Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thoughts On Crates Saddles?

As always, I'm shopping...

I still want to get a western saddle that I can use for work and show, and I'm having a tough time finding exactly what I want. The biggest issue for me is going to be skirt size. Lilly is short backed and I'm trying to find something with a skirt shorter than 27". 26" would be ideal, but those saddles seem to be few and far between. If I could get a barrel racing saddle or a saddle with a round skirt, my life would be much easier but I just can't... they would laugh me out of the show ring.

I have only been searching specific brands that I thought I wanted to purchase, but it just so happens that Crates has a line of ladies reining saddles. After seeing this one, I think I'm smitten.

The description is as follows:

Crates Hand Tooled Reining Saddle

We're proud to introduce Crates' Hand Tooled Ladies Reiner--a saddle especially made for a woman. It is a light-weight reining saddle made on the Equi-Fit reining tree, with a balanced center pocket and a very narrow ground seat. Carefully hand tooled basket. Bench made one-at-a-time. Soft grain-out chap leather padded seat.
  • Tree: Crates exclusive Equifit Reiner, Quarterhorse bars
  • Gullet: Med: 6 5/8"; Wide: 7"; 8" High
  • Horn: Reiner 2 1/2" High, 2 1/2" Cap
  • Seat: 15 1/2" or 16", 3 1/2" Cantle
  • Rigging: In-skirt Stainless Steel
  • Skirt: 26" X 13", Saddlefleece lined
  • Fender: 16 1/2" X 7", 2 1/2" leathers, belvins buckles
  • Finish: Natural
  • Weight: Approximately 28 lbs
It fits the bill in nearly every department I was shopping for. I would prefer a 15" seat, but I think the 15 1/2" would work just fine. It's not really a "show saddle" either, but I think it's fancy enough to show in. This saddle runs about $1900, which is more than I was hoping to spend, but it is what it is. It's not like I'm saving for a wedding or anything... oh, wait!!

Crates saddles are still hand-made, one at a time, in a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee which I love! I've never seen a Crates saddle in person, though, nor have I put my tookis in one. Does anyone have a Crates saddle, or an opinion of them?


  1. This will be interesting to follow. I ended up with a rounded skirt Parelli Natural Performer for my little QH. I love how light weight it is) I don't know anything about the Crate saddles but I will be following the commentary as I am in the market for a smaller seated western saddle for my girls.

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. I went through three different Crates saddles, all of which did not fit. They are well made but as far as the foundation of them they (like just about every other western saddle out there) just dont help the horse very much. THe way they cinch down simply puts all of the pressure onto the front of the saddle, and subsequently, the shoulders of the horse (you already have ad lots of issues with saddles being too narrow in the front). Like I said, I tried three different styles of Crates, all of which boasted to be the same gullet width, and all of them fit differently, and poorly. My strongest suggestion to you would be to look into the Dave saddles, About the Horse. He also makes a "budget line" called Anato-Tree that runs at half the cost of the About the Horse saddles. I have an About the Horse on Milo, Melissa from An Image of Grace has an Anato Tree for Grace, and my trainer Sarah only uses Dave saddles for your horses. As a certified and professional saddle fitter and body specialist, they are the only ones she has found to truly fit the horse. At least check out Dave's website, and consider his AWESOME saddles because if your are going to spend around $1200 for a Crates (new or used) you could spend the same on a truly hand-made custom saddle that WILL fit your horse. Just my suggestion after YEARS of saddle trouble before I started working with Sarah.

  3. Like I said... I'm really following this conversation... I will take a look at the Dave saddles myself. Thanks.

  4. I also had a Crates that I didn't keep very long. It was a roping saddle and absurdly narrow. Although it said full QH practically perched on my horse and pinched her shoulders horribly. She wasn't anywhere near as big as the horses I have now. Who makes that narrow of a r.o.p.i.n.g. saddle?

    I traded it to my brother (who thought I was being too fussy)...who promptly traded it in because it didn't fit his horses either and rolled on him during a competition. I never tried another Crates, but my brother tried a couple more and never did find one that fit down like it was supposed to.

    Too bad too because they are beautiful and well-made saddles. They just have sucky trees. If you can get one to fit...they are a worthwhile investment.

    Oh and here is something I found out when I was looking at and sitting in reining saddles...Normally I ride a 15" (14-14 1/2 in most barrel saddles)...but the 15" reining saddle was too small. Because of the way the padding is on the front of the seat, I needed a 15 1/2" reining saddle.

  5. LOL...This one has your name all over it. ;-)

    I would have bid on it myself, but I am bidding on a dressage saddle and I don't think my hubby would like it if I bought 2 in one day. (giggles)

  6. Run away from the Crates saddles if you are having fitting issues!!!! I had a reining saddle for about 6 years (although I didnt use it for about 3 becuase I was riding english horses.

    It fit my first horse a high withered broad backed QH (in fact it might have fit Lucas better than anything else I tried). But didnt fit any of the other QH that I rode. (and I mean we went though the entire barn of 30 horses and tried it on ALL of them) It had a high Gullet but the bars of the tree its self were so wide it didnt fit anything with a 'normal' wither/sholder. On top of that the rigging was set way to far forword and ended up putting way too much pressure at the front of the saddle.

    I would recomend JR Wenger saddles, he can custom make anything and has access to tons of trees, but you may have to wait up to 4-6 months to have something done.

  7. Well dang! You guys are a bunch of "debbie downers"!! I guess it's better to find out before I buy the saddle, but I was really hoping this would be THE saddle!

    The search continues... :(

    Cowgirl, that's a nice saddle!! I think you should bid on it, try it out, and then sell it to me if it fits nicely. :) I appreciate the seat size tip too!

  8. Because you have all found them to be too narrow, I was curious to find out more information about the trees. Crates uses the Equi-Fit tree, which is produced by Steele Saddle Tree Company. After digging some more, I found that there are a lot of other saddle makers who also use the Equi-Fit trees. There's Dakota Saddlery, Rocking R Saddlery, and Reinsman to name a few. Dakota and Rocking R are two of the other saddle brands I was considering.

    Looks like the Crates saddle has Quarter Horse bars, but comes in a medium and wide tree. Do you know if the saddles you had were FQH bars, and if the tree was medium or wide? I do think Lilly needs a wide tree with FQH bars, but each saddle is so darn different that it's hard to know without having the actual saddle.

  9. I've only been in a Western saddle once, and it wasn't very comfy for me. Big help, right?

  10. I'll offer the dissenting opinion. We have four Crates saddles with FQH bars amongst us, and every saddle fits every horse (including our sway backed old man, with some extra padding. My roper/reiner fits Smokey so well that I ran a 16 point something second barrel pattern with a loose cinch.

    They are the only saddles I will buy.

  11. Terry, you must have been in the wrong saddle! :)

    Yay! Thanks, Dave! I was hoping to find someone out there who loves the Crates saddles. It gives me hope that they fit your horses so well.

    I need to try and find a dealer around here so I can look at them in person. I won't give up on Crates quite yet... I see that reining saddle every night in my dreams!!

    I'm slightly hopeful that I don't really have saddle fit issues with Lilly... she has seemed so much more comfortable since her shoes came off, and maybe the pain in her hooves is what was causing all my issues. Knock on wood, I haven't had anymore issues with my hunt seat saddle either.

    And to think maybe I spent all this money for nothing...

  12. Oh, and Milo, I'm definitely looking into the About the Horse saddles. I have them on my list from when you bought yours... they look like really nice saddles! I was reading over the information they require to build your saddle, and WOW! It truly is a custom saddle. :)

  13. What is ideal, if you can, is to take the horse to the tack shop. If they know their business, they should be able to help you find the right saddle. I hauled Smokey with me when I bought my current saddle 5 years ago. I have never regretted that decision.

    Not only does the Crates fit him well, but it fits my bony keister as well. I've ridden for 8 to 10 hours on the trail, with nary a saddle sore.

  14. Dave, that's what I did for my hunt seat saddle, but unfortunately I'm not in a big western area... it looks like the closest Crates dealer is about an hour and a half from me, but once I get serious about buying a saddle, I'll most likely make that trip.

    I really want to like the Crates. :)

  15. My last Crates was made on the Equi Fit Tree...of any tree out there STAY AWAY FROM THEM!!!!! They "bend" across the center of the tree. When you looked at the seat of my old saddle there was a crease directly across the center of the seat because it was "equi fit". Who in their right mind would think that a saddle should have give perpendicualarly across the horse's back?? Terrible tree. Lots of people around here use Crates saddles and like them, but honestly, every SINGLE one I have seen DOES NOT FIT THE HORSE. It might look like it clears the shoulders, but it doesnt. It doesnt allow for any upward shoulder movement, and it sits IN the back, not on the back allowing for a lifted back. Honestly, stay away from them. I have had FAR too many saddle woes, I wish I had saved myself the agony and gone with a Daves long ago.

  16. Thats not to say that you have to get a Daves, but just know what EXACTLY you are getting into when you buy an industry saddle. Check out this link:

  17. First Crates: FULL QH bars, you can tell it still doesnt fit (sits IN the back):
    Second Crates, same problem:
    Third Crates with the equi fit, you can see how it too sits in the back and the saddle cinches down at the shoulder, not allowing Milo to come up AT ALL. And btw, some of our saddle fit issues that he has learned, ARE STILL EFFECTING US.

    See how the Dave's saddle actually allows the shoulders to come up and be free?
    its cause of the rigging:
    (and tree, but the rigging really gives a "close feel" around Milo's back).

    I would recommend if you dont want an ABH saddle, to try the Bob Avila Cowhorse Equipment saddles. THey are built well, dont have the same unique tree that Dave's are, but they are slightly more "flared" trees then the industry (crates) trees. Heres a Cowhorse Equip saddle on Milo. Nice saddles, but the rigging is still standard and although it fit better then the Crates, you can see it still doesnt allow total shoulder freedom:

    Ok, Im done, for now. :)

  18. Thanks for all that information, Milo! Yesterday I had gone back and read over a bunch of your posts regarding your Crates saddles and how much fun you were having with them. I did notice you're using a much different pad with your new saddle than with your old saddles. Dave's website mentioned that with his saddles you should only have to use a thin navajo pad because of the custom fit of the saddle. Are you using that thick Cashel pad because of the issues you're still having?

    I've also been researching trees like crazy and agree with you that the trees with more "flare" would be best for a horse with withers like Lilly. I've been researching the different types of rigging as well... the AAH saddle definitely has a nice rigging. Looks like it spreads out the contact better than a rigging that just cinches down on the shoulders.

    The hard part is that even though a saddle looks like it fits, the horse often tells us otherwise, but usually not until after we make the purchase! So much to research!

  19. Dave does recommend those pads, but we all (Dave, Sarah, and myself) decided that the reverse wedge cashel pad works best for Milo and with Sarah being the saddle fitter and Dave being the saddle maker they decided that Milo being downhill needed the wedge to level the saddle (its thicker in the front then the back). WE tried the navajo pad when I first got it and although the saddle still fit well, it sat downhill on him, which is not the idea behind a saddle. Im not having any issues with the fit now, in fact, you might have read somewhere, we got the #2 bar because although Milo is more a 1 1/2, which Dave doesnt make, the #2 has room for Milo to grow into it as his back develops, so I should never run into a problem with it not being wide enough.

    If you are interested, I can get Sarah to work with you on more details of the Daves saddles (she highly recommends them and all of her horses ride in them). She has bare trees at her house too Im sure she could send you information and photos on (she has been to Dave's in Minnesota and built her own saddle) and help you out more with the fitting process if you decide to go down that road.

  20. Saddle woes sure make for interesting discussion.

    So my question is...Where exactly are you running into saddle fit issues with Lilly? Is she really that wide over the back or is she just wide through the shoulder?

    What I ran into with Moon is...He is not that big of a horse. The QH BAR fits him across the back just fine. I have many horses that are much wider over the back than Moon, so I generally prefer the FQH BAR.

    The difference is how angled the bars are where they lay over the horse's back.

    However, the wider BARS were not fixing the tight-over-the-shoulder-issue I have with Moon. That is because almost exclusively most saddles are built with a 7 (QH bar) to 7 1/4" (FQH bar) wide gullet.

    The way Moon's shoulders lay out, he needs at least a 7 3/4" wide gullet, but an 8" is perfect.

    The only way to get a gullet that is wide enough is for that part of the tree to flare out and that really has nothing to do with with whether the tree is QH or FQH.

    The other part of the equation with Moon is...because his shoulders do not lay in nice and smooth to his wither, there is a significant dip just behind his shoulder blade. The fact that he actually has a nice wither accentuates that depression.

    That is where the built-up pads come into play. That depression needs a bit of a build up to support the tree and keep the saddle from wanting to slip back. It also helps to keep the saddle from pressing down on the shoulder blades.

    As you know, the Sharon Camarillo built-up pad was a failure. The built-up part was way too big. Ed Wright's pad has a tiny little built-up area that curved behind the shoulder blade-which gives specific support to the exact area that needed it.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it may not entirely be all about the width of the tree. The bars may lay perfectly on Lilly's back and the gullet may still not be wide enough. If you can get a wide enough gullet and it still doesn't seem to fit right, it may simply be that her back isn't made so that the tree lays over the whole length. That can be fixed with the right kind of supportive pad.

    And I do believe you may be on to something about there being a difference since her feet have come around. It's flat out amazing how many 'issues' disappear when a horse's feet are fixed. Time and saddle trials will tell.

  21. It's a bummer that even when you get a custom saddle, it still runs the risk of not fitting exactly. I guess the right kind of pad can make it fit just perfect, though. And thanks again, Milo for so much information... I will definitely be in touch once I'm ready to get serious about getting a western saddle.

    Cowgirl, I think the issue I have with Lilly is that she has pretty beefy shoulders. She doesn't really have a pronounced wither, and I don't think she has a particularly flat or wide back either. When I was stressing about all her saddle issues, I assumed it was because she was being pinched in her shoulders, even though the saddle fitter said all of her saddles seemed to fit her just fine.

    Since the changes in her attitude since her shoes came off, I wonder if it was really an issue with her shoulders at all, or if she was just foot sore, and it showed up as "saddle fit" issues, or even that she had sore shoulders and a sore back trying to compensate for her hooves. Without any of those so-called problem saddles to test out my theory, I won't really know for sure.

    Because I had such a variety of saddles, with different trees and gullet widths and styles, and she had an issue with all of them, I have to wonder if it was just more of a pain issue.

    I see what you're saying about the bars, though. I think her back would be easy to fit, but her shoulders are probably another story. I need to do another post on this with some pictures. I ordered one of those bendy rulers so I can get a better idea of what her shoulders really look like and what size gullet they tell me she needs.