I have been riding in a Wintec Dressage Pro saddle for the past eight years. I haven’t had too many complaints for it until I moved to my new trainer’s yard. There I started riding in earnest six days a week. The results have been I have lost a great deal of weight and now the saddle is very uncomfortable for me and also gives me some saddle sores from the suede seat and hard surface. As a reward to myself for losing over 70 pounds and committing to better riding, I bought myself a new Albion SLK dressage saddle on recommendation of my saddler.
The Albion website describes this saddle as “A deep seated saddle designed and developed with Klaus Balkenhol German Olympian and team trainer. Constructed on a traditional wooden spring tree with traditional full grain flap leather and best Italian calfskins for seat and pads with non moulded flaps.” I was torn between this saddle and the new Albion K2 Genesis for a while but the comparison chart on the TDS Saddlery website sold the SLK to me instantly! They described the SLK as “‘This saddle fits the horse extremely well, the seat and panel give a very close contact and puts the rider into the correct position and balance’ – Klaus Balkenhol – Five times German National Champion.” And “Unique profile saddle tree to improve the comfort by maximising surface area of load-bearing on the horses back spreading pressure uniformly. Extremely stable saddle offering maximum freedom through all paces.”
I was hooked on this saddle after trying my trainer’s 8 year old SLK. It automatically put me in the perfect position for dressage with my leg back due to the large thigh blocks and the deep seat. As a result, I was better able to control the horse and my own body with lighter aids. The other thing that happened was that my horse moved freer than before because of the cut of the flap. Her shoulder was less restricted and therefore she could move out more.
I bought my SLK new from Ingatestone Saddlery Center in Margaretting, Essex, UK. The have great customer service and they had the exact saddle I needed in stock. My horse is a draft cross and she needed a wide tree and I needed a size 18 seat. I also chose the narrow twist. The cut back pommel on this saddle also helps with the fit. My old Wintec must have really been restricting my horse because from the very first ride she moved much freer and more forwards. Some of the problems we had been experiencing for years disappeared. Her circles were much easier for her to complete and she could lift up in the canter much easier in the front. I could actually ride easier and instantly with just a little effort with my seat I had the ability to collect and extend her walk and trot which I couldn’t so easily do in the Wintec.
The SLK did not take much to “bed in”, only a few rides, and was comfortable for me and the horse right from the start. The first ride I had in it was the best ride I’d had in my entire life. My horse usually bites and pins her ears when you put the girth on but with the longer billet straps, she didn’t even notice I put it on. The saddle was also so much more comfortable for her that she didn’t even notice she still had it on after the ride was finished!
I am extremely happy with this saddle and its luxurious feel and beautiful leather and classical style. I am looking forward to riding in it for years to come! Best purchase I ever made (next to my horse!). Be sure to speak with a saddler with a good reputation (ask around!) before you purchase a saddle. Ask them which one they recommend for your horse and why. They know what they are doing and can help you out.