Thursday, November 14, 2013

Square Peg in Round Hole

That is, saddle fit - one of a horse person's greatest annoyances, in my experience . . .

For some reason, Red has changed shape - definitely fatter so that could be part of it - and neither of my saddles - my Kieffer dressage saddle or my About the Horse light trail saddle - any longer fits him.  They both catch him at the point of the shoulders, particularly the left shoulder.  Once upon a time, they both fit him just fine - go figure.

Today I tried Red's patience.  I was following the theory that if you've tried something and it's clear it doesn't work, why not try it again just so you can prove to yourself that you will get the same result . .   I should know better . . . After a very nice bareback walk/trot ride with a bit of cantering, I tried, once again, to see if either saddle could be made to fit.  No go.  The dressage saddle, when far enough back to clear his shoulder, had to be shimmed slightly in order not to nose down in front.  But it was clearly rocking, since the pad wanted to slide back, and neither he nor I was glad with how it felt.  And the shim just made the pinch in the shoulder worse.  Red expressed his displeasure, more at the canter than the trot - there were unhappy ears and some balking on canter departures.

The About the Horse Western saddle was just as bad.  I tried it with no pad for the best assessment, and it was just too tight through the shoulder.  Red was pretty unhappy about that one, too.

After our long and frustrating session - frustrating for me and annoying for him - I wanted to prove to him that I got the message, and wouldn't ride him any more in those uncomfortable saddles.  I took off the Western saddle, and although he was tired, took him back into the arena for a short bareback ride.  We only trotted for a bit, did one attempt at canter - with a balk since he was in a balky mood - but once he figured out it wasn't uncomfortable any more he took the left lead without much complaint.  I got right off and put him away, telling him what a patient and brave horse he was.  I'll just have to improve my bareback riding, particularly at the canter, and remember how to ride like a kid again.

I expect he'll be fine when I ride him bareback next.  It's a good thing horses are forgiving souls.


  1. Horses are forgiving. I tried riding Sugar bareback once and it was uncomfortable for me. Fortunately, her saddle fits great so it's not an issue for us.


  2. Ugh,I hate fitting saddles. Luckily, my own Red is really easy to fit. Although when I got him, he was skinny so I doubt I could've used the old saddle that they used before I got him. ;) So far he's fit every english and western saddle I've put on him, no pain or discomfort. I hope you find a good saddle!! At least you seem to have a good bareback horse!

    1. Now I just need to be a better bareback rider . . .

  3. I'm guessing that since you've been riding him he's muscled up properly so the saddle doesn't fit the way it did before he was in good shape. Sounds like he likes the whole bareback riding experience better. Looks like eventually there's a new saddle in your future though. Christmas is coming ;)

  4. This saddle fit issue is much, much bigger than many people realize, I think. (And in certain circles, it seems to be rarely if ever even considered as a possible issue.) But good grief, it is so difficult and expensive to keep replacing saddles to try to fit various horses at various stages of their careers and reflocking/refitting isn't always the answer either. I finally bought a Barefoot treeless saddle for one of my horses that I just couldn't seem to fit, a Fresian/QH cross, and he seemed really happy and comfortable in it. Unfortunately, I lost him shortly thereafter, but I was pretty impressed with it, though it wasn't as beautiful and comfortable for me as my dressage saddle. Have you ever tried one of those, Kate?


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