View Full Version : When to call it quits with a saddle?

Dec. 16, 2011, 02:02 AM
Saddle fitting is going to make me completely lose it. If I haven't already. :lol:

I purchased a "custom" County Conquest for my mare about a year ago. She was 5 1/2 at the time, and I knew I was taking a risk due to her age. However she's Miss Sensitive, and *I'm* hard to fit due to long Thigh <--> knee measurement. Not a lot of options off the rack.

Ridden in it for months, it's great. Fits me super well. Change programs. Horse grows a whole new set of muscles (uhoh). And being a year later, she also now has withers. (double uhoh). :no:

Now the fun begins. The conquest tends to sit a bit close by design, but even after it's been fitted, it looks great until it settles, and then it actually hits her in the withers. Not good. My trainer has this amazing half pad (Saddleright) that puts it exactly right for her spine without pinching, but the panels have been stuffed to fit her back, not sitting on top of a fairly flat pad, and it creates some rocking which Miss Sensitive does not approve of. I'm also a bit twitchy about the idea of fitting a saddle to require a corrective pad. Isn't that what getting a custom fitted saddle is meant to avoid?? I've had the saddle refitted three times in two months already because the horse keeps changing, and it's still not right. This is getting expensive.

1) Twist the long suffering fitter's arm into fitting it with the pad. She's not going to like it. I'm not sure she'll even do it. I view this as a "buy us some time" option since the mare is going to keep changing.

2) Keep on getting it fitted on a monthly basis. At this point, I'm not sure I don't want to just say "screw it" and move on to a new plan. I have NEVER heard of a horse that needed to be fit that often to keep the saddle working for them, and it seems excessive. Not to mention really expensive.

3) Cut my losses and move on. Sell saddle. Find something else. Except I have no idea what.

Other suggestions???

Dec. 16, 2011, 02:33 AM
I would cut your loses and find a different saddle. If a saddle fitter has to change the tree once a month something is not right.

call around to other saddle companies devoucoux, custom saddlery, CWD, you get the idea.

Dec. 16, 2011, 02:46 AM
No magic advice because all the options kinda suck but lots of (((HUGS))).

I will say that my first thought was that the customer is always right and the fitter should suck it up and fit to the pad, but I know how one of our fitters here locally is and getting him to fit to a pad...yeah, not gonna happen. I've asked. Twice. :( He won't do my saddle the next time partially based on that.

The hassle of monthly flocking adjustments seems like a ridiculous PITA. Unless you are able to live a life of total leisure and have no other responsibilities or obligations. Ok, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but I barely have time to hitch up and trailer out to actual shows, much less to the tack shop monthly.

In this market, resale sucks. Big time. Which in my case (looking to buy), ROCKS. In yours, not at all. But what about trading it in on a different County model? Or, calling a different County rep for a second opinion? I wonder if you're not just getting hosed by your current rep. Beth Peters covers the NC area and from reviews here as well as from horsey friends, I hear she's fabulous and honest. Next time I need a reflock or tweak, she's going to be the one that I use for those reasons.

Good luck, OP, and I hope you find a good, or at least palatable, solution.

Dec. 16, 2011, 12:58 PM
Maybe try a different half-pad, like an Ecogold? I say this because I have three half-pads that I rotate depending on which saddle i'm using on which horse I'm riding. I have the Ecogold triple-protection one, the SaddleRight one you mentioned, and a Corrector pad. The Ecogold is far better for conforming to a horse's back, yet lifting it off the wither, than the Corrector pad, because my saddle sits close to my horse's withers, but the panels and the tree width are correct. I tried my SaddleRight pad to help it lift, but it actually narrowed the tree, so I went back to the Ecogold, and have used nothing but it since.

Dec. 16, 2011, 01:44 PM
Disclaimer first: I haven't seen the saddle on the horse, and I'm not a pro. For all I know, it could be beyond saving.

But here's the million dollar question: would a tree adjustment fix your problem? Normally I'd say you're beyond helping, but many horses who've sprung a wither and built a topline while losing their baby fat end up with a major change in tree size. This is contrary to a lot of popular wisdom--you always HEAR that horses will get wider as their topline expands. In reality, it depends on the horse, the disciplines the horse is used for, the amount of work, and whether the moon is in the House of Vega. I thought my saddle fitter was smoking something when she told me that my 7-year-old horse, who was a wide when he was 5 years old and had gone down to a medium-wide by age 7, would undoubtedly finish as a medium narrow. She entreated me to buy a generous medium tree with a lot of flockability in front because it would accommodate the "full descent." She was right--the horse is now 10 and he's still a medium in the winter, medium-narrow in the summer.

One might respond with "Wouldn't the saddle fitter have mentioned this option by now?" but when a saddle fitter's been treating the problem incrementally, fixing only the little bits that amass each month rather than seeing the horse once or twice a year, they might totally miss the possibility of a big-scale adjustment. And let's face it, they make more money stringing you along with wool fittings and selling you a trade-in saddle than discussing possible adjustments to your current saddle. Especially with something like a County skid row panel which has so much room for wool adjustment, meaning one can put off the question of an actual tree adjustment for a very long time.

So I'd say as a first step, take brand new wither tracings and comparing those tracings them directly to the saddle. If you aren't good at eyeballing widths, take your tracing on a manila file folder. Then cut out the tracing and hold it up to the saddle. If you are REALLY bad at eyeballing, you can even use your flexicurve to kind of approximate the angle of your saddle's tree points and hold THAT up to the wither tracing.

If the tree width is not a substantial contributor, then yes, it's probably time to move onto another saddle. Because the other thing that could be happening is that in the process of springing a new set of withers, she's grown into the sort of horse that needs a steeper/higher/faster rise to the pommel. Although frankly the County Conquest is pretty good in that regard--not the highest/steepest on the market by a long shot, but with plenty enough clearance for many high withers--so I sorta doubt that's your problem. I'm basing this on the picture of Bria you posted a few months ago, and again, haven't seen the saddle on the horse.

Dec. 16, 2011, 01:45 PM
You may want to try a different girth.

One of my saddles fits way better with a "stud protector" girth wide belly pad

The other horse seems to prefer the "ergonomic" or anatomic girths

Dec. 16, 2011, 02:08 PM
Hmmm. All very interesting!

J: We did go down a tree size - from MW to M. The only thing that's changed since then is that her withers have come up. The area below that is actually more filled in than it used to be due to her working much better than she used to. Her brand new winter blanket that fit last year is also rubbing a bit on her withers this year, and it just seems bony-er than it used to. I suspect it's the rise to the pommel that's doing us in; the fitter (who is a county rep) told me specifically that the Conquest is a lower profile saddle than the others.

E-m: That's interesting about the Ecogold. One of the things I'm finding frustrating is that she keeps changing, which is why I'm reluctant to just replace the saddle. I talked to Ecogold this morning since we don't have a dealer here - apparently I can try it for a good couple of weeks and ship it back if I don't like it! So I have one on the way.

O: Interesting about the girth. **that** never occurred to me.

Dec. 16, 2011, 05:23 PM
Ask your county rep to let you know what saddler in your area works on county saddles. From what you said you can probably have a shoulder gusset added (about $200.) to the front of the saddle to hold the saddle back off the withers. This will add height to the front of the saddle. If your saddle is balanced and you add this feature you may have to have them add a skid row panel as well to keep the balance back to front. This I have no idea of cost or if it's even possible.

I love county saddles but they fit quite close, so I have found that to go with a narrower tree really works and to use the options like shoulder gussets to keep the saddle where it should be. I think this is because the points of the saddle are so short that's why they have the low profile. The horses do like it but it can be a pain to manage them on certain horses.

Another option is to just take it to any saddler in a store and have them remove some of the flocking and make sure the flocking is level. Put a good sheepskin pad under, (ie Mattes pad) I've done that with a saddle that fits me fab, but I need it to fit many horses... remove quite a bit of flocking and just keep fiddling with padding.

If your saddle fits you well and sounds like your horse may keep changing a bit, I'd make this one work right now and start saving for maybe a new one in another year when your horse is more mature and less changes will occur. Not a good time to sell a used saddle as someone else said!

Dec. 16, 2011, 07:24 PM
Ask your county rep to let you know what saddler in your area works on county saddles. From what you said you can probably have a shoulder gusset added (about $200.) to the front of the saddle to hold the saddle back off the withers. This will add height to the front of the saddle. If your saddle is balanced and you add this feature you may have to have them add a skid row panel as well to keep the balance back to front. This I have no idea of cost or if it's even possible.

The saddle in question already has skid row panels and wither gussets in the front.

Dec. 16, 2011, 09:34 PM
Sounds like your rep is fighting an uphill battle with a very changing horse! I understand the frustration. I personally would try to make this saddle work until she levels out and see if A, it will fit her then, or B, it won't and THEN look for something new. Don't want to wind up with 2 ill fitting saddles to sell down the road. FWIW, I have a VERY high withered mare and she goes in a Conquest. With a Mattes pad underneath. My fitter actually recomended it because it fit well everywhere except spine clearance and that just does the trick.

Dec. 16, 2011, 09:48 PM
I'm very interested in hearing the suggestions to this issue, because I too have a "custom" County Conquest that has never fit correctly in that it sits too low on my horse's withers.

The first issue was that a few months after I got it I had to send it back to England to change out the tree. The initial County rep who fitted it gave me a medium tree, but the new rep who came out to fit it said I needed a medium narrow. Ok.

Saddle comes and seems to fit better, but only for a few weeks. I proceed to try many different pads and then my horse gets injured and laid up for a year, so it is a non-issue.

Horse gets fitted back up and I have new (3rd) County rep come and look at my saddle. She can only get the saddle to fit properly with a Mattes pad with shims. At this point I am rolling my eyes at the whole "custom" aspect of this saddle, because I think I could get any saddle to fit ok with a Mattes pad with shims. This rep is very helpful and has been out a couple more times for me, but the bottom line is that this saddle does.not.fit. and is only acceptable (but not great) due to the Mattes pad. It presses down something fierce on top of my horses withers without the pad, and I need to use lifts in the back to achieve some sort of balance.

I recently tried a Courbette Vision, which feels very similar to the County AND has a cut back pommel, but I need to custom order one with a very odd narrow configuration as of course the off the shelf configurations don't work. I am SO gun shy about the whole "order a custom saddle thing and we guarantee it will fit your horse" spiel so I haven't done it yet.

FWIW I've never had this issue with dressage saddles. I've had an off the shelf Passier and now an off the shelf Custom that fit wonderfully with only a square pad.

If you've read this far and have any other saddle pad suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them.

Dec. 16, 2011, 09:52 PM
You need to find a really good saddler who can reflock this saddle to fit the horse. You should not be going through this kind of frustration. Ask around for the best saddler in your area. Or even if you have to go out of your area, it might be worth it in the long run.
You can change saddles but you wil probably run into the same thing again.
I wish you the best in getting this solved.

Dec. 17, 2011, 12:23 AM
3) Cut my losses and move on. Sell saddle. Find something else. Except I have no idea what.

Did you have the tree replaced in this saddle or not?
(or did all of this come up after the tree-fit warranty "expired") - it does sound as if a narrower tree would sooner solve the issue than more padding.

Dec. 17, 2011, 12:57 AM
The tree in my saddle has *not* been replaced (it was another poster who had theirs done). The thing is, when she's standing still, it looks perfect. It's when she gets moving it starts to sink...

Dec. 17, 2011, 09:04 AM
Without seeing your horse and saddle, but it sounds like you both have saddles that are to wide for your horses. Because of the low profile of County Saddles and the very short tree points horses fit in them very differently then other saddles. I personally wish that County would get away from using Narrow, Medium, Wide to label their trees. I think it is very misleading.

My one gelding is in a County Perfection Narrow tree no skid row panel but with shoulder gussets.. perfect fit. BUT his County Innovation is an Extra Narrow tree with shoulder gussets and a skid row panel. Both fit him well, but I recently got a Amerigo monoflap for the same horse and that's a medium tree... go figure!

Anyway, fit the horse to saddle not to a label of size. With County in particular I would be aware that they have a low profile and the softer leather that you upgrade to will have less form in the wool panels and may sink. Both of you will either need a narrower tree or just use a pad. Again, if you use a pad have some flocking removed or flattened so the saddle rests evenly on the back pad.

We just got a new county rep in NJ and she seemed to think it odd that my horse was in two different tree sizes! Scared me to death, cause I have tons of these saddles in my barn and I know the Innovation tree runs wide... bothers me that she doesn't! Maybe I should go to saddle fitting school, seems as if it's a useful as meteorology!!

Dec. 17, 2011, 08:10 PM
I had the same issue with my TB gelding and a saddle borrowed from a very generous CoTH'er. When the horse was standing still and for the first 15 mins of a ride, the saddle fit perfectly. Past that, it sank onto withers and Mr. Pony became very unhappy. Fitter was out several times and it was determined that the saddle slid back just enough to rest on the wither - horse in question is a very high withered TB, and the saddle in question was a County Symmetry.

Not sure if that helps at all, but I would check to see if the saddle is sliding at all, or if the flocking is "settling" during your ride (also happened with the County). Saddle fitting is a pain :(

Dec. 17, 2011, 11:37 PM
Is is sliding into the hole behind her shoulders when she moves her leg forward? That's what my saddle was doing as I rode, which caused it to creep forward and hit her withers. I had a point billet put on and that pretty much fixed that, along with the Mattes because mine really needs a MN, but I found a used M. Everything looked great standing, but as soon as we cantered, up it went. It was only moving about an inch and a half, but as far back as she needs her saddle put, that was enough to cause problems. And a point billet looks better than a crupper on a TB anywyas.