Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saddle Fitting

Pie, Dawn, Drift and I had a visit from a Master Saddler today - he's a real English Master Saddler, trained according to their rules - apprenticeship and numerous tests are part of this - and certified as such - he worked for many years in England before coming to the States and even worked on the bridles that were part of the harness of the horses that pulled the carriage at the recent royal wedding.

His visit was to evaluate my horses so that we can have my Kieffer dressage saddle reflocked - it's at least 15 years old (it came with Noble when I got him back in 1997), and the flocking is compacted, particularly in the front along the gullet and in the back panels.  The goal is for it to fit Drift - the tree is just right for him and with the reflocking the saddle should sit just perfectly on him.  Pie is a bit narrower in the withers/shoulder area than Drift, and Dawn has narrower withers and is also built a bit downhill, so they will likely still need shims (I use a Mattes correction pad).  I'm also planning to get a custom trail saddle for Pie once he's back in work and muscled up - I think he may have finally stopped growing and has probably filled in about as much as he's going to.  Here's the saddle - it's the Lech Profi Professional model, and is a really nice saddle that is very comfortable for me - in this picture, it's on Dawn without any shim pads, so it's sitting somewhat low in the front:

With each horse, the saddler used a flexible jointed stick to do a tracing of the top line, with regular intervals marked off - he used a washable marker to mark the intervals right on the horse.  Then separate tracings were taken for each horse at each interval.  Here are the results - you can see how differently shaped the three horses are.

First, here are Dawn's tracings (she's about 15.1 hands and is a TB) - she has high, although not narrow, withers, and isn't that broad, and her top line - the last tracing at the bottom - rises towards her hindquarters - hence she's downhill:

Here is Pie - he's about 15.3 hands and is a QH - he's got some withers, is a bit narrow through the shoulder and is fairly broad behind, with a nice, level back:

And here's Drift - he's a QH, and although he's only about 14.3 hands, he's quite broad through his whole body and also has a nice level back:

All three horses - even Drift - were perfect for the saddler, standing still and being completely cooperative - he complemented me on their excellent manners (apparently many of the horses he sees don't have good manners).  I had taken the precaution of riding Drift before the appointment and giving him a good workout, which I think helped, but I was very proud of him for not fidgeting.  Dawn and Pie are mostly pretty good for things like this, and lived up to their reputations (Pie made a couple of "Pie faces" at the unusual goings on).

I'll be dropping my saddle off on Friday and it'll be ready by Sunday, all refurbished - the all in cost of $375 for the fitting and reflocking is a lot less than the cost of a new saddle.  The horses and I should be happy with the results.


  1. It looks like a nice saddle and the best part is it's already broken in. So if the saddler can reflock it for Drift, and Pie and Dawn get to use it too all the better and well worth the money.

    So difficult to fit so many different shapes to a saddle. Nice that they all were on their best behavior today and received compliments.

  2. How great! Yes WAY less than a new saddle. You are in the Chicago area aren't you? I wonder how far the saddler travels or if traveling to him is an option? What a great resource for you.

  3. What a great opportunity to have a master saddle fitter visit you. Glad the kids were all well behaved; can sure see the difference in their shapes with those tracing. And that's quick turn around on the reflocking. Very nice that you can have that done and know that it will be done well.

  4. Great post and pictures! I had to make tracing like those for my most recent saddle purchase. It is amazing how much the horse's back can change from the withers to the end of the rib cage. And it is always nice when your horse(s) get compliments from professionals!

  5. Been following - although silently because my connectivity is iffy at best (took a lightening strike while connected to wireless network and plugged into electric)

    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed your clinic posts and great savings having the saddle reflocked, glad it will be able to fit all three well.

  6. Sounds like a good deal! Sarah is certified through the Master Saddlers Association...I wonder if this is the same?

  7. Good going. Sounds like a pretty reasonable deal.

    Interesting to see the differences in your horses. But the best part is that your "kids" behaved for the visitor. How nice to get a compliment on their behavior.

  8. Love to see the tracings. Reflocking is an excellent option, and you get to know exactly what's in there. There seems to be a lack of excellent saddle fitters in my area. I'm trying hard not to be jealous! :)

    I'm also considering the Mattes correction pad, are you happy with it?

  9. Jane - I like the Mattes pad I've got now - it's just the plain quilted one with no fleece anywhere, and has pockets front and back for up to three thin felt pads. I have another one that didn't work out at all - it had fleece on the bottom and slid around a lot which was really not nice - I've got a couple of horses with a lot of lateral motion in their bodies and that pad really made things worse. The other negative on the Mattes pads is that they're pretty expensive.


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