Saddle Suggestions for Young Growing Horse - Update 1/23
My 5 year old mare made it abundantly clear this week (with bucking and last night a rear) that our saddle is making her very unhappy. I bought a Collegiate Diploma before I backed her with the hope that the adjustable gullets and a Thinline saddle fitter pad would get us through her growing stages. Obviously though I need to try something new.
She's a Hano/TB so at the moment her withers seem to have sprouted and her backend is about to catch up. The Hano part is making her bulk up across her back and the channel in the collegiate wasn't broad enough for her. It is bridging and lifting up at the back. A more narrow gullet to lift the pommel didn't leave enough room for her shoulders and she was still cranky.
I plan to have a saddle fitter out, but I'd like some ideas in mind to suggest when he comes. Her intended discipline is jumpers, but I've taken her to some hunter shows and I do a lot of flatwork. Ideally I'd like something with a bit of a deeper seat, not flat. CC so not too long in the flap. My legs tend to sit more forward so a knee roll would help to keep them back. I like my position in the Collegiate, it just isn't working for her. I'm average height so I don't need anything special.
Willing to spend up to $1500 (Canadian) but may look for something used to get us through any more growth spurts before I get her something more on the custom side.
I see that you don't have responses yet...kinda a tough question.
My saddle fitter told me that warmbloods pull themselves along with their front legs for the first part of their life - thus they are very broad up front and tend to need a wider tree. Then...as they mature...they start using more of their hind end...they "pop" a wither as they start to lose muscle up front and become more narrow. My guy (full Trakehner) did this at age 10. He went from an XW (age 5-7) to a wide (age 7-10) to now a medium-wide/medium tree.
I guess I would either:
A.) Buy the exact tree size she needs right now, assuming she isn't going to get any more broad (and that the TB in her will slow that broadening a bit)
B.) Buy her something that is just a smidge wide to allow for additional broadening if you think that is likely to happen and pad up until she's there.
And just know that she is probably going to get more narrow with time perhaps and by age 10 or so...you'll probably need to change trees.
Wool flocked panels might not be a bad idea since you have access to a saddle fitter and that will let you adjust the fit every 6 months or so.
That being said - some of the widest channel saddles I've seen are foam flocked so YMWV.
And if you want a wide channel...just study the pictures of used saddles online. After awhile, you'll start to see which brands have the wide channels.
I just completed a saddle search and I thought the Childeric and Antares had fantastically wide channels. Really nice. You might be able to find a used one to fit your needs?
If your horse has lots of withers, I'd recommend a slightly wider tree than she needs with a Beval wither cut out pad or similar. It's the poor man's solution to saddle fitting.
Your other option is to just buy a saddle that fits the horse now, and be prepared to sell it or flock it in a year or two. You might need to give her a little time off to help clear any back pain she has going on right now.
I had great success with my young horse (no withers though) when I started using a saddle right pad with my Bates. It seemed to help stabilize the saddle on her back and she knocked off most of her bucking. It was the first time too that she stretched down on the lunge line.
sptraining - Her withers aren't huge, they've just sort of sprouted oddly lately. Perhaps that's why I am noticing them. A few people at my barn agree that she's in the middle of a growth spurt, so looking really awkward.
I'm not against the idea of buying a saddle that I will have to sell again in a year or two. I want to get her something more custom at some point, but I was hoping to wait until she was done growing. I thought we were almost there.. but then she sprouted!
I do also have a half pad with shims, the Thinline saddle fitter pad. It comes with two sizes of shims and for the most part I've had her in a gullet wider than necessary, using the pad to fill in gaps. It just doesn't seem to be working any more.
Trakegirl - Your description of WBs starting out wider and narrowing up sounds exactly like what she is going through. At one point she was most comfortable in a medium-wide gullet, but now she's in a medium and I think she could go narrower.
The Collegiate I currently have is wool flocked. Someone on another board suggested that I may be having issues with the back lifting because of how "round" the panels are.. they are curving up off her back. I have to drop by the tack store this weekend so I'll see if I can talk to their saddle fitter while I'm there. I'm curious to know if he might be able to adjust the flocking on this saddle to make her more comfortable.
I know that no one can really suggest a saddle that would sort this out without looking at her/seeing saddles on her, but I would much appreciate any suggestions of brands that you find comfortable or nice to ride in. I also want something that I will like!
ETA that she is currently getting some time off as she is a bit sore. Not a huge pain reaction when we checked her back, but there is a tender spot and it seems quite tight. I gave her some bute last night and I'm just going to longe/free longe until I get this sorted out. I will also have my RMT out asap to help loosen her up!
I have a 4yr old Holsteiner geld that is SUPER wide. I tried a CWD custom saddle that just didn't fit him right and I ended up sending back. My vet suggested I wait on a getting a custom saddle until he's 5-6 because his withers still have to grow. Since I still need something to ride in until then, I bought a Pessoa XP3 with a changable tree. It's a really comfortable saddle and the XW tree seems to fit him really well. If I had to nit pick on anything, I'd say the channel isn't quiet wide enough for him (he has a really wide, flat back) but other than that, the fit isn't bad. I feel comfortable in it... even when he has his 4yr old temper-tantrums
Someone on another board suggested that I may be having issues with the back lifting because of how "round" the panels are.. they are curving up off her back.
What is the shape of her back right now? Flat or curvy? Ie - if you took a 2x4 and laid it on her back long ways...would it lie flat and make contact all the way along? (Indicating a flat back) Or would it make contact near the withers and then again near the loins, as the middle part of the back dips down a bit (Indicating a curvy back).
Flat backs do best with the squared off gusseted panel shape.
Curvy backs do best with more of a curved banana panel shape.
This site gives an idea of what each type of back looks like:
Can you see why it is called a banana shape? See how it curves up and away from the horse?
If your horse's back is curvy - you actually might be having problems because your more gusseted/flat panels are not the right shape for her and are lifting up off her back because they are too straight. You actually might need to go more curvy rather than straighter. Unless she has the warmblood straight 2x4 back.
If you can get a couple of saddles to try from your tack store with the different panel shapes - very squared off/gusseted vs. very curvy...that might help you in figuring out what shape she needs.
To me - looks like the saddle in your picture is a dead match (panel shape-wise) for the one I linked to at Adam's Horse Supply. Definitely more straight/gusseted than curvy.
It is hard to tell from the pix - but to me - looks like she has quite the wither and a pretty curvy back in this photo. Makes sense the panels are no where near making contact with her back. Saddles also looks to be sitting a little low in front - indicating she might need a more narrow tree size or padding up front.
Yes I will get recent ones on Sunday. She was 3 coming 4 when I took that photo, I had only had her for a few months and she was unbacked and very skinny when I bought her. Now she's 5 coming 6, fat and sassy with a lot more muscle.
I think I mentioned that I tried the more narrow gullet and she had no room to move her shoulders and was bucking at the canter. Clearly I need someone with more experience to help me with this! I only have basic fitting knowledge..
Sorry that I took longer than I said to update! I unfortunately haven't taken any pictures yet. Meant to today but forgot my camera. Will try to remember tomorrow.
I had the massage therapist and the saddle fitter out today. The RMT didn't find any real soreness or knots in the area where we feel she is uncomfortable, but it is a bit thickened so she feels that it might be bruised. Gave her a nice deep massage which she relaxed into after a bit, and I think we'll do another in a month.
Saddle fitter checked the fit of my Collegiate and it was much worse than I realized. It was sitting quite far up on her shoulders which was why I couldn't narrow the gullet.. too tight as I thought. It was also moving all over the place, side to side and bridging so very unstable. In order to have the saddle sit level he would have to pad the back way up and I would lose the last of the clearance above her withers, so I need to go with something new altogether.
We tried a few on her and I ended up riding in his own brand that he makes for the store. It's a pretty nice little saddle and in my price range. I felt 1000x more balance and actually able to sit up and back without having to fight the saddle. Unfortunately my mare still seemed sore. She was happy to trot around for a bit but after about 10 minutes she was back to fussing and hopping.
So the plan right now is a few weeks of not riding, only longing and ground work. Someone at the barn is going to teach me to long line on her steady eddy and then we're going to teach my mare. Then the fitter is going to come back out and we will try again and hope there is no discomfort. If there is still an issue I will probably have her seen by the vet to make sure there isn't an underlying health problem.
Thanks for the update. We've been going thru almost the same deal with my 4yr old.. since Aug/Sept. (ugh) Keep us posted. Nice to know that I'm not the only one going thru this!! Massage and Chiro has helped my boy.
My 4 yr old had issues last year. Lyme during the summer. A growth spurt early fall made his saddle sit wrong on his back.
( Massage and Chiropractor has helped so much) He was so sore (ithink) that he was unhappy in the ring. The thing that we couldnt understand was he was happy enough to hack out. We brought in another Vet and it was decided that he was having issues with his stifles. We're on month two of estrone and he seems to be better but we've decided to give him the winter off and see whats going on in the spring. I am planning to get a custom saddle for him but worried that if I have one fit this summer that he will continue to grow/change that a large investment will not fit properly.. Arent you happy you asked??? Let us know how your making out.
Oh man, I am sooo not looking forward to this with my baby!
I haven't even backed him yet (he'll be 3 in March) and I know it's going to be a pain. I got a Bates Caprilli cc for his mom when she was young. I hoped that the adjustable gullet would buy me some time with one saddle while she grew, but it wasn't the answer and she left me before I found the answer. The Caprilli already doesn't fit my boy as well as my old Crosby does, but I know it's just a matter of time before that doesn't work either....
I would most deffinitely reccomend a wintec. I myself have a wintec close contact 500, in caramel. Ive had it for 4 and a half years now.. its looks great. And it fits wonderful, you can change your gullets, so when your horses body changes as it matures (i have young horses) you can change it. You can also bring the saddle in and get the CAIR pumped up or down. They are very comfortable, and take crazy amounts of abuse! I've changed my gullets multiple times for multiple horses.
You can buy them anywhere, and you can get them on a trail period. They are deffinitely not the 'old style' synthetic saddles, that are, IMHO slightly unappealing.
You can also buy Bates saddles (same maker) with the CAIR and easy change gullet system. I would highly reccomd these saddles though!