Stuff & Things

Saddle's not just a suggestion

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Quote Originally Posted by flicksmom View Post
Flick was off for a few weeks with a sore back this month. I thought the sore spot was caused by a blanket "overgirth" due to placement of it on his back. He was mega itchy there and yes, had a spot where the skin/hair had died and was pulling away from the rest of the skin. I had noticed that his saddle didn't have the clearance it used to have up front but put that down as a minor issue. My barn owner, Kim, thought it was from a larger saddle fit issue and him being a little more down in the back after this winter - call it a combo weight and muscle loss. (BTW, Kim also is a dealer for several saddle lines, does used saddle sales and basically knows a LOT more about this than I.)

I'm still not sure who's right but after everything, I do know, we DID have a major saddle fit issue. And who was right doesn't really matter.

We stuck shims under the saddle, swapped pads for a sheepskin backed pad, I started to try to figure out mounting from the off side (odd), and we ended up just lunging for awhile.
I heat packed his back with warm & wet towels, massaged his haunches and neck/shoulders, kept the wound clean, did some acupressure and Kim restuffed my saddle, TWICE in the hopes I wouldn't have to go saddle shopping with that non-existent saddle fund. (That's actually my putting food on my table fund right now.)

THANKFULLY, with everything we tried, Kim and I hit upon the right mix of stuff. First off, Flick's back has dropped a little and dropped unevenly and I had been sitting crooked. (No lessons in a decade does mean that bad habits will happen.) The solution? The restuffed saddle - complete with felt stuffing appearing from under the panels, a half pad with at least a good inch of padding on the sides with nothing running along the back and my own pad and girth worked. We tried the Mattes sheepskin half pad and while he was happy, he wasn't HAPPY.

But when he was HAPPY? It's like I had a whole new horse, or turning the physical clock back 20 years. No (token) resistance, light contact, cues being acted upon promptly, everything that made me giggle the entire time we rode. And the next day, we just picked up where we left off the day before - lateral work with no issues, haunches in, haunches out, shoulder in, light transitions up and down. (And no needing a new girth... do you know how *hard* it is to find a 20" neoprene dressage girth? Tack stores consider that to be "pony" sized and won't carry Pro Choices that small! Argh!)

So...I'm sure I'll owe another $35+ on the saddle and the half pad is mine to borrow for now. I may pick up a shorter girth to make my life slightly easier but only if it's easy to find - Mom has been called to find another steal of a deal. I'm also pondering a pad that's more up in the withers so I can jam everything up in the saddle easier. A very cheap problem solution - I've paid $250 before to restuff a saddle and the good sheepskin half pads are start around $150.

The lesson to be learned here? Saddle fit is important and even MORE important that you may think. More important is that you, the average owner does NOT know enough about fit. I was concerned that I no longer had the clearance I used to have in the withers and mentioned something to Kim. THAT is the only "sign" I had something was not right - and I've ridden Flick for 20+ years.

So next time you go saddle shopping, take someone along who's been at it longer than you have or go to a reputable saddle shop who specializes in saddle fitting. Have that same person check your saddle before/after winter and summer to check to see if your horse's back has changed. DO NOT think "It's what will have to work" as an acceptable reason to keep around a semi good fitting saddle.

Okay, PSA over. I'm seriously happy I don't have to buy anything other than the saddle pad. I'm even MORE seriously happy about having a HAPPY horse. When Flick came RUNNING to me on Sat while out in turn out, I knew he was feeling great.

A HAPPY horse = a HAPPY owner.