What’s Up With That?: Crotchless saddles

Marisa Goode was kind enough to test drive the Wise Equestrian Phillip Dutton monoflap XC saddle, which features some “innovative” design strategies.

From Marisa:
Saddle fitter Kate Wooten-Diamond, on her last trip to Nashville, had planned a trip to come fit both of my horse M’s saddles to her, since I wasn’t quite sure where I needed to go saddle-wise. Granted, being a single mom of two and working a fairly low-paid job, NICE saddles are usually quite out of my reach, hence the reason why both of my saddles are quite a bit older than me!

After getting quite a giggle out of my old, falling-apart County (which is now my old NOT falling-apart County!), and tweaking my jumping saddle to work for a bit longer while we build up a “nice saddle budget,” Kate pulled out the Wise Equestrian Phillip Dutton monoflap XC Saddle. Upon first glance (and realizing that the saddle is easily worth more than Vera, my truck), the first thing I noticed was “WOW. This thing looks WEIRD”. With a split down the seat, ostensibly for air flow, cutouts for air on both flaps, and LOVELY grippy leather, I was intrigued. Kate inquired as to when the next time I was planning on jumping, and as I’d planned a cross country school the next day, Kate decided I should take along the Dutton and give it a try!

Overall had a GREAT school, and definitely enjoyed riding in the saddle! I was initially concerned that the gap down the seat would pose an issue, but even from the minute I got into the saddle I never noticed it. I did ride in full seats, but being the first time I’d ridden in a monoflap, I was amazed at how close I felt to M, and how great it felt! Amazing leather, great balance, VERY easy to move around in, but also very secure at the same time. I LOVED the thigh blocks and positioning, as they were there when you needed them, but don’t lock you in or make it hard to really use your leg either.

My ONLY problem with the saddle (minus the fact that I had to give it back!) is that the seat size runs VERY small (I normally ride in a 17″, and the 17.5″ flat seat was QUITE small), and that for my LONG legs (33″ inseam) on a MAYBE 14hh pony, I needed the extra forward flap, and Kate’s model had the regular flap. We jumped a little bit of everything, starting out in the arena, then headed out to the XC fields. Did some drops, ditches, tables, etc. and felt GREAT!

I can also say that when I untacked her, she was definitely cooler through the back than in my normal saddle configuration, and I was definitely cooler in the “Inverness” area as well! So anecdotal or not, that saddle gets some good air through it! Was also impressed with the construction overall as well, not only gorgeous but very well made and tight. Definitely going to be on my list to look at when my “nice saddle” budget expands quite a bit more!

MORE INFO: To learn more about this saddle (which is also available in a show-jumping model), visit the Wise Equestrian website. The XC model ranges in price from $2,100 to $3,850 depending on options including type of leather. Every model comes standard with an exchangeable gullet system. A Rotate-to-Fit gullet system is a custom order option, where the gullet can be adjusted while the saddle is on the horse through an allen wrench key hold on top of the pommel.

Photography by Oleg Volk.

Marissa is the author of blog The Adventures of the $700 Pony.

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