The County Stabilizer XTR:
Followed closely by the County Innovation:
Thursday, Alex and I met with the County Rep/Fitter. I knew it would be an "interesting" fitting purely because it would be the first time Alex was changed into and out of tack multiple times over the course of an hour or more and because the rain had driven us into the indoor. The rep noticed that Alex showed some soreness in the loin area of his back (where the seat of the saddle would hit).
She looked at both my PJ and Stubben. The PJ was immediately identified as too narrow, causing several pressure points and possibly the cause of at least part of his current issues. The Stubben was better as far as width, but didn't provide a lot of wither clearance, became too narrow towards the back of the tree (bridging) and had flocking like a rock (it's 46 years old after all). I did initially ride him in the Stubben so we'd have something to compare the with the other saddles.
I first rode in the County Sensation, which was quite cushy and definitely put me in specific position. Alex spent a little time messing around and being an idiot, before finally settling down and showing me that he did appreciate the change in saddle. The second saddle we tried was the County XTR, which I admit, felt very familiar since I have never had a saddle with a lot of bells and whistles. Alex was even better with this saddle, tracking up well at the trot and giving me more push from behind. Next we moved on to the County Conquest, which is a more eventer/XC type saddle. I have to say I didn't like that saddle at all, the knee blocks/rolls made it hard to post and I felt like I was sitting in a chair :-) Our fourth saddle trial was the County Innovation, which ended up being my second favorite saddle and one I would definitely consider if I could find it in my price range. It has a few more features than the Stabilizer XTR, but not so much that I felt constricted. Alex seemed to like the Innovation too, although he didn't seem quite as forward, but I think he was getting tired of the whole process :-) I did attempt a canter depart in the Innovation, both directions, and was greeted with bucks. He eventually settled, which makes me think it was more about anticipation/anxiety than extreme pain.
So here is what Alex needs:
County Stabilizer XTR - 17.5 Medium Tree w/Skid Row Panels
County Innovation - 17.5 Medium Narrow Tree
Overall, I learned a lot and I am really happy I had the appointment, but now I have to weigh my options. County saddles hold their value well and people tend to hold on to them, so that makes the used market slim. In addition, there's a lot of unknowns attached to getting a used saddle, you never know what's been done to the tree, it's a leap of faith. Of course I'd love to have a new/custom saddle, but I just not sure it's in my budget :-/
Today Alex had his feet done, so no work for him. Back to work tomorrow :-)