It’s not often we have all purpose or jumping saddles come in on consignment at work; we’re primarily known as a dressage tack shop. Our big trailer travels to dressage shows exclusively, and we sponsor lots of dressage shows both locally and nationally. It’s easy to understand why most saddles consigned here are dressage saddles.
Test Ride: Barnsby Omega All Purpose
We have a small selection of used all purpose/jumping saddles. They’re almost all 16″-17″saddles that kids have outgrown or discarded. You can imagine my excitement when I unearthed a 17.5″ Barnsby Omega all purpose. Here’s something I can conceivably squeeze my ass into, I thought to myself.
This Barnsby has obviously been well-used, but it’s in good condition. The leather is supple, but not exceptionally soft. The reddish color is ugly, and there appears to be some staining from boot polish on the flap. However, the stitching is tight everywhere and the flocking felt nice and firm. This is a saddle that’s held up well to lots and lots of use.
The tree on this saddle looked a little too wide for Gina, so I opted to try it on Semper Fi, the cute replacement bay I rode while Gina was mysteriously lame for a couple of days. He’s a QH/Hanoverian cross with a medium-wide build and very average withers. They’re neither high nor low. The Barnsby fit him pretty well- no additional shimming or padding needed.
My initial test ride didn’t go that well- Semper Fi spent the whole ride pitching a fit, so I couldn’t get a great feel for the saddle. I held onto it and stuck it on Gina a couple weeks later. As I suspected, it was a little wide for her, but it wasn’t anything a borrowed half pad couldn’t fix.
I really liked this saddle on the flat. The knee rolls weren’t obtrusive and I felt like my leg stayed in place. The seat made me feel secure without confining me too much; it was easy to go into 2-point and stay there. I didn’t notice any changes in Gina’s behavior or way of going.
There were some small crossrails set up in the arena; I put Gina to them and chaos ensued. The stability I’d felt on the flat disappeared, leaving me with a wildly swinging lower leg. It didn’t matter if I jumped from the trot or canter, or if I changed my stirrup length: I pinched with my knee at every jump, my lower leg swung back, and I had a lot of difficulty sitting up quickly after the jump.
Gina got increasingly agitated with my terrible riding, so I pulled her up after a handful of relatively quiet jumps.
I can’t put my finger on what it was that made the Barnsby Omega such a poor fit for me over fences. It could be as simple as this saddle being vastly different from my normal jumping saddle (a very forward flap Ainsley XC Pro National). But it reminded me of a quote from Jim Wofford’s Training The Three Day Event Horse And Rider: “That’s why some saddles marketed as “all-purpose” are actually “no-purpose.”