by Marlissa Campbell, Contributing Writer
The Wintec Pro Dressage saddle with Contourbloc is one of several models of dressage saddles made by Wintec. The Pro Dressage saddle with Contourbloc features a large knee block incorporated as part of the flap. This can be contrasted to the flexibloc system, which consists of changeable blocks that fasten with Velcro underneath the flap. The Pro Dressage can be purchased with standard flocked panels, or with Wintec's unique air-filled CAIR system.
All Wintec saddles are made of synthetic materials, rather than traditional leather. The use of synthetics means lower prices compared to leather saddles of comparable quality. Synthetics are also easy to care for, meaning more time in the saddle and less time cleaning tack. Wintec uses a changeable gullet system for all of their saddles, which helps to fit a wider range of horses than is possible with a single gullet size alone.
I was able to try the Wintec Pro Dressage saddle with Contourbloc, thanks to SmartPak equine's test ride program. I had been riding in a Wintec 2000 All Purpose saddle, which fits my horse well. I was interested in a dressage saddle in order to ride comfortably with a longer stirrup, while feeling secure both in the arena and out on the trail. This review is written from the standpoint of a general pleasure rider, rather than someone actively competing in dressage.
- The saddle was generally comfortable for me to ride in. I really liked the Contourbloc, which helped me feel secure in a good riding position without any sense of being restricted.
- Like other top-of-the-range Wintec saddles, the Pro Dressage with Contourbloc is a lightweight and attractive saddle. The Equisuede seat looks nice and has a bit of grip, which adds to the sense of security while riding in the saddle.
- The adjustable rigging has a Y-shaped rear billet, which helps balance the back of the saddle.
- The saddle required a 26 inch dressage girth. At least on my horse, this placed the buckles right behind her elbows. I'm not sure that it really got in her way, but it seemed an awkward placement to me.
- The Pro Dressage with Contourbloc has a surcingle, or overgirth, attached to the flaps of the saddle. It appears to be designed to hold the flaps down by fastening around the barrel of the horse over the girth -- unlike leather flaps, the synthetic material won't break in to the shape of the horse. The surcingle prevents adjusting the girth while seated in the saddle.
- Unfortunately, the Pro Dressage saddle simply turned out to be a poor fit for my horse. It wasn't an obvious bad fit. It didn't rock, it did not appear to bridge, and it did seem to sit level on her back. It was a little low at the withers, leaving about two fingers width clearance rather than the three to four generally considered ideal. At the same time, it was clear a narrower gullet plate would have pinched. In the end, she just did not seem happy to be ridden in it. She was reluctant to go forward, and did not want to bend around my leg.
What to know before you try:
Remember that when you are buying or trying an English saddle, you will receive just the saddle itself. You will need to have, or arrange to borrow, stirrup leathers, stirrup irons, an appropriate saddle pad, and a selection of girths in different lengths. You should have all these items to hand before you place your saddle order.
For a Wintec saddle, or other brands using the Wintec changeable gullet system, you will need to be sure that you have a gullet the correct size for your horse. This is a critical step, as without the correct gullet installed, you will not be able to assess the fit of the saddle. Wintec saddles are typically shipped with the medium width (black) gullet plate installed.
If you're not sure which size gullet your horse requires, Wintec sells an inexpensive gullet gauge that will allow you to measure the width of your horse at the withers. Once you know the correct size gullet, you can buy one inexpensively. Ask around your barn and friends. If you're lucky, someone will have a gullet gauge you can borrow, and perhaps even the entire kit of gullets in different widths.
The combination of changeable gullets and the CAIR panel system gives Wintec saddles the ability to fit a wider range of horses than many other brands. That doesn't mean, however, that they will fit all horses. Additionally, don't assume that because one model of Wintec saddle fits your horse all of them will. Even the different models of dressage saddles made by Wintec are not identical in fit. You need to try each saddle, with the proper gullet plate inserted, in order to be sure of a good fit.
Overall, I found the Wintec Pro Dressage saddle with Contourbloc to be an attractive saddle that was comfortable to ride in. I was disappointed that it didn't fit my horse. Give it a try if you think it might work for your needs. Just don't forget to listen to your horse.
Marlissa blogs about books (including horse books!) and the reading life at "You Are What You Read." She is also a Pinterest addict and can be found at her page of the same name.
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