Ever since Wintec came out with the Wintec Wide, dressage enthusiasts have been wondering when they’ll get around to making a Wintec Wide Dressage model. The answer appears to be… someday. Maybe. If you’re lucky.
For those that don’t know, Wintec saddles come with adjustable gullet plates: you can open up the front of the saddle, expose the tree, unscrew a couple of screws and pop out the metal plate that holds the gullet area below the pommel rigid, then pop in a different gullet plate that’s narrower or wider, screw it in, close up the front of the saddle and, in theory, fit it to a different horse. It’s a pretty good system, albeit one that does not address the fit of the back half of the tree. Still… it’s good. I love my Wintec Pro Dressage to death. I’ve used it with the extra-wide gullet plate on Tucker for years (there are six gullet plates– narrow, medium narrow, medium, medium-wide, wide, and extra-wide). But here’s the catch. Tucker… isn’t a particularly wide horse. In fact, he’s what I’d call an average horse, saddle-fit-wise. And looking at the narrow Wintec gullet– yeah. I don’t think horses exist that are shaped like that.
Apparently, I’m not the only Wintec owner to notice this problem. So Wintec designed the Wintec Wide All Purpose saddle to fit horses that are ACTUALLY wide.
It has a different tree, different panels, and a different girthing system. Oh, and it comes with three “ultra-wide” gullet plates, all clearly marked “ONLY FOR USE IN WINTEC WIDE & WINTEC HAFLINGER”.
The Wintec website gives dire warnings about how if you use one of the purple ultra-wide gullet plates in a normal Wintec saddle, you’ll invalidate the warranty and you may break the tree, killing yourself, the horse, and several innocent puppies and kittens nearby. (Okay, I added that last part myself.)
There’s only one problem. Well, two, actually. The first is that I need to fit a saddle to this coming four-year-old, who has a back so wide and flat you could set out a seven-course meal on it without spilling a drop of the soup. And I like dressage saddles, not all purpose saddles.
The second is that I have a deeply ingrained problem with authority figures, and when someone tells me I mustn’t do something, it makes me want to run out and do it. Fortunately, I also happen to have an old Wintec 500 AP saddle that I hate with a burning passion. Here it is with the medium gullet installed.
Gosh, I wonder if anyone sells purple ultra-wide gullets on the internet. Oh, look! They do! And I bought one! Here it is next to the extra-wide gullet I’ve been using in my dressage saddle.
That’s a fairly significant difference. I wonder what would happen if I installed it in the Wintec 500 that I don’t really give a fig about. Maybe the tree will break?
Nope! Apparently not. It’s not even all that hard to fit into place. Biggest challenge is getting the points of the tree back in the point pockets, and even that’s not too big of a deal.
Ta-da! Compare this photo to the earlier one of the same saddle with the medium gullet plate installed:
That’s a pretty noticeable change!
So, after running it out to the barn for a test ride (yes, I still hate this saddle!), nothing catastrophic happened. No broken tree, no obvious points of strain or wrinkling on the stress points of the saddle… I decided to go for it and install this gullet plate in my Wintec Pro Dressage to make it into a Wintec Wide Dressage.
Well… that’s pretty wide, alright. Time to run up to the barn for saddle fitting! Here’s Tucker (pardon the mud spatters):
That looks pretty good. Shoulder clearance: yes. Bridging: no. Good panel contact in back: yes. Saddle balance:
Oops. Not so much. The saddle now sits downhill. This is not too surprising, since Tucker also sits downhill, as you can see. I corrected the downhill tilt with shims, and had a lovely ride. I made a point of going fast (yee-haw!), doing some quick changes of direction and generally riding around like a banshee. The saddle tree still did not break. No innocent kittens or puppies were killed.
So– how about that filly with the back like a table top?
Shoulder clearance: borderline. Bridging: no. Good panel contact in back:
Well… it’s not horrible. Mind you, it’s not great, either. Saddle balance:
Eep. Guess not. The saddle still perches up on top of those double-wide shoulders, and will not really work for this filly. I’m thinking I may have to bite the bullet and spring for an Ansur treeless for this baby girl. Because I’m not going to take a chance on destroying this…
… with back pain. And yes, it really is the same horse. And no, I don’t know why she’s fugly when she stands still and gorgeous when she moves.
However, my new Wintec Wide Dressage saddle now fits the unfittable, unbroke ex-broodmare– who really needs to become a broke ex-broodmare– like a glove:
… and looks pretty darn good on my mother’s Friesian cross, as well.
Conclusions? There appears to be no reason not to use Wintec Wide gullet plates in older Wintec saddles. Of course, the tree could break tomorrow, or next month, or next year. But the wider gullet plate was not difficult to install, it does not appear to be stressing other components of the saddle by stretching or compressing them, and it performed perfectly through a ride at high speeds and with sharp turns and quick stops.
I am considering the pros and cons of selling used Wintec dressage saddles with Wintec Wide gullet plates installed. If I decide to do so, they will be sold on the Wintec Wide Dressage Saddle page of the site.