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Saddle Review: Bates Pony Dressage

Trying to fit a broad shouldered pony with a saddle later to be used on another pony altogether wasn’t quite such a problem as you might have expected.

Samantha Schilling doesn’t ride, but her 11-year-old daughter Natasha most certainly does! In fact Natasha, who’s been riding for four years, loves eventing (even though many of the girls she rides with at Pony Club prefer dressage), particularly the cross country phase.

Changing Ponies and Changing Disciplines

But first, a little bit of back story. Not long before COVID-19 changed our collective landscape, Natasha rode in her very first Grade 5 competition at the Mildura-Alcheringa Pony Club horse trials on her 12hh pony. However, what had become obvious was that she’d outgrown that pony, so the Schilling family leased a mare called Stephie, lovingly known as the Princess.

Of course, Natasha’s saddle, which had been perfect for her 12hh pony was never going to be a good fit for 14hh Stephie, particularly as she has big shoulders, an added difficulty when it comes to saddle fitting.

Previously Natasha had been riding in an all-purpose saddle but we specifically wanted a dressage saddle for all her flatwork so it didn’t sit forward on Stephie’s shoulders. And knowing that we were looking for another pony going forward, I also wanted something with a changeable gullet, Samantha explains. We tried a couple of saddles that we’d borrowed from riders at Pony Club and we were having all sorts of trouble with fit. Then a couple of people suggested that a Bates Pony Dressage would probably do the trick, so I started looking for that saddle specifically.

A Little Advice from the Family

Enter Samantha’s sister Kylie, a keen eventing and dressage rider – which might go some way to explaining Natasha’s own love of horses and eventing! Kylie lives next door to us, so she and Natasha go trail riding together. My sister has always loved horses, but her children aren’t interested. I’ve never ridden and my daughter loves it. It works, laughs Samantha, although I think that by now Kylie owes me quite a lot of money!

How to Find the Perfect Fitting Saddle

Kylie had previously bought saddles from online and suggested hopping online to see if a Bates was available. It was!

After discussing measurements, Samantha ordered the saddle, and when it arrived, was delighted to find that it was perfect.

We had to change the gullet – it came with a medium size black gullet and we needed to replace it with the wider red one – but yes, it actually fitted really well right from the start, she says. I am so happy with both the saddle and with the price. And Natasha rides beautifully in it. It sits her up nicely. Now she can’t wait to start competing again.

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