on the ground – Check. Check, check and check!
Everything seemed to fall into place. I knew what type of saddle I wanted, but now what brand? This decision came after reading as many reviews as I could find, and settled on the best reviewed saddle brand I could comfortably afford without making my you know what pucker.
Finally, there was really only one conundrum:
Horn, or no horn - that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer being skewered
Like a pig on a modern western horn
for the fortune of looks and copious amounts of bags hanging
Or to take arms against the horn,
And by opposing modernity end a fine riding utensil without such ornament?
Seriously, being on the trail all the time might mean wanting the option to ride with a saddle horn bag, so that makes sense. Plus they're often more affordable than many English front bags. The Australian horns aren’t made for roping, but neither were Jean-Luc and me. Truthfully, we’re about as coordinated as a synchronized swim team made entirely of kittens. Horns are great, right? They look cool, they can serve a purpose, and they can stab your sides out if you ever end up in the wrong place at the wrong time!
The man from Snowy River didn’t need a horn. He tamed the wilds with no such thing.
Oh, the options? Whatever shall we choose?
Suggestions, comments, and rants are welcome, but I must confess, whatever I ordered is on its way! Stay tuned and see what Jean-LucPonycard and I #boldlygo forth in.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.