Saturday, September 5, 2015

something's gotta give

Sooooooo......... Ugh. I've been bemoaning the questionable fit of my Bates saddle on Isabel for almost the entire time I've owned it (since February, for those keeping score at home). The fitter has been out 3 times since okaying the purchase, and at our last fitting she pretty much said the saddle was the wrong shape for the horse.

Reeeeeally wish I knew that before I bought (and fell in love with) the saddle.

"does this saddle make my butt look big?!?" - emma
"it's not the saddle, hon" - isabel
I have been a little bit in denial... maybe hoping we could limp along with shimmed half pads and more frequent chiro appointments. But our last lesson with Dan made it abundantly clear that this situation isn't working when the mare was SERIOUSLY back sore afterwards.

looking fairly nicely balanced, sans girth
Good good good mare that she is, she didn't quit on me in the lesson... But all those chip strides and stutter steps before the fences definitely led to the saddle jamming into her withers again and again, and she paid the price for it. Ugh. I feel terrible.

still looks ok with the girth on
Meaning I'm back to exploring options. I just can't in good conscience keep making her work through pain like that. So brace yourself for more posts in the coming days/weeks that will look a lot like this one: full out analysis of a whooooole bunch of different saddles (or, maybe, just a few until I find the perfect glass slipper).

appears to have good clearance, tho once on it got a little snug on her spine
First up, I asked Kaitlyn if I could try out the Philippe Fontaine Lyon she just picked up. Which happens to be a 16.5" wide tree saddle. Which those of you who were around for round one might recognizes as NOT AT ALL the specs I want for Isabel. Well... desperate times, desperate measures, blah blah blah.

left side: not girthed up. right side: with girth
The thing is, finding a narrow saddle has been so difficult - and if the fit isn't just quiiiite right there's no room in there for corrective padding. So I'm thinking that maybe something a little wider can be padded up to fit? Idk. Really I'm grasping at straws here. But I kinda liked the way it sat on her all the same.

ready for action!!! (and please disregard that hole i rubbed into my long-suffering mare's side.. ugh....)
I walked around for a long time and ultimately decided that we needed a little more clearance down the gullet, so I hastily stuck my Success Equestrian no-slip half pad in there. Things still looked fairly decently balanced so we got to work.

still ok?
I actually felt surprisingly good in the saddle. Could fit my whole hand between my butt and the rear of the seat, and my knees didn't poke over the edge of the flap. Close, but not quite. Leather is super grippy tho, and there's a bunch of big ol' blocks so I felt snug enough (nothing compares to my Bates tho!).

i like that the saddle doesn't come as far back on her spine
We flatted around for a while and Isabel felt really phenomenal. Really loose and relaxed and swinging. She's been doing pretty well lately anyway, so I can't really attribute that to the saddle. But at one point we were powering down the long side in our current approximation of an extended trot (whatever that is) and she was soft and round and getting a bit of suspension in her step. I don't think she'd feel that good if something were pinching.

toes forward please!!
I asked another rider in the ring to snap a quick video of us hopping over an oxer for further review. I, personally, felt good in the saddle. But what did it look like?


Verdict? Still not really clear. There's motion in the saddle over the fence - particularly right at takeoff, which is the point at which the Bates moves the most too.

you can see the rear of the saddle is ever-so-slightly lifted off Izzy's back
It's not clear if the saddle is actually 'rocking,' per se, or if I just didn't have the girth on tight enough (billets are not broken in yet). So idk.

sweat patterns are different from the bates. not 'perfect' but the dry spot is smaller and in a slightly different spot
I don't think it's a perfect fit for either of us, but it might be better than the Bates. Kaitlyn has very generously allowed me to ride in it for a little while, so I'll try to get some input from the various trainers. Plus I'll hopefully be able to get a sense of how Isabel's back feels after riding in this for a little while vs. the Bates.

Fontaine (left) gullet is wider up front than the Bates (right), and narrower in back
Meanwhile another saddle is coming in for a trial on Tuesday so you can expect a similar rundown. Ugh. Saddle shopping fucking sucks.

39 comments:

  1. The panel definitely looks a bit too curvy for her, especially toward the back, so I would bet it's rocking. Good luck with the search, you know I feel your pain!!!

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    1. yea i'm trying to look for something a little flatter... hopefully it'll happen with minimal pain!!

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  2. I'm fighting the same battle. Tried a narrow tree and my guy hated it. Paid $300 for the fancy correction pad and that maybe worked for a bit, but now I'm back to behavior issues again. So is it the saddle, my horse's bad attitude, something else???? It's making me crazy!

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    1. ugh it really is enough to drive one to lunacy, i think. and yea going down the fancy half pad rabbit hole is something i tried too with no real success. i'm lucky we're not having behavioral problems at this point, honestly. poor ponies. good luck with your own search!

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  3. Ugh this is no fun. I may be going through the same thing soon. I LOVE my saddle but it's too wide for TC. I'm hoping that it has enough room in the panels to reflock it and make it fit well enough as he gets wider, but I'm thinking I may need to get him a saddle for the next year or so while he's filling out. So frustrating! Good luck with your saddle search!

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    1. sooooo frustrating!! hopefully your search turns out to be easier!! these delicate little horses and their ever-changing backs....

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  4. Argh! That is not a fun realization and battle you're fighting. She is a great little mare tho. Good luck on the search.

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  5. Argh! That is not a fun realization and battle you're fighting. She is a great little mare tho. Good luck on the search.

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    1. thanks! she is so great, and such a saint for not dumping me on my ass whenever the saddle jams into her!

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  6. That really sucks - I think I'm about to walk this road with Kat but I'm sort of hedging around the subject haha

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    1. oh man, hedge for as long as you can!!! that's what i did lol.... denial can be a comfortable place lol

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  7. I'm heading down this path shortly with mine too. Best of luck finding something perfect for you both!

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    1. thanks... ugh it seems to be such a common plight -- i really think there should be personal saddle shoppers. that is something i would 100% pay for.

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  8. I love Bates/Wintec/Collegiate saddles too. I was super bummed out when Sydney outgrew my Collegiate CC and Wintec dressage saddles. What about trying an anatomical girth, or finding a saddle with a point billet? It looks like she has a very forward girth groove, which could be causing the saddle to move forward and jam into her withers too. That was the issue I had with Sydney.

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    1. we tried out a super fancy pants ($$$) anatomic girth and she HATED it haha. (much to my dismay bc i was totally smitten). however that does not appear to be the issue here anyway. yes she has a forward groove, but the saddle is not actually climbing up her shoulders, it's just rocking in place - sorta pivoting on the dip right below her withers.

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  9. Boo, hiss- not fun at all! Let me know if I can help.

    Work's dressage trailer with the saddle fitter is in the Northeast for another month or so- I can get you their info if it's helpful! Good luck!

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    1. haha i visit your shop's website with frequency. haven't seen anything that makes me want to take the leap for a trial (i tend to be a little gun shy, preferring to exhaust all local resources first before looking into shipping stuff out to try), but if you happen to get anything with a flat-ish tree that looks like a solid eventing saddle (i like a bit of padding) with a 17" seat and narrow tree, lmk!!

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  10. I second the comment about forward girth groove. A moon girth would be your friend. Also is she really a narrow fitting? Sometimes the atrophy from previous wither squashing saddles has made them seem narrower. A wider saddle with soft shims can allow the muscle to improve . Maybe not a wide saddle though, more like medium.

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    1. yes she really is a narrow fitting - in the skeletal sense too, not just bc she's got zero topline. but i am starting to investigate wider saddles anyway (the one pictured throughout this post is a wide, tho it seems more like a medium)

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  11. Saddle fitting is a tricky task. I'm thankful that my saddle seems to fit Annie well enough with my Ogilvy. Hopefully as she grows and fills out it will fit even better.

    I'm not sure what brands you're interested in but it might be worth having some reps come out (it's normally free) and try saddles - even if you don't want to go the new route/ drop that kind of money it could give you a good idea of what to look at used. I know 900FB has gotten some steals from overseas once she knew the specs she needed.

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    1. that's actually a great idea that i hadn't even considered. part of the struggle for me is that i actually know very very VERY little about different brands and constructions etc, and it's made the search very difficult. i know that there are bargains to be had - but just haven't felt confident that i actually know what to look for.

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  12. Saddle shopping is such a nightmare. Try everything you can get your hands on, you never know what will work!

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    1. i am going to try ALLLLLL the things!!! something's gotta work, right?

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  13. Ugh! I feel your pain! Saddle fitting SUCKS! I hope you find something that works for you and Isabel soon!

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    1. thanks me too .... it's definitely not my favorite thing tho haha

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  14. Ugh saddle fitting. I love my Jaguar. It fit Mikey perfectly. It does not fit Penn very well. It's too wide, but I've been able to pad it because I'm unwilling to buy a new saddle for a horse that's going to grow out of it in less than a year. I'm hoping he maintains some of his whither and doesn't become mutton whithered... I'm not holding my breath. I hate saddle searching and fitting!!

    I had a bates dressage a couple years ago - does yours have cair panels or an adjustable tree? Those can probably be switched to fit her shape. Since you're working her, her back is probably going to change again... I'm a big fan of the adjustable trees for when the horse is building muscle.

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    1. so i bought this bates specifically bc it has wool flocking and an adjustable tree. should fit any horse, right? that's partly how i could rationalize buying such a big ticket item for a horse i don't own... but alas, despite multiple re-flockings and changing the gullet size, the saddle itself (the tree, i guess? or the panels?) is just plain old the wrong shape :(

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  15. This is basically just confirming what you said, but a horse can go substantially better in a saddle that isn't ideal for the first few rides just because it hurts differently and that isn't aggravating the usual soreness.

    Or you can get a thoroughbred and never get away with anything less than perfect for the rest of their lives.

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    1. yea that's kinda what i'm afraid of - that she'll go better temporarily in a different saddle but then end up with a back that's even more sore than we started out with. ugh. and the saddle posted about above seems to be sitting off to one side too, so that's also worrying me :(

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  16. Bane of my existence. It's good you have a barn of saddles you can try though. Most people I know within 2 hours of here ride Western.....

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    1. sadly i don't have a ton of other options within my own barn, but at least there are lots of tack shops around. narrows seem particularly difficult to come by, but if i start looking at wides too maybe things will get easier? idk. ugh.

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  17. Well you know how I feel about saddle hunting since I've bought and sold more saddles than most, lol. Maybe keep an eye out for a used Amerigo? They have a flatter tree shape usually, are flockable, and they tend to go for a steal in the US.
    I need to do a blog update on my CWD saga at some point, I have no lucky in having things go easily!

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    1. nice call on the Amerigo. I will take a look, sicne i think a flatter tree will work better (hopefully)

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  18. Saddle fitting is so frustrating. Finding the perfect for horse & rider is harder than finding a unicorn.

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    1. ugh seriously. i wish i could pay someone to do the leg work for me!

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  19. So frustrating - I feel your pain!! :(

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    1. it's definitely not my favorite activity. i've got leads on a couple potential saddles so we will see :(

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  20. Ugh, I hate obsessing over saddle fit. It's so hard, because obviously it's super important, but I also kind of feel like for us mortals (who cannot afford custom) it's more of finding "something workable" than "the one"

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    1. yea that's kinda what i think too.... but on top of that i don't trust my judgement about 'what works' at all.... ugh

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