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Share Your Story

Send us your story and we will send you a Specialized Ball Cap. Please send 150 to 200 words about your horse and your experiences with your Specialized or TW Saddle.

- David Kaden, Owner

Saddle type: western with A-fork and pencil roll.

When I received my saddle by mail delivery 2,5 years ago, I could not wait to put it on my horse Jack and try it. Surprisingly, the saddle fitted him without any additional need for shimming and so I decided to mount Jack on the spot.

I could not believe the difference I felt at that time between my previous 8 -year old roper and my new specialized saddle.

I had the feeling I was riding bareback ! I could feel every movement of his back and shoulders, every muscle that he was using.

This is what I like the most in my specialized saddle, it is like riding without one.

The soft feeling you have with your horse can only improve the partnership and understanding of his movements and ideas.

And no pain in the a… after hours of riding, the saddle gives you all the comfort you need to stay in all day long (or week long as I did last year when driving cattle in Belgium!).

The saddle still looks very new, although it has been frequently used for more than 2,5 years now. The leather is still soft and strong, just how it should be.

The picture was taken a few days ago on the beach, we are both enjoying the ride.

Cecile Beeck, The Netherlands

I can't say enough great things about my Specialized Saddle. I bought it after I had purchased 2 other saddles to try and fit my mare - one of which was a treeless saddle [which hurt her back so much she was unrideable for 5 months]. When I tried the Specialized I finally had hope that something would work. I have had it re-fit to my mare 3 times in the 3 years I have had it as her fitness level and shape has changed - something very few if any other saddles can accommodate. When I rode a hard-to-fit gelding that belonged to a friend, I had a spare set of panels fit to him; we did his 2nd and 3rd 50 mile rides that weekend and his back was terrific.

I really like the saddle as well - it is very well constructed and makes me feel very secure. Also, it is a real benefit to be able to move the stirrups into different positions in order to optimize your equitation and make life even better for your equine partners. I'd be proud to wear a Specialized hat and tell even more people how great these saddles are!

Kristen Fisher, Corinth TX

I purchased a Tracy Webb signature Santa Fe at a fitting clinic near my home in Bear Valley California.

My horse, Choco LOVES the new saddle. Some of the benefits I have noticed already would be a softening of the eye, for sure. He just looks content and relaxed. And keeps that look even when asking him to back now, which took a little while for him to forget it hurt, but now that we have done it so many times w/o any pain, he gets it that the pain is over. Very nice :)

He moves more freely and easily, his gait has improved, and it is easier to keep him in a gait.

I love the way the saddle feels to move in. It is a much lower cantle than my previous saddle, so there is a little adjustment on my part to bring my confidence level back up. I don't think I was necessarily safer in the higher cantle saddle I used previously, but I think more it just felt like it, and I just need to get used to that factor. But the freedom of movement is definitely there with the Santa Fe, and thus makes me feel more "as one" with my horse, and I feel he is responding to that as well.

The "bump" on his back which was a direct result of the pinching on the last saddle is softening and shrinking. Yay! And there is no flinch at all when pressure is applied, so I know we are doing good.

And...it LOOKS pretty with all the bling! We have had a little trouble getting the purses to stay on. If Choco shakes, they fly off. But seems to be only when he shakes. I think the angle of the saddle with all the shims are not helping. I am not overly concerned. We have been working on tightening up the snaps a bit.

(Speaking of the bling, can you get me in touch with the gal who can order me additional bling? I would really like that.)

So, in summary, I am quite satisfied with my new saddle and am very grateful to all of you for educating me and taking the time to get both what Choco needed for his comfort and enjoyment, not to mention performance, and what I needed as a rider. It feels like it has all come together. You guys are the best!!! :)

Beth Hall

Love the saddle. I was unintentionally soring my horses back with an ill fitting saddle. I had borrowed a friend's Orthoflex but didn't like the seat and the saddle clinic showed how it's tree was only touching my horse in four places. I purchased the Featherweight Trail and haven't looked back. My horse is moving better and I can adjust the pads to fit his high withers and hips. It's a great saddle for a gaited horse.

Stan Roskens

In May it was clear that something was wrong with our 12 yr old gelding, Levi. Vet checked him in the round pen with the western saddle I've been using for 4 yrs and determined that was the worst saddle fitting he's ever seen. I guess to make matters worse I had it too far forward and held in place with a breast collar.

We had him treated for a sore back and shoulders, bought a new western saddle that was fitted to him, but he was still not comfortable when I tried to ride him and would not walk out, so I stopped riding him.

Your clinic was our last hope before taking him to Alamo for a complete check.

When I rode him at your clinic Saturday in the saddle you fitted to him he was like a new horse again to me and was fun to ride, free in the shoulders and trotted great.

I purchased the Trailmaster (without the horn) and rode Sunday for a long ride and had a great time. My old boy is back. The saddle is very comfortable and the way the fenders hang I found it easier to move with the horse on sudden moves he makes.

He used to be so uncomfortable that he would get under himself and jump or buck. I think the saddle we bought has solved a lot of problems for us.

I think the whole experience was good for us and Levi. It all made sense.

Thank you all
Mary Ann

The first time I saw the little Mustang was at Tall Pines Endurance ride. He and his rider beat us by so many hours that I barely caught a glimpse of them. Reports had it that his front leg really swelled, but since he was not lame, he had not been pulled. His owner had turned him loose to find his own way home. He simply hung out by the road until some compassionate folks caught him and iced his leg.

About a month later, the young owner died in a drowning accident. Cisco ended up with his friends, and they did not get along. When they put him up for sale, they said that he needed an experienced rider. The previous owner had put him with a trainer for a short time because of problems with running away.

I am not brave, but I am determined. One look at his big feet, good bone, strong hip and long trot and I was sold.

The young woman who sold him to me said he liked to bolt for home, do leaps and paw with both front feet when tied. She was right. He tried to lose me in many creative and calculated ways. He succeeded twice.

The first time I tried to saddle him, he tried to bite the saddle. I noticed that he had some white hair on his back, so knew saddle fit would be an issue.

We spent many hours in the round pen and his behavior did improve. What bothered me the most was his unpredictability (sound familiar, Mustang owners?). He seemed to be the most troublesome when ridden hard on the previous day. I tried at least a dozen saddles on him, watching for sweat patterns and experimenting with pads. My western show saddle seemed to be the best, but the skirts are square and rubbed his hip.

I picked the brains of many patient soles and invaded tack stores with a tape measure and chart. A western style endurance saddle seemed to be the right one and I bought some expensive saddle pads for extra insurance.

Things seemed to go better and his behavior was getting quite good, but I could never get completely in sync with him. Then last year at Fort Stanton, he acquired some edema on his back. I had been noticing, also that the muscle along his spine looked different.

Many endurance riders were using Specialized Saddles, and I had been too cheap to consider one, but I had run out of options and I could not continue to hurt this valiant little horse. David agreed to look at his back and kindly told me that his back was very hard to fit being asymmetrical and long and that the muscle on his back had atrophied from the poorly distributed weight. The sick feeling that overcame me then visits me still.

Needless to say, I bought a Western Specialized saddle, wanting the extra security. I cannot believe the difference in the horse and in myself. We are so comfortable! He moves freely and his back muscle has actually filled back in!

In 2008, we completed 495 miles without pulls and won a jacket for the SW region (5th) for my weight division. No big deal for some, but a BIG deal for us. Best money I ever spent....no kidding...and this is coming from a notorious cheapskate.

We finally found that missing intangible.....harmony.

Maribel Paulson

What would you say to a 57 year old man who decides he wants to take on a new equine sport Jumping,while giving up another sport, endurance in which he had some rewarding experiences including winning two Nationals championships? A line about new tricks and old dogs comes to mind…

Previously, when I had broached this idea to my wife Tracy, she had pointed out the many good reasons, I should forget this nonsense. In the spring of 09 I mentioned it again and this time she said, "well why not go for it?" Endurance had become a business for us. I own a company that makes adjustable endurance saddles and she operates an endurance horse training center, Flight Leader Farm. Perhaps we were both ready for a change of scenery on occasion. But why jumping especially at my age?

I have always loved that momentary feeling of weightlessness, catching some air when skiing off a ledge, or jumping a hill on a dirt bike. The words of Tom Petty song echoed in my head," learning to fly is the hardest thing, cause what goes up must come down"…

My first attempt at learning to jump had occurred 30 years earlier when a hunter jumper barn had opened near my country home in East Texas. I bought a Jumping saddle and booked a lesson. My lesson involved trotting over ground poles,. I came here expecting to jump, and no jumping what so ever was involved during my hour lesson. This wasn't what I had in mind, and I didn't go back.

Fast forward to my next lesson in March of 09 in my home of El Paso TX. My Instructor ask me a few questions about my previous riding experiences, and I told her about jumping logs and bushes with this mare on the trail and why I thought she could be trained to be a jumper.. She had me ride around in the arena for a few minutes. As watches me ride circles, on my 16 Hand Anglo Arab mare, a deepening frown grows on her face.

"What are you doing" she asks with an exasperated tone?

"You are in a 200' x 300' arena and you are flying around like you are trying to win an endurance race" Clearly you can ride, but this is not a foundation for jumping" Jumping is about stride control and you must learn to slow way down. As we trotted circles, in what I thought, was now a slow, working trot" she barked, "slower, let's start from the beginning and give you horse a chance."

At least, at the end of this lesson, she let me trot over some small jumps.

And this time I at least understood how much I didn't know.

Same time next Thursday I ask?. We began as many lessons as I could work in with my busy travel schedule. And at home, I began doing what is commonly called flatwork. Rather dull, compared to my gallops through the brush or along the river, but I knew I was starting over, and the end result would make me a better, more skilled rider.

My horse seemed to love jumping as much as I did. After a month of riding about three times a week, we were going over 2' jumping in various patterns and starting to get sense of what the sport was all about. I read two books on jumping and one weekend I built four of my own standards, and set them up, in our arena and was excited to show my wife what we had learned. She took her camera and snapped some pictures as I went over my new jumps for the first time. Wow, she said, "I think you and Lisette have found your niche."

Even thou we were only jumping 2'6' Lisette was clearing them by a foot and as I looked for the first time at photos of me jumping, I was proud of the progress we had made In only six weeks.

The next weekend there was a small local schooling show in nearby Las Cruces NM .and I decided we would go and enter the 2'6" jumping class. AS I waited my turn after a smooth warm up, I must admit I had some stomach butterflies. I turned away from watching the first rider, and made small talk with the rider next to me waiting her turn instead of watching the first rider ride the pattern, as I should have. I was convinced I had it memorized correctly, and had mentally visually myself riding it, to etch it clearly in my mind. When It came my turn I took a deep breath an off we went. My mare bravely took each jump, heisting slightly only once, as we approached a double with lots of brightly colored artificial flowers. We went clean, and I approached the judge and she politely said, that was a beautiful ride, however you missed the last jump.. Somehow I had not seen it on the pattern, being over on the other side of the arena sort of hiding, by another jump. And my overconfidence, that I had the pattern down pat, made me feel a little foolish, but hey that's what schooling shows are for right?

Looking at the AHA web site I saw there was the Zia classic show in two weeks in Albuquerque NM. I must point out here, my wife did not share my confidence I was ready for class A show. But show day found us headed north having gotten our late entry in just under the wire. The show office people were so nice with my many questions. And I found my stall and begin getting ready for my first class, the HJ warm up, not judged. I had entered both HA working hunter over fences 2'6" and HA jumper 2'9",both preceded by a half warm class I was a little surprised to learn I was the only entry in the warm up class, and felt under the microscope as I entered the outdoor ring surrounded by people. My horse felt my tension, and she too was much "higher" than normal, and seemed to feel all the eyes on us. The first jump went smoothly, but as we approached a double, complete with a fax brick wall, an lots of flowers, she locked up with a last minute refusal, almost unseating me. I sat calmly on her, in front of the jump and exactly in front of the judges stand. I turned her around, circled and approached again squeezed my legs slightly and visualized us sailing over the jump, and two strides, then over the next. This we did, and smoothly finished the pattern, and exited the arena in silence.

Next was my HJ class and I was the last to go. This time I carefully watched the other riders. The was one refusal, and one rail down, so maybe I would not be last place in this double judged show. My number was called and I tried to be positive, and relaxed as we circled to pick up the right lead and started to the fence. One jump after another sailed under us smoothly, with no hesitation even at the troublesome double, and it was over before I knew it. No rails down, and I pretty sure I had cleared all the jumps this time. I hoped I had gotten a placing, but as they named forth, third, second without calling my number I felt pains of disappointment but then the loud speaker said first place won by___, and I missed the number, but recognized they had said my horses" name, placed first by both judges!! I was stunned and elated at the same time.

The pattern for my next class, HA Jumping was clearly more technical, with more tight turns and precise riding required. AS I entered the ring the steward ask did I want to ride the jump off? I was a little confused ,and he explained I was the only entry in the class and if I got around without two refusals I would win, and I had the option to ride, or not ride the jump off pattern "No ,I said, If I get around that will be just fine."

Again we went clear, and I found myself wishing I had some other entry to experience the thrill of competing in a Jump off for time.

I collected my prizes, and I must say, I never thought I would be so proud of these four pieces of blue ribbon…

Horse shows are different than endurance events, in some ways that my wife and I really liked. Like staying in a nice motel, with your horse in a stall, eating hot meals with clean fresh clothes, and most of all not getting up to saddle up and start at 5 am.. yep I could get used to this, she said.. So could I . We watched other Arab classes the next day before driving home.

It wasn't long before I was studying the entry Premium of the Sport Horse Nationals in Sept in Lexington. I discovered there were no classes for HA jumping in 2'9" height. Being a national championship there were only room for higher level jumping classes of HA Open, 3 to 3"6" and ATR 3 to 3'3". And there was only one other show I could find with those classes two months away in June in Santa Barbara Cal, with a preshow and region 2 championship. I just happened to be going the Sacramento Cal for the Western states Horse Expo, June 12-15 where I was a clinician speaking on saddle fit and working a booth for displaying my saddles. Why not take a trailer, and stay for the show?. My wife signed off on the idea and we would enjoy visiting some friends and a little down time between the events.

But could I get my horse and me jumping nearly a foot higher in 6 weeks? My trainer didn't think it was a good idea, saying it normally should take a year to raise your level a foot. But undeterred I started moving the pins holding the cups up a little each week. With the help of my LA area Specialized Saddle sales rep Kathleen Green, I found a stable with jumps where I could board my horse, while we went north to the trade show. Upon our return, I took another lesson from an Instructor at the board barn. The loaded up and off to the Earle Warren Equestrian center in Santa Barbara. Every Lesson brings with it some new insight, and learning to jump, is really a lot about learning to ride better.

The air was electric we pulled in the Earle Warren Expo center and three arenas were buzzing with Arab show classes. This is going to be a bit different from Albuquerque.

I was at the bulletin board at 7am the next morning where they would be posting the jumping patterns. I managed to copy it and went back to motel and begin memorizing. I decided to enter both Open and ATR jumping classes as both would jump the same pattern. The Open class went smoothly except for a single refusal, at a double with a single stride between. I turned back and approached it again thinking come on you can o this and she responded with a perfect jump, single stride, and clean over the next oxer,finish with no rails down. I got a third and was happy with our start. It could have been worse .

The next class was ATR and Lisette never hesitated, beautifully jumping everything and when this class was over we finished second, also jumping clean in the jump off. The results were the exact same the next day in the region 2 championship show. A third and second, this time the ribbon said "reserve Champion", and as we drove home to TX, I told my wife "next year let's bring two horses…. ."

Since writing this story in 09, I took two horses to the region 8 sport horse championship in winter park colo in July, and won HA Open Jumper Champion on Lisette and won open HA Working Hunter champion on My palomino George.

David Kaden - Owns and operates Specialized Saddles

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