Wintec Pro dressage saddle – Product Review
Before you buy a saddle there are a couple of areas you need to be familiar with to make the best decision about what saddle is right for you and your horse.
What type of saddle do you need
In this article we are going to feature the Wintec Pro dressage saddle range. I have chosen this product because a) I have one and b) it is a popular mid-range saddle.
But the type of riding you will be doing will dictate to a degree what sort of saddle you will need. Let’s break down a few types of riding and the saddle you might need:
- Trail Riding – if you are going to be spending many hours in the saddle touring the country side on your horse, you might like to investigate an endurance saddle (and a lambswool saddle saver, so comfortable). These are built for comfort and you can choose between a straight out endurance, a stock saddle type or a swinging fender style. Most of these that are sold as endurance saddles tend to put your legs and feet a little out the front for comfort.
- Dressage – you will want a saddle that is cut back a little more off the shoulder of the horse to allow for free movement and also one that puts you in the correct seat with your should, hip, heel aligned.
Dressage saddles have a variety of features, some have large knee rolls/blocks to help keep you in position, some have a deep seat and quite a high cantel to position you correctly. These features are all personal preference.
- Working cattle – you will want a stock saddle or a swinging fender. I have an Ammo saddle and love it for trail riding and working cattle. I have spent many years trying to develop an independent seat and correct riding position, the last thing I want to do now is sit in a stock saddle compromising my position by putting my legs out the front.
Stock saddles either with or without a horn definitely have their place and if you are serious about playing with cattle and roping etc. you will want to consider a western saddle with or without a horn.
- All purpose – if you want to buy just one saddle but you will be riding in all sorts of disciplines you can’t go past the All Purpose saddle. This is a bit of a “jack of all trades and master of none” saddle. In that you can do dressage, jumping, trail riding etc. but it is a bit of a compromise on the features of each individual saddle so you have a saddle that’s not brilliant at any one thing but you can comfortably use it for everything.
Once you know what type of saddle you wish to buy the most crucial aspect to get right is the correct fit for your horse. A badly fitting saddle may create undesirable behaviour in your horse from mild pig rooting to a full on bucking bronco show, or worse can do temporary or permanent damage to your horses back.
There are professional saddle fitters around and some stores will also offer a saddle fitting service. If you can take advantage of these it is really wise to do so. They will come out with a variety of saddles for you to try, and can also check the fit of your current saddle and often modify it so that it fits your horse properly.
Just a word of advice if you are trying on saddles, ride in them. Don’t just put it on your horses back and say yep that looks right. Once you tighten up the girth and actually put your weight in the saddle it will sit differently and what did look correct becomes a problem.
There are a couple of online businesses that also offer a try before you buy option, but you do have to pay to ship and this can add up quickly if you go through three or four saddles.
The other side of saddle fitting is you. Without putting too fine a point on it you need a saddle that fits your backside. Dressage saddles are measured in inches, as an example mine is an 18″.
You can easily measure yourself to ensure you purchase the correct saddle size for you.
Simply sit in a chair with your bottom touching the back of the chair and your feet flat on the floor so that your thigh is level and your knees are bend 45 degrees.
Measure from the end of your knee to the back side of your bottom along your thighbone. Take the measurement in inches. You might need someone to give you a hand, and remember to double check your measurement, and triple check if you feel uncertain.
Once you have your measurement you can fairly accurately decide what size saddle you need, see table below.
- Less than 16.5″ you need a 15″ saddle
- Between 16.5″ – 18.5″ you need a 16″ saddle
- Between 18.5″ – 20″ you need a 17″ saddle
- Between 20″ – 21.5″ you need a 17.5″ saddle
- Between 21.5″ – 23″ you need an 18″ saddle
- More than 23″ you need a 19″ saddle
If you feel like you are on the edge of a saddle size it is better to go up rather than down. If your saddle is too small you will end up sitting with your weight on the back of the saddle (the cantle) and this will make you feel like you are sitting above the saddle rather than down in it and can place unnecessary pressure on your horses back.
Flocked or CAIR?
Most of the Wintec saddles including their stock, endurance, all purpose etc. come with the panel options of either CAIR or flocked.
Flocked is the traditional way saddles are made. The panels underneath your saddle that contact the horses back are filled with material, usually wool. Wool flocking will conform to the contours of your horses back, flocking can be adjusted and/or repacked to allow for a better fit to your horse, particularly as the horses shape changes with work and age.
Flocking can also be adjusted to better balance the seat for you the rider, and it can change the way your saddle sits on the horse. Your saddle may be tilted to far forward or back which can place undue pressure on either your seat or pubic bones or the saddle may tilt off to the side unbalancing you (and your horse).
The CAIR®Cushion System trademarked to Bates and Wintec saddles replaces the traditional flocked fillings with air. Whilst flocked fillings can become uneven and potentially lumpy the company say the two air filled cushions within each saddle provide the ultimate in cushioning against the horses back.
The theory is that the air is fluid and therefore adapts and contours to the horses back automatically (no need to have your saddle re-flocked). It distributes your weight evenly across the length of the Air Cushions, eliminating potential pressure point and provides additional comfort to your horse.
Features & Benefits
If you have decided at this point that a dressage saddle is for you, please read on for our review of the Wintec Pro dressage saddle range.
The Wintec Pro Dressage comes in quite a few versions and price ranges. I have the Wintec Pro 250, which is the economy version of the range and quite sufficient for those starting off. If you can stretch to a little more I have ridden in and highly recommend the Contourbloc. We will run through the various options and benefits of the entire range so you can make an informed decision.
All saddles are synthetic, so no leather care required. You can simply wipe them off with warm soapy water and they look as good as new. While they don’t scratch easily if you do put a scratch in your saddle you are going to see it, it will appear as a white/pale colour and stands out terribly against the black. I have used a black texta to fill in a few minor scratches on mine and it looks as good as new.
As with all the Wintec range you can choose flocked or CAIR.
The girth straps are sufficiently long as you would expect in a dressage saddle. Mine have held up really well, with no cracking or holes starting to tear as you do get with the cheaper synthetic saddles.
They all have the Easy Change gullet system and I can attest it is indeed easy to change. It is as simple as peeling back the synthetic material, unscrewing a couple of bolts, replacing the gullet with your new size and screwing the bolts back in.
I have changed the gullet in mine twice as my horses shape changed and once to fit it to another horse entirely.
All saddles in this range also have the adjustable Y girthing system. The shape of the girth attachments (see image) allow you to tighten each girth strap differently depending on the shape of your horse.
The pressure on the girth straps needs to be even, so just be careful not to over tighten the back strap as this can impact on how the saddle fits and cause back issues for your horse. More often than not this means that if your horse is broader behind the second girth strap may be one hole down.
Wintec Pro 250 – as I said this is the economy end of the price range in the Wintec Pro dressage saddle range.
The saddle has knee blocks under the flap, held on by velcro, these can be adjusted or removed completely. They do stay in place really well and I liked being able to adjust them, test them out with a ride and then adjust again. I found as I broke the saddle in and it contoured to my seat I removed the knee blocks all together.
It has quite an open seat, not particularly deep for ease/freedom of movement.
The saddle doesn’t have the suede knee panels of the higher end options and is straight synthetic. It looks quite classical and the synthetic doesn’t make the saddle look cheap.
In the US the best price I could find was $545 for this saddle and no difference in price if you choose flocked or CAIR options.
In Australia, you are looking around $725 flocked, and another $100 more for CAIR so might be worth checking the shipping rates from overseas if you are going for the CAIR option.
Wintec Pro 500 – this is the mid-range option in the Wintec Pro dressage saddle range.
You are basically paying a little more for the Equi-Suede knee insert and a slightly raised knee contour. This does look good and they say provides additional grip and security.
The seat on this saddle is a little deeper than the Pro 250, enough to notice when you are riding, so if you like a little more around you this is a good choice.
In the US you can expect to pay $695 for this saddle and no difference in price if you choose flocked or CAIR options. State Line Tack offer free shipping in the US and have a further 10% off at the moment so it’s down to $625.
In Australia, you are looking around $825 flocked, and about $100 more for CAIR.
Wintec Pro Dressage with Contourbloc – this is the top of the range model in this series.
The seat and the knee inserts have the Equi-Suede and look absolutely fantastic in the flesh.
The big difference is obviously the Contourblocs. These are part of the flap and can not be removed. I have ridden in one of these saddles and if you can afford that little more it is worth it.
The Contourblocs for me were perfectly placed and definitely assisted to keep me in the correct dressage position.
The ultra narrow waist on this saddle also assists in increasing the comfort and you feel somehow more connected to your horse.
I didn’t really notice the deep seat causing any issues with my movement and with the blocks you definitely felt secure in the saddle. I expect some people could find this constricting but it didn’t bother me.
In the US you can expect to pay $1,095 for this saddle. Again check out State Line Tack as this is also offered with free shipping in the US and a further 10% off so it’s down to $985.
In Australia, you are looking around $1,745 flocked, and yep you guessed it, $100 more for CAIR.
What does the company say?
The Wintec Pro Dressage achieves unprecedented comfort, supporting a correct and secure dressage position, featuring an ultra narrow waist enabling greater communication and contact when schooling your dressage horse.
CAIR and ECFS Wintec Saddles featuring world leading performance systems, CAIR® Cushion System and EASY-CHANGE® Fit Solution, offer the ultimate in ease of fitting and performance for your horse.
These revolutionary systems work together to provide a custom fit and fluid cushioning to hug your horse’s individual confirmation for even weight distribution over the entire length of the panel.
My final verdict
There is one more version, the absolute top of the range Wintec “Isabelle” developed with Dressage Champion and Olympic gold medalist Isabelle Worth. I have not provided a review of this saddle as I haven’t had the pleasure of riding in it, and apart from the adjustable stirrup bar it seems not much different but at a higher price again.
In summary, I do like the Wintec Dressage Pro range. They are well put together saddles and good quality for the price. I enjoy riding in my Wintec Pro 250 although it has taken 12 months to break it in properly, to soften the seat and have it start to mould to my shape. This is simply the reality of buying a synthetic saddle, they don’t wear in as quickly or easily as a leather one.
I do like the synthetic material though, it is easy to keep clean and you don’t need to worry if you get caught in the rain. I have attended hack shows in this saddle and not been penalised for it, although I expect if you are competing at a high-level hack show you might. For dressage competition, you should not be penalised for a synthetic saddle.
I have had mine for 2 years now and it is lasting well, I do keep it in a saddle cover when not in use. Although it isn’t the saddle I use for daily training at the moment, all reports are that the saddles last many years even with daily use.
Once I need a new dressage saddle I will be upgrading to the Contourbloc, but unfortunately here in Australia they are on the expensive side for synthetic saddles at the moment.
As a starter dressage saddle I don’t think you can go wrong with the Wintec Pro 250, and if you can afford the Pro 500 or the Contourbloc I would go with either of those.
For my US friends I highly recommend you check out State Line Tack as they seem to have the best value and often have specials on their saddles.
For us Aussies, well it’s just a matter of search and see who has the best specials when you are ready to buy.
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