October 23, 2008

Courbette Magic Dressage Saddle

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During my riding lesson on Tuesday, I did an experiment: I dropped my stirrup and rode as if I was in a dressage saddle. Big different on how Isis responded.

When you ride dressage, your seat is different then when you ride hunt seat. In dressage, you ride in a “balanced” seat: you sit back farther so that your upper body is up and down instead of leaning forward. Your stirrup length is also typically 2-3 holes longer.

My Zaldi all purpose saddle is very comfortable and great for hunt seat. However, it doesn’t hack it for dressage. The saddle pushes my hips forward, which is what you want in hunt seat and cross country or jumping. It’s hurting my hips and lower back when I try to sit back in a dressage position.

Back in the spring, I had looked at a Barefoot Treeless dressage saddle. It was really comfortable when I sat in it, plus it is supposed to fit a wide range of horses. The bad news is that the stirrup bars are solid: if you fall and your foot gets caught in the stirrup, the stirrup leather will not come off the saddle. A Barefoot saddle could therefore not be used in any Horsemasters events because it would fail the safety check.

I’ve had my eye on a particular saddle for several years: the Courbette Magic dressage saddle. This saddle features an “eMotion” spring tree that supposedly will flex to fit a relatively narrow horse to one who normally takes a wide tree (up to 32 cm). The tree’s flexibility means that it moves better with your horse and potentially will fit more horses (hopefully both Isis and Kasane).

As far as dressage saddles go, the Courbette Magic is relatively inexpensive. A new dressage saddle can run any where from $1000 to $4000 (and up). A synthetic dressage saddle will run about $500-1000. This saddle usually retails for $750-899.

I found a Magic used for $450 online at Trumbell Mountain Tack. I talked to Nancy, who knows a lot about saddles and fitting Arabians, since she rides her Polish-bred Arab in endurance. We talked about Isis’ confirmation plus my build and how that fits into choosing a saddle.

You don’t know what you are getting if you order a saddle online. You can’t try it out beforehand (unless you are lucky to find a tack shop with one in stock you can sit on). Some places will not let you return a saddle. Trumbell Mountain Tack has an excellent saddle tryout policy: you try the saddle for a week and return it if it doesn’t work for you or your horse.

I have never seen a Courbette Magic nor have a I had the opportunity to sit in one. I relied on Nancy’s saddle and horse experience to see if she thought it would fit Isis. Initially, Nancy thought the saddle looked too narrow to fit on Isis. Neither of us was familiar with the eMotion tree, besides the limited information available on Courbette’s web site. Nancy suggested doing a wither tracing on Isis so the saddle could be matched to her shape.

I completely forgot to do that yesterday when I was at the barn.

Today, I searched for information on the saddle. I found one review at horsetackreview.com where the writer said the Magic saddle fit a part-bred Arabian and several other horses too. That sounded promising. The reviewer also said that you fit the saddle by riding in it, not just by setting it on the horses back. The saddle flexes to the horses shape when you actually sit in it.

Courbette’s web site does not have fitting instructions for this saddle so I called. The lady I talked to said that indeed you do have to sit in the saddle to see how it fits your horse. The tree will accomodate a horse that takes a normal saddle tree up to 32 cm wide (and a wider tree model
of the Magic is now available).

I called Nancy back and updated her on the saddle. She was intrigued and actually sat on the saddle for me. She said she could see the saddle flexing a little when she put some weight on it. She also said that the panels on the back are relatively flat — very good for a round-bodied Arabian.

I’ve ordered the saddle for a test ride (along with a girth). It should arrive on Tuesday: just in time for my riding lesson. I’m planning on taking pictures of the saddle and how it fits on Isis. Someone needs to write real fitting instructions for this saddle.

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