Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tekna LeTek Plus Close Contact Saddle Review

Tekna LeTek Plus Close Contact Saddle
As everybody who has ever gone through it knows, buying a saddle absolutely sucks. They are really expensive, but there is no guarantee that they will fit correctly, they all look pretty much the same, and it's really stressful. Buying a saddle sucks even more when you are trying to buy a jump saddle, but you live in the middle of Western riding country. I had no saddle shops even remotely near me, nor any saddle reps. But, I wanted my own saddle and so I turned to the internet for help.

After looking at many used saddles that were in crap condition (and still cost around $1000), I figured that there had to be a better option. And so that is how I discovered synthetic saddles. They were half the cost (or less) of a leather saddle, they were easy to take care of, and they have come a really long way in the recent years.

I considered several companies before I decided that Tekna seemed to be the best brand. My reasons for picking Tekna were:

  1. They have really solid reviews on their synthetic leather products. People really love their halters and bridles and had really great things to say about the quality of the fake leather.
  2. Their saddles utilize an adjustable gullet system (Quik-Change system). I was also considering Wintec saddles, but Tekna beat Wintec in terms of their gullet system. Basically Wintec & Bates saddles use the same replaceable gullet system, which has a flaw. The gullets have a slight kink which can cause saddle fitting issues. Tekna doesn't have this problem and so they beat Wintec in my eyes.
  3. They had many saddle designs at varied price ranges. This gave me options, which is always a good thing!
  4. They are a US company and so are easier to purchase for me (as compared to Thorowgood, which was another company I considered).
Out of the Tekna saddles, I ended up deciding on the Tekna LeTek Plus Close Contact Saddle. I picked this saddle because:
  • It is a traditional leather saddle on the top part (everything that you can see and sit on). This is nice because it looks just like a regular saddle (for all of those synthetic leather haters out there) and it is leather, so the feel under your leg is the same as a regular saddle.
  • It has synthetic leather sweat flaps and panels (which makes it easier to clean).
  • It is filled with latex/wool flocking that I can reflock if needed.

Tekna LeTek brand

Essentially, my saddle is a hybrid. It has all of the best features of a leather saddle, but has added benefits from the synthetic underside. It is easier to clean, it is much lighter, and - most importantly - it was only half the price of a full-leather saddle.

Leather upper
Synthetic parts

The retail price of this saddle is $975, but I ended up purchasing my saddle through Jeffers for $879 with a free Tekna snaffle bridle, reins, and stirrup leathers (around $100 value altogether). I think that this was a great price considering I got a brand new saddle. When I was looking at used saddles on Ebay, I saw ones that were used and in really not-great condition for around that price. I got a brand-new saddle that comes with its warranty and I know that nothing is wrong with it.

I ordered the 17 in seat saddle, which fits me really well (I am 5'3" and around 105 lbs).

Overall, I really like my saddle. It has the adjustable knee and thigh blocks which allows me to customize the fit of the saddle to my leg. It is not too slippery (although just like any leather product, it does need conditioning to keep it from getting slippery). I think that it has a traditional look, with some cool "tech-y" accents like the back of the cantel. I've owned it for about six months now and it has held up incredibly well and has broken in nicely. As an added perk - my saddle also came with its own saddle cover, so my saddle is one of three at my barn that actually get to be covered.

Movable knee block
Movable thigh blocks
Tech-y back of cantel

The adjustable gullet system has worked out really nicely for me. It came with a medium gullet plate and I purchased a medium-wide gullet plate for Casey (which fits well). The gullet plates are about $20-30 per plate, which might seem steep, but I only had to purchase one, so it wasn't too expensive. Changing the gullet was not very difficult. Basically you just turn a screw, pull the pommel area away from the gullet area, unscrew the gullet plate, screw in the new gullet plate, and put everything back together. My saddle was brand new and very stiff when I changed the gullet plate and so was at the peak of its resistance and it only took me about 20 minutes to switch the gullet plate.

Complimentary saddle cover
I don't slip in my saddle

As far as the cons of this saddle, I could not find any places that would allow a trial of the saddle, which might scare some people off. I took the chance because I figured it should fit with the adjustable gullet. The other con is that the leather color is a little bit worn off underneath the stirrup leathers. I think that part of this is the Tekna stirrup leathers were rubber and so had too much friction, causing excess rubbing. So I would not recommend the Tekna stirrup leathers. I do think it is normal for saddles to get rub marks underneath the stirrup leathers, so I'm not sure that this one factor should stop you from buying the saddle if you are interested. 

Rubs on leather from stirrup leathers

Really the leather rubs is my only true complaint about the saddle, but a very minor complaint is that the "brown" color of my saddle is definitely slightly reddish hued. You can see it in the pictures with the stirrup leathers (which are more a true brown). It's not a bad color, but it does make it hard to match other leather products to it. 

Slightly red color of saddle as compared to stirrup leathers

I love my saddle. If I had gone with a different company I would have had to either buy a used saddle (which has its own litany of problems) or I would still be paying it off. I was able to get a brand-new saddle, that I got to pick out, and that I was able to pay off right away! Three wins for Tekna!

Casey loves her saddle, because it fits her well!

Easy to jump in

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