I took the saddle down to Good Apple consignment in Ocala (not to consign, their saddles are much too nice for me to think they'd want to take this one...) as a comparison. The owner there was incredibly helpful, and I left with 3 saddles to try. She definitely pushed the wool because she was concerned, as am I, that as he muscles up his back will change substantially. Then I'll be saddle hunting again in 6-12 months. And while buying used and selling used means not as much of a loss, I feel like it is generally not a game I win. Other people who are more patient or better at selling and buying may, but those are not my strengths.
I ended up with a total of four saddles to try; three saddles from Good Apple and one from Highline Tack.
- County Perfection, 17.5, labeled W, but measures M. Apparently this was a screw up from the County rep; ordered to fit a horse that it could never be made to fit. And it was originally the W, but was modified to be a M in an attempt to make it fit. This saddle is basically brand new with a nicely used price tag. It never made it onto his back, with the higher price tag I started with #2, #3, and #4 first and never circled back to this one.
- County Perfection, 17.5, labeled M with SR panels. I ended up buying this one. When I sat in it I felt very connected to his back and like it was much easier to have a still and correct leg. The fitter/masseuse came out Monday morning and gave it the okay. He did add a bit of flocking on either side of the withers so that it wouldn't rock down as much in the front. He said to reassess in maximum 6 months and make sure that the flocking doesn't need to come out.
- Frank Baines Pirouette, 17.5, M with serge panels. This is a monoflap in an interesting way. The only monoflap I'd seen in person was a friend's Devocoux. On that saddle the billets came straight off the flap. The front billet for this saddle came off a shoulder panel that she said gives the horse the same "support" through the shoulder as a dual flap saddle would. My first impression riding in this saddle was comfort without particularly aiding position. The monoflap did help me wrap my leg around him a bit more, and it was easy to lighten my seat as needed, but I did fight the tendency to let my leg get too far out in front of me. There were no keepers for the stirrup leathers. Easy enough to fix if I had bought it, but while I was trying it the left leather kept getting bunched up under my leg. Definitely says something about my asymmetry, but also was annoying to try to deal with while riding.
- Stackhouse Monoflap 17, measures M. This saddle was GORGEOUS. The leather was butter soft and overall the quality was beautiful. But sadly it was too short in the flap. It was on the website with a short flap and I should have paid more attention, but I do have fairly short legs so I thought it might work. Based on this whole saddle trying expedition, I also think that I am a 17.5 in dressage saddles. I'd probably been getting away with my 17 because it is a very open saddle. Yoshi actually went best in this saddle, but it was also day 4 of consistent riding, so that may have been more about consistency than the actual saddle.
Overall the whole experience was not too painful. Good Apple was fantastic to work with and soooo helpful in picking out saddles that might work for us. She also told me to take pictures of him in the saddle as well as me in the saddle and if none of the initial three worked, she could use those pictures to help us figure out one that would. They technically have a 5 day trial period, but she said if there was one I needed more time with to just let her know and I could keep it for longer.
The fitter also checked out my jump saddle when he came back Monday morning since I didn't have it out at the barn with me the week before. Fortunately he gave it the okay with a fluffy fleece half pad. Thank goodness. Saddle hunting for two would have definitely been more than I could handle in one month!