If you have read some of my previous posts, I am a fan of County saddles.¬† I had a County Competitor saddle that I bought brand new and absolutely loved.¬† I’m here to tell you that this County fan has had a major change of heart.¬† Last fall and winter, Kerry and I had begun to work on Second Level movements.¬† What I was starting to find with my County saddle, was the deep seat I used to love so much was now starting to get in my way.¬† I felt like my seat couldn’t move with Kerry like it should especially as we were starting to develop medium gaits.¬† I also felt the County tried to put me in too much of a “chair seat” and¬†that is a big no-no to dressage riders! It¬†was diluting¬†¬†my aids and affecting my balance.¬† So, I went on the dreaded saddle search.¬†
My trainer highly recommened the Centaur dressage saddle built by Michael Stokes a master saddler that also lives conveniently close in Appomattox, VA. Of course in this horrendous economy, buying a brand new saddle wasn’t in my budget and the only way I could get my husband on board with this plan was to explain that I would buy used and sell my County.¬† That made the search a little more difficult because used Centaur saddles can be difficult to find¬†no matter finding the right seat size, tree width, and flap length.¬† Luckily, I did find a saddle in Northern VA of all places!¬† She was going to allow me a 7 day trial so I figured what would I lose, but shipping costs.
The saddle was sent to me and I have been riding in it for the last 6 months.¬† I LOVE this saddle!¬† Coming over from a County there were a few things I had to get used to.¬† The twist in the tree is more of a medium twist.¬† It was a little disorienting at first and even now I will say it takes me a few minutes to “settle” into the saddle, but once I am settled it is much more comfortable than the narrow twist of the County.¬† The Centaur saddle is flatter and has a more open seat than my competitor did.¬† At first,¬†I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, ¬†but then once I found my balance it was a very freeing feeling!¬† The saddle was no longer in my way.¬† It is as if the centaur tells me to “sit here” and then stays out of my way.¬† I also found that the short flap is great!¬† I am a shorter rider standing at 5’1″, but I have always ridden in a regular flap dressage saddle.¬† I felt in the short flap like I had much more communication and feel with my leg.¬† If you are a shorter rider like me, I highly recommend a short flap saddle!¬†
Another great thing with this saddle, was¬†I was able to¬†take Kerry and the saddle over to Michael’s to be fitted and readjusted.¬† He did a reflock of the saddle and a small head adjustment on the tree.¬† We did a refitting about a month later.¬† Michael and his wife are very helpful and good at fitting the horses.¬† They keep all of their saddle’s information on file.¬† Before I bought this saddle, I got the serial number from the seller, called Michael, and we were able to have a discussion over the phone if we thought this saddle would work for Kerry and I.¬† Here are a few of my comments about the Michael Stokes saddle.
- Medium twist tree takes a little getting used to coming from a narrow twist, but much more comfortable once adjusted.
- Flatter seat then the County saddles and well balanced.
- Saddles can be custom made by Michael or used saddles can be reflocked and refitted (I would love a brand new one sometime, they are gorgeous!)
- Most of all Kerry seems to like the saddle. I think her back is¬†developing better with the Centaur.¬†¬†The¬†Centaur has a wide¬†gullet and¬†Michael¬†explained to me the wider¬†twist is better for weight distruibution onto the horse’s backs.
Something I¬† thought about today when I was preparing for this article, is the fact that I don’t think about my saddle anymore when I’m riding.¬† I think about improving my position and balance, but it never crosses my mind anymore that I can’t do something because I feel like my saddle is interfering.¬† Now I just hop on and ride.¬† Kerry is happy, I am happy, so we are sold on it!¬†¬† I have Michael’s website listed below.¬† Sold my County on ebay .