Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Fun With Saddle Fitting

Dawn and I tried out my creatively butchered front riser pad today to see if it would help at all with the fit of my Rodrigo saddle. Dawn didn't mince words - the answer was a very definite no, with some ugly expressions and bared teeth thrown in for good measure in case I'd missed the point - which she clearly thought I had. Fortunately our chiropractor is coming next week, as she's showing some soreness to pressure in her sternum area and where her neck joins the shoulder on the right - these have been areas that have given her some trouble in the past. As I was feeling around under the saddle, it was also clear that the right side of her withers was bothering her - she carries more muscle there than on the left side, and the heavily muscled area just in front of her withers over the shoulder is also more developed on the right side.

I tried the Rodrigo without the pad but she still didn't think much of it and it was tending to tilt forward as well - she's a bit narrower in the withers than Maisie. I think the Rodrigo with the riser pad did fit her pretty well when we started our work, but now that her shape's changing and she's muscled up more than she was, the pad was starting to pinch, particularly on the right side at the front edge. I've found that many close contact hunter/jumper saddles don't fit many horses all that well in the shoulder area, due to the forward flap and the way the stirrup bars are set.

So, just for fun, I brought out my old Kieffer Lech Profi dressage saddle, which I used to ride Noble in and which also fit Lily. I hadn't tried it on Dawn before because she's not as wide as either of them. When I first put it on, it sat pretty well:

I still got a few protests when putting it on and girthing, but a lot less than with the Rodrigo. Dawn and I tried it out while riding, and as I expected it started to come down a bit in front, so that didn't work. We went back into the barn and I added a fairly thin riser pad that's uniform in thickness from front to back. That did the trick - the saddle stayed in the correct position since the effect of the pad was to mimic a slightly narrower tree. Dawn seemed pretty pleased with that; we'll see what she thinks about it tomorrow.

Both Dawn and I will have to get used to the feel and position of the dressage saddle. I've certainly ridden in this saddle quite a bit, but it was a while ago. I'm riding 4 holes longer in the stirrups than when I was using the close contact saddle, and my hips need to relax a little more and then I'll be at least a hole longer, I expect. I do like the way my legs drape in this saddle, although I think Dawn found my new leg length and leg position a bit odd. The saddle also changes my posture for the better - I'm less likely to get into the tilt forward/hunch thing which should help her way of going. The other lovely thing is that I can now dismount and mount Dawn from the ground pretty easily because of the longer stirrup length, although I'll still mostly use a mounting block since it's easier on the saddle and Dawn's back.

I'm sure Dawn will tell me exactly what she thinks!


  1. good luck! saddle fitting is such a beast!

  2. Saddle fitting drives me up the wall. I finally got a good fitting saddle for Milo only about a month ago and I swear it fits very differently than when I bought it. NOt totally unexpected as I knew with this one he would be allowed to round up underneath it and build some tone. But geez, I hope it lasts through the winter I dont want to have to buy an entirely new one now! Not to mention I really like this saddle...whine complain (over) lol.

  3. I am also girding myself for yet another saddle fitting adventure. My first one resulted in a custom saddle that fit the horse but did NOT fit me (seat too small and it pitches me forward). I get lovely flying changes because I'm shifting in the saddle trying to find my place, though ;o)

    Anyway, I have postponed all dressage lessons until I can make an appointment with a COMPETENT saddle fitter who will sell me something that works, rather than my last experience where the guy just sold me something. At least it didn't harm the horse.

  4. Saddle fitting is my WORST nighmare...sometimes I swear there isn't a western saddle in this world that fits Missy, but of course my English saddle fits her just fine...that would be great, if I actually had any interest at all in riding English! Ugh! Missy tends to get real thin across the topline after the summer if we're not careful, and then saddle fit is even harder and with hotspots, and girth sores and everything else to think about, at the end of the day all I want to do is ride bareback!!!

  5. Sounds like the dressage saddle will work out better for her. Once you get used to it again you might like it better too. I still find it hard to switch over the dressage saddle after so many years in hunter saddles though. I've compromised with a GP saddle which is working out okay for Dusty and me. Good luck.

  6. Wow, its just been recently I have seen so many people complain about saddle fit, not sure if its a new thing or hopefully they are getting more informed.
    I ride western in a wade saddle and it is very accomidating, I have only seen it on two horses that it never fit and it was pretty obvious right away.
    Sure nice Dawn lets you know whats working and what isnt, rather than just putting up with it and getting sorer and sourer.

  7. The saddle does look pretty good in that picture. Nice that you had another saddle to try and oh yes, that dressage saddle sure will take a couple rides for both you and Dawn to get used to!
    I hope it agrees with her :)

  8. I shall refrain from my usual saddle fitting lecture to all of you who are having saddle issues. (But there is an Ansur.)

    That dressage saddle looks pretty good on her. Hopefully Dawn will be happy with it. And your riding position should improve, especially for the kind of work you are doing.

    Years ago, we used to buy saddles that were comfy for the rider and never pay much attention to the horse. How times have changed for the better!!

  9. Hi Kate - Wonder why she is muscling up on one side more so then the other? I'm sure that's got to make your saddle fitting even more of nightmare.

  10. Jeni - like most horses, she's uneven to begin with - I think her shape now just reflects that.

  11. Uuugggghhh, saddle-fitting and shopping is the worst kind of torture! I'm glad to see that you've got your situation figured out. :-)

  12. Hey Kate! Sorry I deleted your message on my blog - I saw my name and thought I'd posted in error lol. Unfortunately I didn't read what you wrote :0( I see you have some of my favorite horseman on your links so I'll be back this weekend to read more about your year with horses! Good luck with your chiro appt. Hopefully it will help determine her one sidedness and help with your saddle fitting!

  13. I don't know much about English style saddles but I have heard of ones with changeable gullets that you can adjust to fit a variety of horses. Is that not an option? Seems so sensible to me.

    I ride such a variety of size of horse that I'm so glad the Wade style saddle I ride in fits the horses I ride and me. Otherwise it would be a lot of painful hours for both of us.

  14. Kate,
    That's a beautiful Kieffer saddle. I rode in one for years as a student on school horses and loved it. Since I have my own horse now, and he is older, and has a swayback, I moved to a western flex panel saddle (Continental brand) that fits him and me very well. I appreciate it very much because it is such a challenge to get a saddle that works for both the horse and rider. Sounds like you have several options and possibilities to try with Dawn.


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