I was first aware of Wintec saddles when I was a kid. I remember seeing their full page ad in Horse Illustrated – a brightly lit crisp, black Friesian, a happy rider, and that black synthetic saddle. They were so modern. Not at all like the old leather saddles at my lesson barn. Some had been used so much that the leather where the stirrup leathers laid had worn away completely.
When I worked at Stateline Tack as a teenager I spotted the close contact Wintec for the first time. It was basically orange, but I was entranced. I had never had a lot of money for horses, although it still seemed very expensive, that orange close contact Wintec seemed accessible. It looked like something real riders would have.
Time went on. I eventually bought a used dressage saddle, which was not really the plan, but someone offered it to me. As I spent my time in my dressage saddle jumping, Wintec came out with a version of their close contact saddle that was no longer orange. Now that got me excited – there were a few times I wished I had bought it instead.
I think a lot of people scoffed at me for wanting a Wintec. Like, if you want a nice saddle, wouldn’t you dream of an Albion or Schleese, or something really amazing?
Well, sure it’d be nice to have a fancy, expensive saddle. But I’m thinking practically. How on earth could I dream about spending thousands of dollars on something like that when just taking lessons was a luxury I could barely afford? I’m not made of money. As much as I’d love to be able to drop thousands of dollars on fancy things, I’m not going to go into debt to do it, especially if I could get something that works really well for a fraction of the price.
One day, as an adult with my own money, I did buy my brown Wintec Close Contact saddle. I was thrilled. It was the first new saddle I’d ever owned, and it looked positively perfect.
My trainer wasn’t happy when she saw it. She scoffed a bit but quickly moved on. She was not impressed. Not too long after, we parted ways. It wasn’t really about the saddle, but I think it might have changed the vibe between us.
But that saddle worked out great for me. I put lots of rides and miles in it. I swapped it around to all my different horses. Would it have been nice to own a sleek leather saddle? Of course, but I spent $600 for a saddle that’s comfortable and low maintenance. That saddle carried me on so many rides on so many different horses. My friends rode in it, and they thought it was fine. It truly was a work horse, and I was pretty happy with it.
Eventually I did get a leather saddle. The Wintec didn’t fit one of my horses all that great, so I tried a different saddle and that one worked. I still kept using it as a guest saddle or testing it on the other horses, but after a while, it’s use slowed. But it still sits in my barn, ready to be called into service. I admit I haven’t done anything to take care of it, and it’s been sitting there for nearly five years now.
It’s time to bring it out and take a look, see how it’s held up.
I pulled it out of storage and took a look. It was dirty, with bird poop and a wasp nest that would have sent me running the other way had I noticed before I picked it up. But it seemed otherwise fine. There was no metal rust or any signs of deterioration. After a good scrub, it looks almost brand new (there was a few dirt spots I missed in my scrub).
I’m thinking I might find good use for this saddle in teaching my daughter to ride. If she’s really into it, I’ll probably have to get her a saddle that’ll fit her tiny little behind, but this will be good for testing her interest level.
Let’s talk about the details of the saddle. I actually don’t know which saddle this is comparable to in Wintec’s current lineup. It’s been 12 years since I bought this, and it looks like they have a variety of close contact saddles at different, higher price points now. The $600 Wintec is a thing of the past. So let’s talk in generally because I can’t speak to the specifics of their different saddles.
The Wintec Close Contact It is made from a synthetic leather-look material that is easy to care for and can be hosed off after a sweaty ride. The saddle has a flat seat with a narrow twist, which provides the rider with close contact with the horse. It also has an open seat and low cantle, which allows for freedom of movement.
Although mine came out at a time when this wasn’t available, it now comes with the option of either flocked or CAIR air panels. The flocked panels are made from a soft, sheepskin-like material that provides cushioning for the rider and horse. The CAIR air panels are made from two independently sealed air cushions that adapt to the horse’s body, providing a more customized fit.
My saddle has CAIR. The new saddles now have HART, which includes CAIR, but also has other features to make the fit more comfortable.
The Wintec Close Contact Saddle is equipped with the EASY-CHANGE Fit Solution, which allows the rider to adjust the gullet width and riser height to ensure a proper fit for the horse. I think I changed the gullet four or five times MAX so this wasn’t a feature I used very much. I think to use this feature properly you have to have a really good understanding of saddle fit, otherwise it’s easy to mess it up.
The saddles now have an Elastiflex tree, which is designed to flex with the horse’s movement, providing a more comfortable ride. My saddle didn’t come with this.
It’s important to remember that although these saddles are meant to fit a variety of horses, their panel shape still has to fit your horse’s back. For instance, my current Wintec fit my flatter backed horses, but it won’t fit high withered Stu. He basically has a banana back. I did see that they now make high wither options in a few saddles, so perhaps that will be an option for the future!
I also had the matching girth and saddle leathers with the saddle, and my main complaint is those leathers do not want to lay flat. They drove me crazy when I had everyone put away neatly and there were those leathers, poking out. I don’t know if they’ve changed the leathers since then. Maybe they have advanced, anti-poking technology now.
- Easy to care for
- Adjustable fit
- Comfortable (although depends on the person)
- Budget friendly
- Swimming friendly. If you’ve never gone swimming with your horse, you need to. Life changing!
- Can be stiff – I found that it never softened up enough for my leg to wrap around completely. Some of the newer saddles look way more contoured than mine ever was.
- Not as breathable as leather saddle
- You’re going to get some judgement at some point from traditionalist riders.
Overall, the Wintec is a good value, and a great option for an affordable, budget saddle. Let’s be clear, it was never a luxury saddle, but for many it’s not worth going into debt or spending thousands of dollars on a saddle. For those who are looking for a budget friendly saddle that will work with a range of horses, this is a great option.
Similar Saddle also available on Amazon.