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Beth O'Malley

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Product Review: BUA Saddle from Badlands Equine

Photo by Beth O'Malley. Photo by Beth O'Malley.

A late winter snowstorm delayed the delivery of a saddle I had been wanting to try out for six months. It seemed impossible to wait one more day for the BUA saddle to finally arrive.

I stumbled upon the BUA saddle website last summer while I was on the hunt for a saddle to fit my OTTB. I’d had four different saddle fitters out up to that point and all of them had given me different suggestions as to what would work for his back. Needless to say I was feeling more than a little frustrated. Finally fed up with options for a more traditional saddle, I secured a demo on the BUA saddle from Badlands Equine.

The BUA is a fully modular saddle with a lightweight, flexible, cantilevered tree. More information on the specs of the saddle can be found at the BUA website. I should make a point to say that I am receiving no remuneration from BUA for this review, and have ordered my own saddle at full cost.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

The first thing I noticed when I took the saddle out of the box was the soft leather of the seat and flaps. I proceeded to take the entire saddle apart to explore the tree and the constituent pieces. Some notes on the structure of the saddle:

PROS:

  • All of the materials seem to be very high quality.
  • The girth straps attached to the tree are what I would call “self-equalizing,” in that both billets are attached to the same webbing piece. Hopefully this picture will help explain:

Photo by Beth O’Malley.

  • There are two stirrup placement options to accommodate different leg positions for either dressage or jumping.
  • The saddle is rather easy to assemble and disassemble.
  • Lightweight — the BUA saddle weighs in at 9lbs (4.1kg), making it one of the lightest saddles available.

CONS:

  • Each flap is attached to the tree with a zipper that has no mechanism to keep it from slowly unzipping over time, and this is a little disconcerting to me.

    Photo by Beth O’Malley.

  • On the demo I received the ratcheting mechanism to adjust the suspension seemed to be broken. I could open the suspension fully, but was only able to close the suspension about halfway. Being an eternal optimist I am willing to blame the broken mechanism on the demo saddle being shipped around to many places.
  • Unusual appearance — probably not well suited to the hunter ring.

ON THE HORSE:

I work, ride and board at a barn with 35 horses, both lesson horses and boarders. This provided me a great opportunity to try the saddle on many different horses.

I was at first very skeptical of the company’s claim that the saddle fits a variety of horses, but it’s impressively true. Because of the flexibility of the tree, the BUA was a nice fit for 10 horses that were ridden in it at our barn. This included quarter horses, Thoroughbreds (high, long withers), a TB/Holsteiner cross, an Appendix Quarter Horse and a Holsteiner. The saddle did not work for the German Sport pony that we tried it on, as it slid forward over his shoulders.

Added fit options come in the form of different panels. Panels can be ordered flat, or with front or rear risers.

Screenshots from video taken by Michael Zupancic.

COMFORT:

Easily one of the most comfortable saddles I have ever sat in — and having been on the saddle hunt for nearly a year, I’ve sat in a lot of saddles!

The seat is like a couch. The BUA has two twist options, both narrow and standard. The narrow twist on this demo felt plenty wide. The standard twist on this saddle might be wider than what most riders are accustomed to.

PERFORMANCE:

I was originally worried about feeling too far away from my horse’s back due to the suspension in the seat, but I can honestly say this was not an issue. As soon as your body weight is in the seat it sits right down on the horse’s back and you have excellent feel and ability to use your seat aids. The monoflap design allows a close feel to the horse as well.

STYLE:

The saddle can be ordered in a variety of leather colors and panel colors, from basic brown or black to custom colors such as bright red. The leather can be ordered as either traditional smooth leather or custom quilted leather. Other customization options include number and placement of D rings on the flaps or on the tree.

VERDICT:

Overall I am very pleased with the design and performance of the saddle (obviously, as I ordered my own). The saddle is available in the United States for demo or purchase through Badlands Equine or can be ordered directly from the BUA website.