Dressage Saddle Slipping Forward...Saddle too Narrow?
The short of my question is that I have a trial saddle out in a Wide tree. I like it but it's shifting way forward onto the top of his fairly sizeable withers. Is it too narrow? (it appears in correct balance pommel to cantle when initially placed up there.) He does have withers, so the saddle actually CLIMBS up there!
The long of it: My 20 year old gelding has been a saddle fitting nightmare for the 10 years I've had him. I had planned to semi-retire him, but he's doing so great in this 19 year old County WB (#4 tree) padded up to the hilt that I bought for his retirement years that we've moved up to 4th level! But the rise is just too steep for me and I've been in...err...pain. I've tried a full inch larger seat size and seamless breeches, but it's just too steep and I can't take it anymore. But, he's not in pain, so I've stuck with it, but it's now affecting my position in a negative way and I'm just in pain. I sucked it up for many months because I was embarrassed and figured I was doing something wrong and finally confessed to my trainer what was going on and she convinced me to get rid of it.
We have our debut at 4th level this weekend and we're on the saddle hunt again.
Typically, saddles slip WAY forward onto his withers. They start in the right place and creep up. We've tried contoured girths (to no avail), saddles are in the right place to start, but due to his conformation (pocket behind withers (he does have withers), very dippy back, forward girth channel, and bulging shoulder...he is pretty wide (an old style warmblood) and a huge huge mover.
He's been fit by two different fitters into custom saddles that didn't work (bald spots under cantle within a month) and had to be sold.
He's tried a Custom Advantage, Luc Childeric, Passier, and Lauriche (all bald spots under cantle). Most other saddles bridge on him (Wolfgang, Hulsebos).
I recently went through the agony of having a saddle slip forward and my horse pitch a fit about the points digging into his shoulders! This was a used Passier Optimum, tree size 27.5 cm. The saddle appeared to fit him perfectly at the standstill and was ok at the walk and the first few minutes of trot. After that, the saddle was on this withers and shoulders. I talked to Passier Germany and they requested wither tracings, which I sent. They wrote back and said the horse's tracings indicated that he should wear close to a 29.5 cm tree (wide)!
I sent the tracings and the saddle to Passier's USA saddle fitter, who widened the tree to 29 cm. I rode in the saddle in a dressage clinic on Saturday and the saddle did not move forward; I rode on the trails on Sunday and the saddle did not move forward; I rode in a lesson on Monday (tons of cantering) and the saddle did not slip forward. In this particular instance, the tree was too narrow. BTW, the saddle also has a point billet and I use an Ovation girth with elastic on both ends.
Sorry, to clarify...I have tried a County Competitor 2000, a County Perfection, and a County Connection. The rise on each was simply too steep for me...in a 17", a 17.5", and an 18The balance is great, the rise just doesn't work.
The Custom Advantage was recommended by a fitter and Custom adjusted the tree and flocking to my fitters' specifications on the horse. Flocking was adjusted 2 months later. Flocking was adjusted 2 months after that by a different fitter and horse went lame shortly thereafter and was quite back sore (he was lame for a year) so I sold the saddle thinking he was retiring and the saddle wasn't working anyway.
The others were saddles that appeared to fit and only flocking adjustments were made, so not truly custom. I'm pretty not-wealthy (that's an understatement), so used is a financial necessity. I'm not a cheapskate and if someone had a 100% guarantee a $4k saddle would work for me and him, I'd go for it, but no one's going to do that and the soreness often isn't immediately apparent (but shows up after 10 rides that most companies afford you).
I'm not complaining or blaming any companies or fitters...the saddles I have tried are beautiful, high end saddles. My other horse goes beautifully in her Custom Wolfgang and I love it. But they just haven't worked out for us.
Thanks for the advice! I'm excited for our 4th debut!
Barnsby makes a great non-slip pad, you can find them on Smart Pak. Not cheap, but helped my saddle situation a fair amount. (sadly, they only come in white, and are tricky to wash...) This pad has waffle weave type stuff on the underside to stop pad from sliding and two panels on top that stop the saddle from moving on the pad.
Second, just to be sure, there is a difference between a contoured girth, which is designed to free up area behind elbows, and an anatomical girth which is designed for horses with a more forward girth groove. (look at County Logic girth). Also not cheap. This, combined with the above pad fixed my problem while waiting for a saddle that would truly fit my horse.
I'm still mostly using both, but can now switch to a different pad when dealing w/ the washing issue.
Last comment - I know a number of people who have saddles w/ point billets, but also know some horses that do not like them because the front billet pulls the tree points down into their shoulder. I would sure try one for a bit before committing to one.
Thanks for the comment on the anatomical girth v contour girth...I'll look into trying a County Logic. I bought a long string girth yesterday thinking since my billets are universal, he might find that more comfortable.
He was so back sore from the trial saddle I tried Monday that he only did his carrot stretches, butt tucks, longed in a surcingle, then carrot stretches/butt tucks again. So that trial saddle is OUT. And I'm terrified he won't recover for his show (which we've been working towards all spring/summer). So, no more trials this week--he's recovering.
I have a waffle-y style pad--not sure if it's close to the Barnsby--bought it in France. He's currently in a Mattes pad with 2 back riser shims. The County (while jacked up) isn't causing him pain (except to me).
He is not close coupled. He's pretty long backed, it's just really curvy. He's also 20, but he's had the same dippy back for the 10 years I've owned him. It's how he's built. I'll take some photos at the show unmounted this weekend.
Perhaps the Fusion's rise is gentler? Anyone know if the county rise's feel any different on the different models?
The Black Country Eden is designed for the dippy-backed horse from the tree to the panels, and is available with front gussets to fill in those pockets on either side of the withers. Great for horses built as your guy is. And... the pommel is low, and the twist is medium.