Can we discuss how unbelievably dumb this company name is? Bliss of London? Then, let’s drop down the rabbit hole of checking out their website… also bad with a TON of broken links… so when I was looking for a saddle a couple of years ago, I skipped right over them with a solid “nope”.
But they kept rattling around in my head. I had seen their saddles my first year at (what was then) Rolex, and I remember being impressed by the quality and variety. They have multiple tree shapes/widths, which is obviously, something I am always interested in.
I dug a little deeper. As is true with most custom saddle brands, your experience is more about the rep you work with, then the actual company. As discussed in my last post… my experience with brand reps has been pretty poor. (I actually loved my Stubben rep though. Great woman!)
So when I looked up the Bliss rep in my area (Kate Wooten), I found a ton of positive feedback. I figured it was worth having a discussion with her at least, so I reached out. It took us a couple of weeks (and a bit of a scramble) to get on each other’s calendar, but we did it on Monday night! First off, apologies for the lack of media, but I was really trying to absorb the whole experience vs. getting content. (Scandalous, I know!)
I am not sure if it was the lack of fancy at my barn, the lack of fancy with my pony, or what, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate start at the bottom of the cost ladder for Bliss. Right off the bat, I learned a few things about Bliss: the Loxley saddles are ~$2,500, including any customization you need to make. The bliss saddles go up to about $5,500. Let’s say… $2,500 sounded pretty good for me after touring around $5K+ saddles at LRKY3DE.
However, my expectations were REALLY low. I have sat in some less expensive saddles and… have usually found them pretty disappointing. More on that later though.
The first thing Kate did was take a look at my current saddle on May’s back… and I heard her suck through her teeth.
Kate, “The fit of this saddle is pretty good on her.”
Me, “I know.”
Kate, “She’s pretty short backed.”
Kate, “You like the 18″ seat?”
Kate, “she’s not as wide up top as you’d expect”
Me, “she’s not”
Kate, “And she has withers”
Me, “She does.”
Kate, “This saddle is really minimal… do you like minimal?”
Me, “My old albion had big blocks that I did really like.”
Kate, “Alright then! Let’s get started!”
And that… is kind of Kate is a nutshell. She’s just super positive (and super British). She thought my fat, short pony was great.
She took a quick tracing of May, just behind the shoulders, in order to grab things that would mostly fit from her
truck minivan. The first saddle she plopped on Mays back was a Loxley Eventer. She explained that this saddle had their medium-deep seat. This one was a traditional, double flap saddle, but it had long billets. I asked about the cost of adding the long billets.
“Oh no… no extra cost for any of the customization. We’re more concerned about getting you a saddle that works then adding on fees for things that don’t really cost us anything.”
Well, that’s some marketing line, but I’ll take it. So that first saddle would be ~$2,500 new. Mmmmmk. The saddle was a 17.5″, but she thought I would be ok in the flatter seat. (Everyone says this, it has never been true.) The fit on May was surprisingly good too.
“We’ll order it in an adjustable tree though, so you have some flexibility as she changes shape.”
“How much is that option?”
Ooooooook. The leather was a bit grippier than what’s on my Stubben. It wasn’t great, buttery calfskin, but it wasn’t hard plasticky junk. I hopped up and… wow it felt like A LOT of saddle under my leg and seat. The balance was good, but everything felt “muffled” with May. Does this make sense? Let me try to explain.
One of my favorite “buttons” on May is a great half halt from my leg. Need to rebalance or prepare for a downward transition? I can close my knees, and she comes back to me. With all the cushion under my knee in this saddle, I lost that half halt. Overall, trotted around for maybe five minutes before heading back over to Kate.
My first thought? This is why I don’t bother trying saddles that are in my budget when new.
The next saddle was a jump saddle with their flattest seat… and I hated it. I mean, Kate left the ring to grab another saddle before I had even made it halfway around. The saddle CONSTANTLY shoved me towards the back of it… like all the way to the cantle. It was the oddest thing I had ever felt. May wasn’t super happy about my center of balance moving all over the place, so I hopped off before Kate had even made it back.
Alright then… I was now CONVINCED that this was a total waste of time. Maybe they could fit May (everything would have easily fit with some flocking adjustments), but it wasn’t going to be any better for me.
So… Then she pulled out an eventing Monoflap in an 18″. She explained that the flap was wrong for me (it was originally made for a 15 yr old boy), and that the panel isn’t quite right for May (it was a touch long and a touch narrow up front. However, the SHAPE of the tree was really good for her). Either way, Kate wanted me to feel if this feel/balance point was something I liked.
The difference was immediate. The biggest difference? I could SIT on my horse. There was no struggle to move from sitting to half seat. There was no struggle to keep my leg under me. I walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some small jumps. I didn’t want to jump anything of height because I knew the fit on May wasn’t GREAT, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
However, the saddle was easy enough to get in and out of over the fences. I didn’t feel like I had to fling myself forward or hold myself back to stay in balance with May. Overall, I was super happy. The cost of the monoflap? $3,300 + taxes. Honestly, not bad at all.
When I hopped off, I had Kate walk me through where the TREE was vs. just the padding. I flexed back the flap on the saddle to see how much flexibility was offered to May’s shoulders. I was really happy with that, especially given the extra long, extra forward flaps on the version I tried.
We went back to the barn, and I prepared myself for the sales pitch. The “just sign on the dotted line and hand over your credit card” speech. The “you desperately need this saddle” speech. Kate started taking detailed tracings of May’s back, and I felt myself stiffen.
Kate then wrote me out a detailed list of what we had tried and why I didn’t like them, including prices. Then, she went through the order form, and checked off what it would look like, if I ordered something similar to what I liked that day. She handed it to me, gave May a pat, and told me to reach out when I was ready.
I stood blinking at her, as she bounced back out of the barn, giving ponies pats along the way. It’s been 4 days, and she hasn’t reached out to “see what I decided”.
Hilariously, I found out later that a girl I am somewhat connected to just got a saddle that she had ordered from Bliss through Kate. She’s super happy with her purple and black monoflap (it’s a lot for me haha) and indicated that it fit her horse well. It’s no guarantee, but it helps. Either way, I am not in any huge rush, but this one is obviously sitting in the front of my mind.
I reached out to our County rep, but she’s not sure when she’ll be back in the area. Either way, To Be Continued!
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Bliss was going to be my next in line to try, but I met with a County rep last month and wound up purchasing a used one. The brand’s online presence (apart from Facebook accounts set up by local reps) is pretty weird too, but the rep here was great. I told her off the bat I can’t afford a new saddle and it didn’t phase her (she does not sell used). She helped me as I searched online for a saddle with the right specs and is coming back out to fit the used one I bought next week! Hopefully your rep – I assume it’s a different one down there – is awesome too! I really love our Solution H/J and Juice does too.
We have Michelle down here. (I think she is Ohio based?) Anyway, a few people in the barn have used her and LOVE her.
Oh it is the same person then! Yes, she is awesome. I look forward to hearing how it goes!
ohh i might need a photo of the purple and black one…just saying.
So interesting about them. I told you at FHI i went by the booth several times but the woman was very haughty there and scared me a bit. Plus the name does suck. Bliss sounds like some female product that a man created. HA….
I bet there is not a rep within three states of me (Well Kate is in KY) would be interesting to just check out sometime. I do love my stubben but i would love a bigger seat one day.
Thanks for sharing all that (both via text and via blog)! HA
Technically, Kate is actually Tennessee based. 😉 So you never know! I’ll shoot you over the pics of that purple and black saddle. I will warn you, it’s the $5K+ model.
i don’t like it enough to pay that much 🙂 HA! It does look like a giant bruise (NO OFFENSE TO ANYONE)…and wow where in TN? Neato!
Yeah, I’d definitely say that the rep makes it! She sounds awesome, and how I wish every saddle rep was lol. I’m glad that at least you got somewhere positive!
Yeah! It was pretty exciting to just find SOMETHING in our budget that fit her and me. Definitely a first!
It’s nice when you find a great rep!
My fitter knows me well, and knew exactly what I needed…we ordered my saddle without me riding in that model and it is perfect !
She sounds like a lovely person to work with! I hope the rest of your hunt goes smoothly. And it would be super nice if this more affordable option winds up working for you!
She was really great to work with. Totally concerned with finding me something in my budget vs. making a huge sale.
Given the experiences of several close friends with both brands, I would pick the Bliss over the County. I’ve not known many people that have had good County experiences in the long term. The price is certainly nice, either way!
Interesting! Thanks for weighing in! I have found custom saddles to be such a gamble, no matter what you do or how much money you spend. It’s truly terrifying.
It really is. I’ve never been so glad to have a horse fit perfectly in a pro panel, to be honest. Good job Henry. I don’t think I’ll be as lucky with Presto.
I think Presto is bound and determined to send you through the ringer. However he can. 😉
That line has interested me in the past but the website is awful to fact find on. I hope you find the perfect fit
The website is downright awful. haha. So I do think you really need a great rep.
Kate is really super! If you have her back out let me know I’ll split the farm call!
I had heard great things about her, but hadn’t been able to meet her in person! Good to hear more positive feedback. I’ll let you know when/if I have her back. (and vise versa!)
She sounds like a great saddle fitter – I love when people take their job seriously and are concerned with customer satisfaction and don’t see us as giant ATMs
Yes! She was genuinely the most concerns about finding something May and me liked. It was down right REFRESHING!
Sometimes I think the saddles that are less trendy can be the best fit/experience! And clearly Kate knows what she is doing and is doing it right! These newer/less well known brands get overlooked sometimes but for those of us in this just to have fun and be safe, sometimes they’re exactly what we need! I’m excited to see how this plays out, but happy you had a good experience regardless!
Agreed! I could care less about owning a status symbol. I just want a saddle that fits me and my horse. ?
she sounds really lovely, and it’s nice she didn’t pressure you. In the back of my mind I’m always thinking of a dressage saddle, and it’s nice to know there are custom mid range brands out there. my jump saddle is a county but as I don’t anticipate doing pure dressage I wasn’t going to shell out for custom for a sport I only dabble in.
as far as county, I think if you go into the appointment being very up front about what your budget is and what you can do, they’ll be super honest and work with you. If you get a skeevy vibe from your rep, walk away. My rep is lovely, and really worked with me to get something we’d both be happy with. My horse is VERY VERY SUPER UGH HARD TO FIT. Even once the saddle came in I’ve had two fitting appointments to get the balance right, which my rep comped me for because…. she just wants us to be happy.
I didn’t have the whole upfront cost for a county (had to sell both my dressage and jump saddles to pay for it…) but they did offer financing.
Thanks for the info! I talked to the County rep at KY3DE, and she is familiar with my barn. So that helps. It’s definitely one of those “if I can sell both saddles for a good price, maybe I can go with a custom jump saddle”