Update: I re-reviewed this saddle a few years later and ended up purchasing it afterall. Here is the more recent post: http://adventuresincoltstarting.blogspot.com/2013/07/product-review-bates-caprilli-dressage.html
I was more excited than usual to get to the barn and ride Rose today, because I finally found a used and in great condition 17.5" Bates Caprilli dressage saddle at one of our local tack shops. After signing my life away on my visa it now mine to try out for a week. I have been thinking that the Bates might be my best saddle solution for my budget as well as Rose's ever changing back and withers. However, I've never seen one or sat in one. Finding one locally to try was a very fortuitous event! Without further adieu, here is what I thought about this saddle.
The leather seems to be a decent quality, and the saddle overall appears well made for it's price point. I liked the adjustable "y" billet system. The gullet was very easy to change out as claimed (the saddle had the regular gullet in it and I needed a wide gullet). I also liked the idea of the movable/changeable thigh blocks. I found the seat to be comfortable, but not very secure. Rose seemed to like the saddle, stretching, bending and moving well under it.
Hello bouncy! I like the idea of the CAIR panels, but lord it is like riding on a bouncy ball. Every small amount of bounce in Rose's gate was quadrupled by the saddle. The billets were too short. I struggled to get my girth on the bottom hole on each side, which is not a problem with other saddles I've been riding in. One would certainly need to go a size or two bigger on their girth with this saddle. The saddle did not sit completely on her back, which only added to the bounciness of the CAIR panels.
I will be taking this saddle back to the tack shop tomorrow. After struggling through one ride in it I certainly do not need a week to make up my mind. My saddle search continues...
Happy trails and swooshing tails!