Sigh. I'm admittedly fairly useless when it comes to saddle fitting. I feel hugely undereducated here. When the Schleese fitter last week said to ditch my ancient dressage saddle, I *tried* to pay attention to everything she said to look for. Tried.
My jump saddle is a Passier Precision. It's a medium tree, and she was able to adjust the tree and reflock to get a very nice fit. My mare loves it. So I am trialing a Passier Antares. It's on the same PS Baum medium tree. Through the withers and back, it seems to fit her very nicely. But it's obviously a bit snug through her shoulders. She doesn't necessarily have broad shoulders... just big, super-slopey ones... if that makes sense. So... since the fitter was here a week ago, I won't be able to have her check this saddle during the trial (which ends Thursday), though I will have my trainer take a look tomorrow. I really like the saddle for me, and I'm trying to decide if this is something the fitter can work with. I have a super low budget and the price on this one was great... sending saddles back and forth really eats at the budget...
So... if this saddle is restricting her shoulders, it's too... narrow, right? So it just needs to be widened? I don't know... if the saddle fits me well and I like the way I ride in it... and it fits my budget... would you send it back, or keep it and try to get it adjusted next time the fitter is out? (I'd obviously ride in something different in the mean time...) I guess I don't know what all is involved in fixing the problem.
AND... can somebody point me to a good reference to read more about saddle fit? I try to read all the threads that pop up, but I feel like I just need a good basic primer so I know what the heck I'm reading about when I see terms like "gussets."
I'm really not a stupid person. Just grew up in the world of "Saddle doesn't fit? Throw on another pad!" I need remedial coursework to catch up.
For basic understanding of saddle fit you might find a copy or dvd of "Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit" by Dr Joyce Harman DVM. A nice thorough written description of why and why not,lol.... Also seriously, TONS of pics . I have seen the book on Amazon , eBay and in some tack shops. good luck!
Take note where he describes the front points of the tree. For a horse with big shoulders you may want swept back points and a flared front.
Suffice it to say that, like most brand-sponsored saddle fitting videos, that video talks up one particular brand's design philosophies. And in the saddle world, there's usually more than one way to skin the cat. While it's true that you can accommodate a horse's shoulder by having swept-back tree points, there's five or six other valid ways to make room for a big laid-back shoulder. For example, here's how some other brands do it:
--shorten and angle the tree point such that if it's not angled backward, it's still highly unlikely to contact the shoulder
--instead of (or in combination with) a swept-back tree point, locate the tree point far enough back on the saddle tree that it's unlikely to contact the shoulder
--never mind the tree point angle, just build up the front of the panel so that the whole saddle is lifted up and off the shoulder, leaving lots of soft "slide room" for the shoulder without the shoulder encountering the tree point
--market your saddle as one that's designed to be used with a half pad, which functionally achieves what I just described above
--design the tree point itself to be flexible so that it will allegedly move with the shoulder on the rare occasions that the shoulder might make contact with the tree point
--elongate the tree point so that it distributes the weight across the entire shoulder and trapezius muscle
I'm not saying that I drink all of the Kool Aids that I just described. I'm merely stating that there's a lot of fitting philosophies out there.
But archieflies, for your purpose, here's the much simpler answer: we probably can't tell you, from this distance, what your options are. Even if you had two saddles with exactly the same tree and width, differences in panel design could have a substantial effect on the saddle's fit. There are also some brands of saddle where they use the "same" tree in their dressage and jump saddles BUT the dressage trees have elongated tree points. In those brands, the dressage saddles tend to fit more snugly than the jump saddles. It's also possible that although you have two saddles marked "medium," they could be different in centimeter-width measures; for example, a Passier 27 cm or 27.5 cm could both reasonably be referred to as a "medium."
I know that's not the answer you wanted. Sorry. FWIW, widening a Passier is going to set you back at least $200-$300 and used Passier dressage saddles are a dime a dozen. If you buy this saddle and it doesn't work out, you may have a difficult time off-loading it. It's a pity since Passiers are fantastic saddles.
Thanks, all! Time for me to get reading and watching videos!
I'll take it along to my lesson tonight and get the trainer to take a peak, then I'll try to call the fitter tomorrow and see if she thinks she can work with it... Sounds like finding the right saddle may just take a while longer... Sure wish I could find a saddle-shaped horse! :-)
If the saddle's snug in the shoulders, it could be a tree width issue. Or a panel issue. If your mare has big shoulders, Passier's Freedom panels (which are attached 3/4" lower in the pommel arch to provide more room for beefier withers/shoulders) might be an option.
Dr. Joyce Harman's book is a good one. My personal favorite is Galadriel Billington's "Saddle Fitting Essentials" (http://lorienstable.com/book/). Concise, easy to understand, and a steal as either a paperback ($9.99) or an e-book ($4.99).
One very common issue is to place the saddle too far forward. Make sure the tree points are behind the shoulders. If the saddle is too narrow the horse will become more and more reluctant to bend and step out.
Trumbull Mountain has many articles on its site about saddle fit, as well as, many used Passier saddles in different sizes and price points.
Thanks, all. We decided that the saddle could be made to fit, but that maybe it isn't the right saddle for me. So I'll just ride in my jump saddle and borrow a dressage saddle when needed, until I can up the budget a bit. In the mean time, I've ordered a couple books to read up. Thanks for all the help!!