BY MCKAYLA HOHMANN
Saddle fitting comes with many challenges: horses change shape, quality saddles are expensive, and sometimes even nice saddles aren’t adjustable enough to fit properly. Arena is solving this problem with their new line of jumping, dressage, and all purpose saddles. I tried the dressage saddle, and it made a big difference to me and my horse.
Arena saddles have several qualities that immediately make them a stand-out choice for dressage riders. First, the leather quality is terrific right out of the box—a pleasant surprise at its very reasonable price point. The leather rivals some of the European buffalo saddles I’ve ridden in. And clearly, Arena has put a great deal of thought into the design. Everything from the girthing system to the stirrup bar is meant to maximize comfort and function for both horse and rider. Even the small details, like the stamp on the stirrup keeper, are well considered. Arena stands behind their work with a two year guarantee on material and workmanship, and a 10 year guarantee on the tree.
Then there’s the overall adjustability of the saddle. Arena, like Bates and Wintec, has an easy change gullet system. So as your horse grows or gains muscle, it’s easy to adjust the saddle a size or two up or down to ensure a good fit in the wither area. The risers in the back panels are also easy to change, and all adjustments are easily reversed. For the rider, the knee blocks are moveable for optimum support and comfort.
Arena uses the CAIR panel system, panels filled with air. Because air is a fluid medium, it changes immediately to the horse’s movement to maintain comfort. A saddle fitter can replace or adjust them to fit your horse even better. The panels are gusseted and generous to maximize weight bearing surface and provide free movement in the shoulder. The Elastiflex tree has a stable gullet head and lateral movement in the tree so the saddle is always moving with the horse. My big-moving five year old German Oldenburg moves beautifully in the saddle, and it doesn’t slide around on her like some do. She has had some saddle-related soreness issues in the past, but is comfortable in this saddle.
The saddles are rider friendly as well. I appreciate the deep seat and narrow waist that gives me a close contact feel and a sense of security on my dressage horse, even in the big extended gaits. The multilayered foams in the seat are comfortable right away, no break-in period needed.
Riders want beautiful, comfortable saddles that make their horses happy, and Arena has hit the mark at an affordable price point. I’m looking forward to moving up the levels with my mare in this lovely saddle.