In which my saddle is examined in great detail, with lots of pix

We're getting ready to go to a new endurance ride next weekend: the Elbe Hills Challenge. This is a new ride, with new ride management, and we're only signed up for the LD, but when I talked to one of the managers this summer at Renegade, she said that the terrain for Elbe is similar: mountains, lots of elevation changes.


I just hope that it doesn't dump rain (crossing fingers).

So, there have been lots of questions about my saddle. I ride in a Specialized Saddle, the Eurolight model.

(Jim has a Specialized Trailmaster model, which he got super-cheap at a used tack sale a few years ago.)

Here's my saddle with all the gear attached. Lots of purple stuff! (it's sitting butt-high on the sawhorse for some reason. It isn't really that tall in back)

The underside of the saddle with the "booties" made by Carol Brand attached. These little bootie pads velcro onto the bottom of the saddle, so they don't squinch around and squirt out the back like others pads I used with previous saddles. They are also small enough to fit in the washing machine easily, so they're easy to wash. Unfortunately, they are starting to fade to blue, rather than remaining the wonderful original "goofy grape" color. Ah, well.

The booties work especially well with this saddle, because they allow the space above the horse's spine to be completely uncovered, which I like because it allows the spine to flex and bend, and also allows some extra heat evaporation in that area.

Here's the underside of the saddle without the bootie pads. The little squares are velcro.
Peel off the underside of the saddle -- yes, you can DO that with this saddle! -- to reveal the biggest strength of it: you can change the shape of the "horse side" of the saddle, quickly, easily, and at no charge...and the only tool you need is a pair of ordinary scissors. The "shim pads" are made of different widths of neoprene, and they all adhere to the saddle with velcro. I can fill in the dips in my horse's back, or shave away pieces of the pad to allow room for muscle bulging, so that the horse can have a saddle that is absolutely and uniquely fitted. I can change the fit anytime--so if a horse grows a huge hair coat in winter, or muscles up a lot in the middle of ride season, I can change the saddle to match.

The photo above shows a cross-section of the saddle: purple rump rug on the top, leather saddle skirting below that, and shim pads on the bottom (I pulled the shim pads apart slightly so it's easier to see).

Peel off all the shim padding, and you see the tree. It's very wide, because all of the "smallifying" fitting is done with shims, so it fits most riding horses. Specialized was trying to make a mule tree a few years ago, but the mules (and their riders) didn't like it then. I haven't talked to anybody recently about that--would love to hear news if anybody has some!
Drilled into the tree are three receiving holes for your stirrup leathers. The older saddles didn't have these holes--the stirrup leathers (which are made of very wide biothane) could slide freely along the tree in a space about 2 inches long. I like to set my stirrups on the "very far back" hole, so that they hang in the proper dressage position. For people who prefer a more chair-like position, the most-forward hole supports this.
In the picture above you can see how how far the stirrups can swing. This photo also shows some wear marks--the impact of biothane leathers on the leather skirt. Mostly just a rub mark.
The billet straps above also show a lot of wear. My stirrup buckle rubbed on the billets just below the skirt for at least 2 years. I've changed the position of the buckle, but I will need to have the straps replaced this winter. You can see where the stitching is worn.

The quality of this saddle is above average--but when I got it, two of the billets (on opposite sides of the saddle) were too wide to fit into a buckle! I've heard this from other Specialized riders also. I fixed the problem with sandpaper...but a my former saddle, a DeSoto saddle built by Marilyn Horstmyer, would never have had a flaw like that. That saddle was a work of art, but it didn't fit my horse. I was sorry to let it go (but Fiddle wasn't).

I got my saddle in 2007, and have used it for everything since then--training rides, LD competitions, dressage lessons, work parties, backcountry trips, you name it. The billet straps are the only part that shows a lot of wear.
The "buckle guard" and the leather stirrup keeper that came with the saddle are made of cheap material, and the guard is about an inch too short. I added the pirate stirrup keeper myself. The skulls glow in the dark.

Here's the saddle with the rump rug attached--not a Specialized product, but I realized that I've never mentioned this rump rug and I should because it's the coolest dang thing. The photo above shows the rump rug in the "deployed" position.
This photo shows the rump rug in the "storage" position. Unlike other rugs that require the rider to dismount or at least turn around to roll up the rug or secure the ties, this one has elastic strings. Pull the string and the rug scrunches up close to the saddle. I don't even need to turn my head to do this, and I have done it many times at the trot.

To cover your horse's rear engine, just reach back and stretch the rug back out. No velcro, no clips, no unrolling or unfolding.
Luna demonstrates the amount of rear coverage offered by this object.
For SwampDwellers, a bonus: flip the rug over your saddle seat to keep the rain off before you mount up.

Want one? The lady who makes them is a Pirate on my endurance team! If you decide to order one for yourself, tell "Bloody Blanche" hello from me.

Here's the whole rig, reassembled and ready to head out next weekend. Elbe Hills, here we come!


  1. Questions:

    So if I get one of these saddles it is already very wide? I've gone through 5 saddles to get one wide enough (13 inch spread at the gullet bars). That will be my biggest (no pun intended but hey!) worry is will she have room for her mutton withers, AND will she have room for her shoulder to rotate without pinching.

    When your billets need replaced can / will the company that makes the saddle do the repair?

    Does it come with boo coo number of D's for attaching the gear?

    Will the leathers adjust upward for very short legs?

    Have you ever rubbed on the little flap that covers the leather up top?

    How do you feel about the sheepskin seat vs. a leather seat?

    Are the leathers easily replaced through re-order at Specialized?

    Was there a warranty on your saddle tree?

    Okay, I'll quit for now....~E.G.

  2. Now that's what I call a versatile piece of tack! Very nice.

  3. EG: great questions!

    The tree will most likely be wide enough. My advice is to ask for a sales rep to come and fit the saddle to your horse--hands-on advice is the best kind, and there are some tricks not in the "fitting video" that will make fitting much easier. Or ask on Ridecamp for somebody to meet you at a ride--there are lots of SS users who know the tricks. Fiddle has dorsal fin withers, and it fits her just fine. You can also try a demo saddle, which only costs $50 for shipping

    Repairs can be done by any reputable local saddle repair shop.

    I ordered extra D-rings in places that the standard Euro had screws and conchos, and they forgot them, so they sent me a bunch and I installed them myself.

    The leathers are wide biothane--if you need more holes to shorten them, a hot coat hanger will punch those in for you in a minute.

    I haven't had any rubbing problems at all, and I actually prefer a slighly narrower twist. I think the sheepskin seat-saver helps a lot.

    I got the leather seat with extra padding and then put a merino fleece seat-saver on top of that (order the larger seat-size if you do that). The standard seat is pretty hard. With the modifications, it's fine.

    You can order replacement parts (like leathers or a new seat) through Specialized. Jim's saddle came with western-style fenders, and we replaced them with Wintec webbers that we bought at the local tack shop.

    Tree warranty? I have no idea...but I know that if something had gone seriously south in the first year or two, the sales rep (Carol Brand) would have gotten in resolved. I really, REALLY recommend using a sales rep to buy this saddle--they do all the hard work and it costs nothing extra to the customer.

  4. Is that rump rug waterproof?

    I LOVE my Specialized as well, I have the trailmaster and I haven't had any trouble with the seat being "hard", I've only been doing LDs though.

    I second the idea of having a saddle fitter come out and fit the saddle the first time, also would recommend trying the demo saddle as thats how I knew right away that the saddle fit me perfectly too!
    Karen W.

  5. My rump rug is water RESISTANT--the polarfleece wicks moisture away from the skin, and the top layer allows it to evaporate. If the rain is coming down in buckets, the horse's butt will be warm, but wet.

    I notice that Victoria now offers a Goretex topside. That should be waterproof/breathable.

  6. elbe an endurance ride? get out!: )

    i love elbe hills and the sahara camp is one of my favorite places to camp.

    be careful, there have been many accidents at elbe!

    i wish i could be there to tell you when to turn around and look. (mt rainier): )

    hopefully it will be clear enough for you to see it.

    i love your saddle cuz you really do have your leg under you, and i love the booties that get airspace to your horse's back. that is ingenious! i think if horses could, they'd pick a spine-free saddle blanket!


  7. I just ordered the Goretex rug!! Thats just what I've been looking for. Thanks, Karen W
    Dazzby and Cartman say thanks too- no more soggy butts :)

  8. Very nice! Becky and I were just chatting a few minutes ago about saddle fitting. I was complaining about how hard Casey can be to fit. (QH with TB type withers)

    She immediately directed me to this post. I must say I'm impressed! I think I'll have to look into this saddle a bit more and maybe put one on my wishlist!

  9. Oregonsunshine: if you decide this to buy a Specialized Saddle, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to GO THROUGH A DEALER! The manufacturer can be a little...difficult. Dealers earn a commission, but you don't pay any extra, and THEY deal with any difficulties so YOU don't have to do it.

    Here's the directory link:


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