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Saddle fitting for a Fjord who refuses to like ANY saddle!

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  • Saddle fitting for a Fjord who refuses to like ANY saddle!

    My Fjord is rather particular it seems!
    I have been having saddle fit issues on and off since I bought him 5 years ago and it is a nightmare!
    When I bought him I bought a Thorowgood T4 Cob for him which has never really fit. It got fitted by a master saddler, but he never really liked it and I have found that the channel sits too low on the back of his spine which is very slightly roached.

    He's a slightly weird shape, I'd describe him as a teardrop shape. His spine sticks up slightly and then he rounds out. He's very narrow for a Fjord and definately not drafty. He's got the slightest roach at the back of his back, and is definately long in the back for a Fjord.

    After the Thorowgood (never buy one- massively uncomfortable and do not last well!) I bought a Bates Isabell which didn't work either, it was a medium gullet and bridged quite badly, any wider and it sat too low, any narrower and it pinched his withers, it just didn't suit his shape. Sold it.

    Now I have Luc Childerics, honestly, I cannot believe this horse is objecting to a luc childeric!
    I have two Childerics both medium gullets, one is a 17.5" DSG DAC 15mm panels and seems to fit very well! The other is an 18" DAC 10mm panels and I don't think it fits quite as well as the other but not a terrible fit. There's plenty of wither clearance on both, heaps of spine room, definately not pressing on his spine, and definately no bridging! Even sweat marks etc. Yet he is still majorly objecting with pigroots and kicking up in the canter.

    He saw the chiropractor yesterday for the first time in a year as he was definately sore and he has been sitting in the paddock for about a month and half as he started pigrooting and gradually got worse so I assumed it was a physical thing. He was checked and the chiro found tightness in his hindend and said it would be enough to annoy him to buck. He has a known sacroilliac weakness due to his long back (he went out very badly last year and he gets yearly maintainance, though will probably be 6 monthly from now on)

    The only issue I have found with the saddles is rubbing on his loin. It's like the saddle is too wide for his back so it shifts when I ride him? I really need to extra .5"-1" for my fat butt though, so going smaller isn't really an option and it definately isn't too long for his back. The only reason I can find for it moving is I haven't bought a short enough girth yet for it and it is slightly too loose on the top hole (I don't even know if girths can come any shorter! Mine's only 50cm I am sure!) Would this cause it to shift slightly?

    I just have no idea what to do! The saddle fitter cannot come out for 2 months, I can't leave him for two months unridden.
    Will a thinline pad help with the shifting? As it really is the only reason I can find to make him object to the saddles as once they come off his back and when they sit on his back without any pads they really do appear to fit hime very well!
    I am totally lost with this horse, as I love him but I love my childerics as well, he goes 10x better in them aside from the pigrooting, perhaps because my position and riding is so much better with them! They are just amazing!

    Here are some pictures that hopefully illustrate what I am trying to say! Unfortunately they are the most recent ones I have of him unsaddled and are from about June. He also is sporting about the worst haircut I think I have ever given him which would be a result of a neck rug as we were coming into winter.

    This one I think is the only one that sort of shows the tear drop shape I mean. Behind his withers, his spine slightly sits higher and "pokes out". Then hollows and rounds out over his ribs.

    And these are the side on ones.

    And just proof that he doesn't always look completely ugly and I can infact cut his mane properly!! (I did buy this picture it's hanging in my room!) - He only looked that alert because he decided that he was going to be eaten by potplants XD it took us 5 minutes to get to the judges car! How embarassing!

  • #2
    Well let me say he is really cute, bad haircut or not! In the second side picture it looks like his back isn't flat but comes up soon after the center of his back. I would think that a saddle with upswept panels would be better for him than one with flat panels and deep gussets (which could possibly be poking him in the back, rubbing his loin as you mentioned) . . . I don't think a Thinline would fix the problem - he might need a different panel shape. It may be that where your butt is sitting (in looking at the photo of you on him) is where his back is coming up and the panel is indeed causing pressure there (but not the kind that can be fixed with a pad).
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


    • #3
      Have u tried treeless?


      • #4
        I rode my Fjord in a Prestige. It was custom built for him though.


        • #5
          I've been force to a full quarter horse bars western saddle for my mustang with a similar conformation. I use a felt pad and a pocket bridge pad to fill in the area behind the withers caused by the roach back. He's gone from spinning and bucking seemingly at random to being perfectly behaved and showing off his huge gaits. I thought about treeless but my finances don't allow experimentation and I know the western saddle works. So its Western Dressage for me now


          • #6
            Its not that he's a weird shape so much as that he looks to have some significant muscle wastage on his back. It would appear like he's used to going around inverted.

            Have you tried doing a good bit of correct lunging work with him to build the topline, really getting him to lift his back and stretch, and THEN fit him for a saddle?


            • Original Poster

              Unfortunately inverted sums up this horses entire life
              The people I purchased him from had spend 4 years destroying his way of going with a twisted wire bit and riding off their hands, which has made him very defensive of his mouth and he tends to jam his neck up into his shoulders and pretends to be dead in the mouth. He is also known to take hold of the bit and just take off. He doesn't take off often anymore, only on cross country/out in open paddocks if I go past his half hour of "acceptable work time" :P He will be as good as gold for me for 1/2 an hour but if I try and keep pushing for more he will let me know by "taking off" and running to the nearest gate. And there's no pulling him up, my instructor saw him do it once and said even if we pulled his head in with draw reins when he does it he'd keep steam training along. Thankfully, I don't find it frightening at all, I'm so used to going up 5 gears in half a second I can just sit it out til he stops at the nearest gate/person/group of horses.

              I know he can be very sensitive, and I ride him off my seat now.
              When I tried him out he didn't stop or turn, the old owners actually said "do 2 or 3 really hard pulls and he will stop", so four years of that in a twisted bit really did screw him around quite a bit.
              He's now in a french link baucher.

              So it looks like today as his first day back being ridden after his chiro visit, I will throw on a bareback pad and go out into the paddocks and walk some hills/step over some of the logs on the ground to try and get some back muscles happening.


              • #8
                in the meantime while you're waiting for the saddle fitter, an anatomical girth might be worth trying(shorter than the one you're currently using). hopefullly one will help keep the saddle in position...like the county logic, KL select or ovation models


                • #9
                  Originally posted by fjording View Post
                  going with a twisted wire bit and riding off their hands, which has made him very defensive of his mouth and he tends to jam his neck up into his shoulders and pretends to be dead in the mouth.

                  He is also known to take hold of the bit and just take off.

                  if I go past his half hour of "acceptable work time" :P
                  He will be as good as gold for me for 1/2 an hour but if I try and keep pushing for more he will let me know by "taking off" and running to the nearest gate.

                  And there's no pulling him up, my instructor saw him do it once and said even if we pulled his head in with draw reins when he does it he'd keep steam training along.
                  I know he can be very sensitive, and I ride him off my seat now.
                  He's now in a french link baucher.

                  So it looks like today as his first day back being ridden after his chiro visit ... try and get some back muscles happening.
                  These are all training issues & you can continue to work him on HIS terms or you can start the l.o.n.g path to working through the issues.
                  The bottom line: he doesn't look to you as the leader; instead, he is the one in charge & he puts up with your idiosyncracies as long as it suits & then he's done.
                  Changing his thoughts on this would essentially require restarting him & re-training all the basics - except where an unstarted horse is blissfully ignorant & willing, this guy has a ton of learned evasions to throw at every turn.
                  Several months to a year of consistent groundwork (halterwork, lunge work, round penning), then undersaddle using a halter, and bridle reintroduction long after - you might even have to compromise on bitless.
                  A trainer that is experienced at "fixing" this sort of horse makes the long road alot more accessible & fun.
                  But there may also be physical issues that underly his resistance - the damage to back muscle & nerves may be permanent.

                  I don't know how long you've had this guy, but you could also just let this guy be a happy pasture pony & put all that effort into a new horse that is a better match for your goals


                  • #10
                    I'll second pocket pony on the upswept panels. I've been the happy free-leaser of 2 Fjords in the last year; both have similar teardrop shapes backs. Not at all flat-backed like prior free lease Haffie was!
                    Both came w. no tack, so I had nothing to compare to. 6 months w/ Scout taller, narrow - very like your guy w/ slightly less roach. Have had Lilly since June - she is shorter, broad chest, topline very like your guy's.
                    Saddle is a MW Spirig with upswept panels - fit to each with flocking adjustments. it is ever so slightly narrow for Lilly, but not awful per fitter. If I owned her I would look into having the tree adjusted (but since that is not recommend more than once, I'm not going that route)
                    Independent fitter recommended against any saddle w. gusseted panels for the reasons Pocket Pony noted in her post.
                    not sure this link will work. but if it does here is my Spirig on Scout (NOT me riding! I wish I was 35 yrs younger and thin like this college kid!)
                    good luck! saddle searching= painful and expensive!


                    • #11
                      There was a horse photographed on the Trumbull Mountain Tack website with significant muscle wastage--I'd check that out and call them--see what they recommend. They seem quiite knowledgable. I'd also consider renting a dressage saddle--there's a place in Florida that does that.


                      • #12
                        saabski that fjord is lovely. and I peeked at your other FB pics, love the other fjord too! I own two, a 21 year old canadian bred gelding and my new girl who is 7 years old and all of 13.3 hands on her tiptoes. They're getting a bit of a sabbatical from work with me for the next few months as I'm headed into a knee replacement surgery end of next month but I plan to be back riding early spring and getting them back in shape. How do you keep yours so fit?

                        To the OP I second checking in with Trumbull Mountain Tack, Nancy is great to work with and can do a lot with pictures and measurements. Also you might look into the Duett line of dressage saddles as they often work for very hard to fit pony types. I have two fjords and both are completely different body types though my older gelding is probably closer to what yours is like in that he actually has some wither and is not nearly as table backed and wide as my new mare who has the shortest neck I've ever seen but can move out well despite it.


                        • #13
                          Fjord fitness

                          Thanks for the complimentary remarks, Grace67!
                          how I keep them so fit .... well, I ride Lilly (13.3, chunkier one who I have now) at least 4x/week and she goes in a select few lessons too. My rides we do a lot of transitions, both between gaits and within each gait. she was a bit unfit on arrival in June, but came around quickly. Same program for Scout who I had from 12/1/10 to mid-June. They are 1/2 sibs w/ same sire (Highview's Jord) White Roses' Scout and White Roses' Lilly. Wonderful personalities, real tryers. Sensible w/ more go than whoa, their biggest flaw is not really liking to Halt. I think it is a momentum thing; they are both smart and I swear they KNOW I am just going to ask for fwd again after we halt and they are thinking "why halt?"

                          to the OP (back on track from Hijacking) - Trumbull Mtn is superbly helpful; if you send them tracings (exc instructions on their website) they can really help narrow down possible choices for you. the Duetts I tried weren't quite right for Fjord #1, then I found the Spirig ....Not sure where you are, but they also may be able to recommend a fitter local to you who will be available sooner?! than 2 months out.


                          • #14
                            Scanned the threads.
                            Have you tried a Duett?
                            I think they even have a model for fjords.

                            WOnderful saddles. Colin Kimball Davis saddle fit my draft, who had major issues with saddles.
                            Hopefully, you can find a saddle fitter to help fit him.
                            save lives...spay/neuter/geld


                            • #15
                              Someone up there id ask if the O/P tried a treeless.

                              O/P have you tried one? There are Ansur reps out there who will let you try them before you buy. For a hard to fit horse with saddle sourness, that may be just the ticket.

                              I have a couple horses on opposite ends of the spectrum..a flat broad backed Cob and a high withered, massive shouldered STB...the Ansure can fit both.

                              My STB was in misery saddle after saddle, and i wasn't buying Thorowgoods; I had a an older Kieffer, 2 different Albions; my "cheapie" was my favorite...a Theo Sommer. Still...he was just always sore. Had a very good chiro and saddle fitter; both concurred that technically the saddles did fit. My horse told me otherwise.

                              Once i tried the Ansur, first time, I could not believe the difference.

                              Some people hate treeless. Most who do have tried cheapos or none at all.

                              I'd just encourage you to take a step back, and just try one. No commitment...just try it. Your horse may be happy you did. =)


                              • #16
                                I believe the OP is in Australia.

                                I suspect NSC will have local reps & they could likely build one to suit.

                                Manely Equine seems to distribute Duett & Lovatt & Rickett saddles.


                                • #17
                                  I have a fjord. Had a custom made Custom Saddlery, Wolfgang Solo. Fits and rides like glove.