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Discussion Starter #1
I've been out of the saddle-scene for a few years, and things have changed a bit! Companies I've never heard of, fancy trees of all sorts, and even new widths and styles I haven't tried. I used to think saddle-fitting a light horse was difficult, but man, trying to fit my big Belgian boy is becoming quite the feat! Even when I do find a saddle, many are sized for large riders, which I am not. I'm hoping any of you with full-draft experience can offer some advice:

Horse is an 18.1 hh Belgian, roughly 2100 lbs. I haven't taken his girth measurement yet. Nonetheless, I do know he doesn't fit in an average sized draft neck collar or halter. I have to special order an x-lg draft halter for him, because standard drafts are rated from 1500-1800 lbs. If I recall correctly, his collar for his harness is 28 inches. I would say below-average withers--not too tall, but not totally flat-backed either.

This go around, I have seen "draft" gullets in 8,9, and 10 inch, depending on the brand, but the brands don't seem to agree. Should I do a wither tracing and measure the gullet area? I would LOVE to find another flex tree style. My light horse seemed to have so much more freedom and comfort of movement in that! I would like to fit me at 15.5, but would prefer to downsize to 15 rather than go loose at 16. I'm not interested in English this go around, but would do western, endurance, or aussie. I'm looking to bum around the pasture and trails, so no showing and no need for too fancy. I do NOT have money to burn. I am expecting to pay for a good saddle, but an economy version of a trusted brand would be nice, as I did have some pretty big vet bills to pay this year!! So far, though, I haven't found any economy type saddles that are from good brands. It's either Asian made cheap stock, or $2000 name brand. There doesn't seem to be much in between. I have been looking for used, but again, everything seems to be over 17 inches, which would swallow me!

Can anyone offer some direction here?
 

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I am lucky in that my mid-sized drafts fit in a FQHB saddle. The "draft trees" are too wide for my horses. Thank goodness, because I am fully aware of the dearth of quality draft horse saddles. The Abetta draft is a decent cheap saddle but, like you discovered, only comes in 16 and 17" seats.

Mostly, I can only caution you to stay away from King, Hilason and the stuff sold by Frontier Equestrian. I wish I had something to recommend. I'll mull it over and come post again if something percolates to the surface.
 

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I think I have some good advice for you. I had a Percheron gelding several years ago, he was 17.2+ and was around 2000 #. He was a lovely and kind horse. i had a custom made bridle and a custom made halter for him, he had a really big head : )
Anyway, I bought a Wintec all purpose saddle (http://www.adamshorsesupplies.com/Wintec-250-All-Purpose-Saddle-Flocked-P913.aspx?Options=3040,3042) for him with the interchangeable gullet system. I bought the package of gullets so I could eventually use the saddle on other horses. Wintecs are synthetic, but it was a very nice looking saddle all the same. I used the largest girth I could buy at the time and had to use a girth extender on BOTH sides as well. But it worked quite well. I think mine was a 16" seat as I am an average sized rider. Hope this helps! I lost my horse several years ago. But I wish I had a nice big draft gelding again. You will never find a more honest horse !
 

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I am lucky in that my mid-sized drafts fit in a FQHB saddle. The "draft trees" are too wide for my horses. Thank goodness, because I am fully aware of the dearth of quality draft horse saddles. The Abetta draft is a decent cheap saddle but, like you discovered, only comes in 16 and 17" seats.

Mostly, I can only caution you to stay away from King, Hilason and the stuff sold by Frontier Equestrian. I wish I had something to recommend. I'll mull it over and come post again if something percolates to the surface.
You can find an 18 inch Abeta I think, but am not positive. My hubby is a great big guy, we had a full QH bar Abetta with an 18 inch seat. He rode our 17 h, 1700 lb, Percheron/Thoroughbred gelding in that saddle with no problem, and that horse was very wide!
 

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Yes, there are many more options for drafts in the English saddle department. Wintec is a good choice, particularly the interchangeable gullet system. The OP was hoping for Western, though. Or Aussie or endurance.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm finding it's definitely easier to find English saddles than any other in the size I need! Overtime, when I ride english, I always wish I had this, that, or other attachment or D-ring for whatever reason. I can only get those on the other style saddles.

I am so torn. I was so in love with my Tex-Tan saddle. The one saddle that keeps popping up on every site I look at--even the saddle shops I've spoken with that build custom saddles as well as sell big name brands are now offering it, is a King Series draft saddle. The price is all over the map. I've found the same saddle around $350 all the way to $850. The folks who've actually ridden in it or own it seem to love it, but the "hear-say" folks seem to hate it. The dealers I've spoken with it consider it economy, but on the nicer end of the economy styles. It's on pretty much every draft horse tack site. I've found it with a 5-year warranty on manufacturing, which seems to be a good thing. Overall, though, most folks seem to caution against King Series. I just want a comfy saddle to go ride, and I just can't sink $1500 into one right now. I also cannot find a good used one that fits both horse and myself. Of course, even this one may or may not fit. I haven't done his tracing yet, and it does have a smaller gullet for a draft. UUGH! This is frustrating!
 

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I'm finding it's definitely easier to find English saddles than any other in the size I need! Overtime, when I ride english, I always wish I had this, that, or other attachment or D-ring for whatever reason. I can only get those on the other style saddles.

I am so torn. I was so in love with my Tex-Tan saddle. The one saddle that keeps popping up on every site I look at--even the saddle shops I've spoken with that build custom saddles as well as sell big name brands are now offering it, is a King Series draft saddle. The price is all over the map. I've found the same saddle around $350 all the way to $850. The folks who've actually ridden in it or own it seem to love it, but the "hear-say" folks seem to hate it. The dealers I've spoken with it consider it economy, but on the nicer end of the economy styles. It's on pretty much every draft horse tack site. I've found it with a 5-year warranty on manufacturing, which seems to be a good thing. Overall, though, most folks seem to caution against King Series. I just want a comfy saddle to go ride, and I just can't sink $1500 into one right now. I also cannot find a good used one that fits both horse and myself. Of course, even this one may or may not fit. I haven't done his tracing yet, and it does have a smaller gullet for a draft. UUGH! This is frustrating!
Why not just buy another Tex-Tan? They are decent saddles, I have seen their draft saddles, they look pretty ok to me. I never spend the big bucks for a saddle unless I was going to compete. Mostly I have Abettas and I ride them for everything.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I haven't found a used one. The only draft version I've seen was around $1500. At this point, Abetta seems to be the best quality for an affordable price I can find, but not sure if I can get it in my size. I'll have to research that more.
 

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I'm sorry, I read that wrong. The one I should have said to get was the King Series draft...I have heard about those, I just completely wrote the opposite from what I meant. I am having a conversation with my mom at the same time I am typing this! Sortof hard to keep it all straight!!

I have also seen those draft saddles advertised in everything...I thought about getting one of those for my hubby right before we found the big Abetta for him...
 

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Discussion Starter #11
aoconner, I have learned to respect your opinion on things....I just want to clarify, you WOULD get the King Series draft version (assuming the gullet size fits), despite the overall king series reputation? If so you will have made my day, and my search will likely by over. I'm hoping to get him measured today to answer that question.
 

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Slightly off topic, but are these horses really as heavy as you all think they are? My Shire is a monster at 19 hh . albeit more hitch horse body than farm chunk, but still the largest horse my employers (trainers who have been in the biz for 50 years) have ever seen. For the longest time, I thought he was over 2000 based on how the vet estimated for his meds during an emergency call. He's really more in the 1600-1700 range. I know they are breeding pulling competition horses they claim weight 2500, but eh....
 

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Slightly off topic, but are these horses really as heavy as you all think they are? My Shire is a monster at 19 hh . albeit more hitch horse body than farm chunk, but still the largest horse my employers (trainers who have been in the biz for 50 years) have ever seen. For the longest time, I thought he was over 2000 based on how the vet estimated for his meds during an emergency call. He's really more in the 1600-1700 range. I know they are breeding pulling competition horses they claim weight 2500, but eh....
Yes, they are this big:)
 

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aoconner, I have learned to respect your opinion on things....I just want to clarify, you WOULD get the King Series draft version (assuming the gullet size fits), despite the overall king series reputation? If so you will have made my day, and my search will likely by over. I'm hoping to get him measured today to answer that question.
I can't say, redgate. Yes, I guess I would toss the cash and try one, but right now I have it to toss! A year ago, or a year from now, I may not be in the position to do that, but would need to spend as little as possible on the best I could get. In that case, I think I would go for a large Abetta, full QH bars. That is a brand I am familiar enough with and have owned to say to someone else that I would recommend one. There are also usually saddles from small makers that sell for less than the big guns, and a lot of times the bigger feed stores will have some of those saddles for sale. That is the case in this area anyway.

I'm sorry I can't be more positive or negative, I have no personal experience with King saddles. But I would try one if I had a big draft right now..
 

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Yes, they are this big:)
How do you know have you taped and sticked them? Most people think their horses are taller and heavier than they are. I was convinced that my Hanoverian Sport Horse mare (16.1) weighed 1400 lbs, she actually weighs 1200 via the Vet's tape.

TheFarmerMommy has draft horse experience, and works with people that have been involved with them for decades. I wouldn't discount her opinion so quickly.

Jennigrey gave a very important bit of advice, do a wither tracing.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
OK, I did a wither tracing. It does appear the standard draft tree will fit. Also talked a saddle-fitting pro yesterday just to make sure. Boy, I feel rusty on this stuff! It's been a while. Farmer mommy's question was totally legit, and I'd probably suspect similar if I ran into someone with this issue. But, yes, they have been weighed and measured. These aren't bred to be your standard, modern carriage or show horse. These boys were bred to work, and they bulk up about as thick as they are long (OK. slight exaggeration ;-) ) But they are stocky boys! As I said, even their heads won't fit your standard halters or bridles for drafts. I have to special order everything for the 2000 lb. weight range. One is actually only about 1900 lbs, but he is only 5, so still has some growing and bulking to do, which is why the standard draft tree will fit him currently. I'm not sure it will fit my 11 year old boy--he's thick, and stays closer to 2100 lbs.
 

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Redgate's Belgians come from a line of heavy specimens. Most Shires in the US are comparatively light. Clydes and Shires are more of a delivery breed (lighter) while the Belgians have always been a more stay-at-home farm worker (heavier). Percherons have always come in both types, though you would be hard-pressed to find the heavier strains now, since those don't win the blues currently. Belgians consistently out-pull the Percherons in weight competitions, so it is easier to find heavy, bulky specimens of that breed.

So, yeah, I'd easily believe that Redgate's horses are over 2000. My mid-sized drafts are about 1700lbs and they're barely nudging 17H. When we go to the show, we are always the smallest and lightest ones there.
 

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If you're stuck seriously considering a King Series, I will tell you specifically about my issues regarding that line of saddle so you can judge whether or not these are important to you or perhaps are not longer relevant. I've seen five or six King Series draft saddles in the last ten years and here are my complaints:

- they used crappy cheap hardware that rusts
- the cinch dee is thin and cheap
- the leather is cheap and doesn't absorb oil
- the stirrups are hung from the tree in such a way as to promote a "chair" seat rather than letting you get your leg under you
- because of the crappy leather, it is hard to "set" the stirrups at the right angle, making for knee pain

Those are only the complaints I have regarding what I can see. I am wary of the flaws that I can't see that are implied by the overall quality (or lack thereof).

I have not seen a "new" King Series for probably five years so it is possible that they have either 1.) improved the quality of their product (I know that Hilason has) or 2.) added a line of better saddles on top of their low-tier ones.
 

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This stallion stands not far from me. He's (about) 18 hands, and I haven't seen a Percheron like him in years. This guy is a chunk :D :

 

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Discussion Starter #20
Nice looking boy! My 11 year old is the old farm-chunk style. Impressive, but ridiculously thick. My other 2, younger boys are bred from a somewhat leaner, more athletic line. I love their look, as they aren't chunky and bulging with muscle like the older boy, but then again, both are young. Overall, though, they are a bit taller and longer. It's literally like a one-hole difference on the harness between the 5-year old and the 11 year old, but when you stand next to them, the bigger, thicker one seems much more compact. I am curious to see how the younger boys turn out as they age.
 
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