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Saddle fit experiment - has anyone ever tried this?

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  • Saddle fit experiment - has anyone ever tried this?

    After looking for a year and buying several saddles, I'm still without a dressage saddle that will work. Nothing seems to fit our stallion, even though he has never been hard to find a jumping saddle for.

    My last attempt was a Wintec Isabell - I thought that with the adjustable tree and air panels, I might have a better chance of having things work. But it sits too close to his spine. rrrrr. Buying and trying saddles by mail is getting old (and expensive) and no tack shops w/ a lot of saddles in stock are close by. I was actually thinking of approaching a trainer at one of our local dressage barns and asking if they would be willing to have me pay to haul my horse in and try any of their student's saddles on him that are willing to let me (under their supervision of course). I don't even need to ride in the saddles, I just want to be able to go to one place and put a bunch of saddles on him - to get a feel for a brand/model could work for us (w/o all the delay of doing this one at a time by mail). Has anyone tried anything like this before, or is this idea pretty 'out there'?

    Also, any suggestions? He fits in most regular treed jump saddles - but most of the dressage saddles I've tried seem to be a bit wide for him (if they have enough clearance), or they are well balanced but sit too low on him. I'm not very tall, so I'm also hoping for something that doesn't have super long flaps. Other than that I'm not too picky, I just want something decently well made that isn't a custom price.
    Blacktree Farm
    Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
    Blacktree Studio
    Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.

  • #2
    How about something like Schleese or Custom Saddlery where they bring saddles out for you to try?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by WarmbloodColor View Post
      After looking for a year and buying several saddles, I'm still without a dressage saddle that will work. Nothing seems to fit our stallion, even though he has never been hard to find a jumping saddle for.

      Also, any suggestions? He fits in most regular treed jump saddles - but most of the dressage saddles I've tried seem to be a bit wide for him (if they have enough clearance), or they are well balanced but sit too low on him. I'm not very tall, so I'm also hoping for something that doesn't have super long flaps. Other than that I'm not too picky, I just want something decently well made that isn't a custom price.
      For the last 2 years, I have bought & sold saddles in my quest to find one for my horse. I keep a log and journal, and just recently counted 44 saddles that I've bought & sold Thats my saddle experiment/school

      I've learned a lot. I've learned what my body likes, I've learned how different styles can really affect one's riding. I've learned the pro & cons of being stuck in boofy deep seat vs unsupported in an open minimal flat seat (and I like 'em both actually ). I've learned how to care for leather, and how to spot the hallmarks of craftsmanship. I've learned about the intricacies of fit for my horse, and what to pay attention to. And I've learned the remarkable lesson of "if the saddle doesn't fit the horse properly, you will be thrown into a chair seat or tipped forward with a hollow back" its not the saddle's fault.

      But the most valuable lesson I've learned is that it all boils down to what the horse says about the fit. Some of the saddles that my horse likes going in the best, look like not-so-perfect fits, and some of the ideal fitting saddles, my horse despises.

      My advice to you is to consider professional help, someone who can look at a tracing and put you in the right direction. I think the idea of going someplace and just setting lots of saddles down on your boy's back is a marvelous idea, see as many shapes and designs as possible. But I advise that you need to, at one point, ride the saddle before committing to it. For example, you might find Albions suit your horse's build, but I wouldn't go out and buy one until you at least ride one.

      There is no shortcut for experience, imho one can either hire experienced help, or put in the time like I'm doing (I'm a hardheaded irish-woman never said I was smart )

      I've learned that its critical to ride the saddle, not just slap 'em down and feel for gaps. Fortunately for me, my horse is so sensitive, I get a yeah or nay when I tighten the girth, but I verify that with a 45min ride too (just to torture the poor pony but seriously, to look at pad & sweat marks).

      A friend has a saddle of mine on loan, she rode her recently deceased TB in it. She LOVED the saddle for herself, and the sweat marks and dirt marks on the pad were perfect, everything about the fit was perfect, and yet the horse despised the saddle. and was happy as a clam in some old $300 stubben that had an awkward yet passable fit.

      I'd love to see photos of the saddles on your horse though. "Well balanced but sits too low" has got me imagining lots of different things. Is it not possible to find a solution in padding? I'm envisioning a saddle that is a perfect shape, but just slightly too large overall.

      I hope this is helpful
      Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

      Comment


      • #4
        You say that most jump saddles fit him but dressage saddles do not. The biggest difference between jump vs dressage saddles is that dressage saddles have longer tree points. My guess is that the longer tree points don't conform to your horse's conformation around the withers & shoulders.

        In my experience, you have 3 good options -

        1. Look for a dressage saddle with tree points that angle back. Try Hennig, Custom Saddlery (I know the Wolfgang Solo is like this, not sure about their other models), and Kieffer Orphee. There may be other saddles that I'm not aware of.

        2. Look for a dressage saddle built on a jumping tree. Jaguar, Cobra, Dominus, Harry Dabbs, and some Amerigo models fit this bill. There are others but I can't think of their names right now. The only drawback here is these saddles tend to have very up-swept panels (in back) so if your horse has a longer, flatter back this may not disperse weight enough for his comfort.

        3. Look for a saddle with gussets in the front panels. Black Country does this and I think Passier's Freedom Panels address this need, although I have yet to see them in person. Although the tree points are still long, these gussets allow for a much more custom fit around withers/shoulders.

        I hope this helps you & your horse.
        "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince

        Comment


        • #5
          When you say the saddles you tried did not fit, did you mean that they plain will not work? The reason I ask is, I have yet encountered a saddle that will fit my boys from the get go.

          What I need to do is, to find a saddle that has the right tree width and the right overall tree shape ( I mean the whole tree not just the tree point), and get the saddle fitter to reflock it. And a good saddle fitter should be able to tell you whether the tree shape works for your boy.

          Most jumping saddles are made of foam stuffed so most jumpers don't think about reflocking. However, most good dressage saddles are made of materials that can be reflocked.

          Comment


          • #6
            Have you tried a Childeric or a l'apogee?

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Ambrey View Post
              How about something like Schleese or Custom Saddlery where they bring saddles out for you to try?
              That sounds lovely - but we are writing a BIG check today to the guy putting in our arena, so my husband would *kill* me if I spent that much money on something custom, esp. in the Schleese price range.

              Originally posted by buck22 View Post
              For the last 2 years, I have bought & sold saddles in my quest to find one for my horse. I keep a log and journal, and just recently counted 44 saddles that I've bought & sold Thats my saddle experiment/school
              Holy cow, 44 saddles!! I totally would have given up.

              Originally posted by buck22 View Post
              But the most valuable lesson I've learned is that it all boils down to what the horse says about the fit. Some of the saddles that my horse likes going in the best, look like not-so-perfect fits, and some of the ideal fitting saddles, my horse despises.
              I hear you there. My old gelding was VERY particular and let me know QUICK if he didn't like a saddle. Sometimes the ones that looked perfect fit-wise, he rejected. Our stallion on the other hand is such a good boy, he just tries to make everything work without being so obvious about how happy he is (or isn't). Who knew that could be a bad thing?

              Originally posted by buck22 View Post
              I think the idea of going someplace and just setting lots of saddles down on your boy's back is a marvelous idea, see as many shapes and designs as possible. But I advise that you need to, at one point, ride the saddle before committing to it. For example, you might find Albions suit your horse's build, but I wouldn't go out and buy one until you at least ride one.
              I would definitely also want to ride in one before buying, but I thought this could give me a good starting point, help me to get a feel for what brands/models seem to work for him and which don't.

              Originally posted by buck22 View Post
              I'd love to see photos of the saddles on your horse though. "Well balanced but sits too low" has got me imagining lots of different things. Is it not possible to find a solution in padding? I'm envisioning a saddle that is a perfect shape, but just slightly too large overall.
              The 'well balanced but sits too low' saddle I still have, so I could take some pictures of that one. That's the Isabell. It looks good on him from the ground, though not as much clearance as would be ideal (the bottom panels on either side of the gullet aren't thick enough). It looked like that could be a problem, so I just took him on a 15 minute walk hack in it, then did about 20 steps of trot. When I took it off I felt HORRIBLE. The muscles about 6 inches back - on both sides of his spine - were quite raised and tight. I checked in the channel of the saddle in that same place, and sure enough, there was a part of the tree that you could feel through the channel there, that must have come in contact with him. I have a dense foam pad that could raise the whole saddle a 1/4", but after seeing his poor back like that just from walking, I don't know if I want to try it on him again. And he was such a good boy! You'd never had known that was happening, poor guy.

              Originally posted by retrofit View Post
              You say that most jump saddles fit him but dressage saddles do not. The biggest difference between jump vs dressage saddles is that dressage saddles have longer tree points. My guess is that the longer tree points don't conform to your horse's conformation around the withers & shoulders.
              That sounds right, that's where most of these dressage saddles aren't fitting him. He has a pretty normal topline but is a bit narrow further down, in the barrel/shoulders. Most saddles have been too low in front.

              Originally posted by retrofit View Post
              Look for a saddle with gussets in the front panels. Black Country does this and I think Passier's Freedom Panels address this need, although I have yet to see them in person. Although the tree points are still long, these gussets allow for a much more custom fit around withers/shoulders.
              Retrofit - VERY helpful post - thank you so much! Could you clarify what you mean above by 'gussets in the front panels'?

              Originally posted by Gloria View Post
              When you say the saddles you tried did not fit, did you mean that they plain will not work? The reason I ask is, I have yet encountered a saddle that will fit my boys from the get go.

              What I need to do is, to find a saddle that has the right tree width and the right overall tree shape ( I mean the whole tree not just the tree point), and get the saddle fitter to reflock it. And a good saddle fitter should be able to tell you whether the tree shape works for your boy.
              I've thought of this and may definitely go that route if I find one that looks pretty good on him but could use some minor adjustments. How much does it usually cost to reflock a saddle?

              Originally posted by Rival View Post
              Have you tried a Childeric or a l'apogee?
              Haven't even heard of those brands. I'll check them out. So far we've tried a Bates, a Wintec, a Crosby and 2 Courbettes.
              Last edited by Blacktree; Aug. 6, 2009, 01:09 PM.
              Blacktree Farm
              Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
              Blacktree Studio
              Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.

              Comment


              • #8
                i totally can relate. i have a difficult to fit mare that i have had many different saddles for.....

                i have finally bitten the bullet and gone "custom" - but since i cant afford a new custom, made to fit me and my horse saddle, i am doing the 2nd best thing which is to have the saddermaker find a good fitting used saddle from his line and then re flock for a good fit. IT wont be a great fitting as a totally custom saddle, but it will fit better than an off the rack model.

                anyway, total cost to me $1950

                Feel free to PM me for name of saddler - i think he comes to your area....

                ETA: re: your OP - i think it is *brilliant* idea about going to a large barn and trying all the saddles.... super duper idea!

                eta again to say - i have learned a lot about saddle/fitting/etc in m search for a decent saddle... and what i have found i that in general the off the rack models dont have good fitting trees - and since the trees are not made to fit then the saddle will always be "wonky"

                and the reason why the trees don't fit is various basic form issues and the fact that they are trying to make a tree for the "average" horse...... and if you don't that that perfect average horse you are out of luck.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by WarmbloodColor View Post
                  Retrofit - VERY helpful post - thank you so much! Could you clarify what you mean above by 'gussets in the front panels'?
                  this is a superb site for explaining parts of the saddle,
                  http://www.trumbullmtn.com/Other_Pag...addle_term.htm

                  about halfway down the page is a photo of "wither gussets"
                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Custom Saddlery is much less expensive than Schleese, and despite the name they have off the rack saddles I was more thinking about the fact that they'll bring them to you.

                    As for a horse with a wither and a hollow around it, my pony is like that and the Neidersuss in medium fits him really well. The other option, although not as good, is to pad it up a bit at the top with a correction pad.

                    You can have a saddle re-flocked to fit as well.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re-flocking

                      I have paid between $100 (reflocking & adjustments) to almost $400 (more like a total rebuild of the whole underside of saddle - so semi-custom fit for horse). Definitely worth it if you like the saddle to begin with.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Around here in central Oklahoma, the saddle fitting runs about $90, plus fitter's traveling expenses. When the saddle fitter came, he told me what brands of saddles will most likely work with my horses and what will mostly not work. In the past two years, I purchased one used Albion and two used County, and have them reflocked to fit my boys. I have been very happy with the result.

                        And really I dislike any of those exchangeable gullet thingy. Think about it, an ideal tree will coform to your horse's back to provide even contact and elimiate pressure points. To make exchangeable gullet work, the tree itself has to be somehow in two pieces. And the edge of the two pieces of tree can cause extreme pressure. Imagine what it is like to wear a backpack where the hard plastic piece has broken, and then put 100+ lb of pressure on it. I can just flinch to think about it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think the hauling in is a SUPER idea. I'd even bet that some of the saddle owners would allow you to ride in it (I would if I was there and my saddle is a Verhan - Pretty pricey).

                          Maybe offer $5.00 to test ride or if that gets pricey perhaps swap something (chores, something you could make rather inexpensively - e.g. embroider their initials on a saddle pad, etc.). You might even luck out and find someone wanting to sell their saddle.
                          Now in Kentucky

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ambrey View Post
                            Custom Saddlery is much less expensive <snip> and despite the name they have off the rack saddles .
                            yes and you wont believe the number of people who think they are getting a custom made to fit saddle when they order a "Custom Brand" saddle.

                            in all honestly i think it is misleading and false advertising.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thanks so far everyone - this has been very helpful!

                              Originally posted by buck22 View Post
                              this is a superb site for explaining parts of the saddle,
                              http://www.trumbullmtn.com/Other_Pag...addle_term.htm
                              Great site, thanks for the link.

                              Originally posted by kpony View Post
                              I have paid between $100 (reflocking & adjustments) to almost $400 (more like a total rebuild of the whole underside of saddle - so semi-custom fit for horse). Definitely worth it if you like the saddle to begin with.
                              That's not too bad. Good to know!

                              Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                              Around here in central Oklahoma, the saddle fitting runs about $90, plus fitter's traveling expenses. When the saddle fitter came, he told me what brands of saddles will most likely work with my horses and what will mostly not work. In the past two years, I purchased one used Albion and two used County, and have them reflocked to fit my boys. I have been very happy with the result.
                              I think if my 'going to a dressage barn experiment' doesn't pan out, this is they way I'll go next.

                              Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                              And really I dislike any of those exchangeable gullet thingy. Think about it, an ideal tree will coform to your horse's back to provide even contact and elimiate pressure points. To make exchangeable gullet work, the tree itself has to be somehow in two pieces. And the edge of the two pieces of tree can cause extreme pressure.
                              I think that is exactly what was causing problems with the Isabell.

                              Originally posted by Valentina_32926 View Post
                              I think the hauling in is a SUPER idea. I'd even bet that some of the saddle owners would allow you to ride in it (I would if I was there and my saddle is a Verhan - Pretty pricey).

                              Maybe offer $5.00 to test ride or if that gets pricey perhaps swap something (chores, something you could make rather inexpensively - e.g. embroider their initials on a saddle pad, etc.). You might even luck out and find someone wanting to sell their saddle.
                              That's kind of what I was hoping for.
                              Blacktree Farm
                              Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
                              Blacktree Studio
                              Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I use an American Flex delrin panel saddle. It will fit every horse I put it on in any state of muscular development, even if they are unevenly muscled. The sweat patterns always are full and even, plus the weight bearing area is greatly increased from a regular hard tree. The delrin panels are mounted to a regular tree on a ball joint at the front so they conform to any shoulder shape (table back or narrow). The back attachment has a slot so that the panel can shorten/bend when the horse bends. The panels distribute the rider/saddle weight and are flexible enough to allow the shoulder blade freedom of movement.
                                You can find used saddle or the newest models here: http://www.hillviewfarms.com/

                                I see no reason why a person should go through dozens of saddles to find one that has limited fit for a horse or horses. Get the tree that your butt likes with the delrin panels that fit every horse you ride.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by rodawn
                                  Is your stallion still growing? If he is, I suggest you find a "second best" saddle that you can work with for now, but start saving your pennies and when he has finally finished growing at about 7 or 8 years of age, then go to Schleese and get him a purely customized saddle built specifically for him and for you.
                                  That's actually where we are now. When I got him, my dressage saddle didn't fit him - so I sold it. He was still growing and changing so much that I didn't even look into getting a new one until last year when he turned 7 and seemed like he was finishing (I've just been using my jump saddle in the meantime). In the end, I probably will end up trying to save for something like a Schleese, because you are so right that w/ a stallion, it is even more important that he is be able to move and show himself as best as possible. But for now, I'm hoping to get that 'second best' saddle that will work for a while until I can afford that final step.

                                  Originally posted by rodawn
                                  You mentioned that there was a saddle that seemed to work but sit rather on the low side? That's because it is wide, but you said it seems like he likes it.
                                  I don't think he likes it, it just sits more balanced on him than most saddles. He's such a good boy, unfortunately he doesn't complain much if things aren't working, just gets sore. It does look like it could work with that foam pad to uniformly lift it up, but I was so upset to see his muscles look like that - I don't know if I should even try that or if I should move on.

                                  Originally posted by rodawn
                                  My boy put on another 1/4 inch in height in the spring of his 8-year-old year, plus additional bone. So, just kinda keep that in mind. Some warmbloods grow a very, very long time.
                                  Wow, that is a long time. And my guy has definitely been a late bloomer, I will keep that in mind.

                                  Originally posted by rodawn
                                  Take a good firm feel of your horse's back and feel for the spinous processes tips under the muscle mass. Mark the widest point of each one with a felt pen. If you find some are wider than others, these are the ones you have to pay particular attention to. Draw a line down your horse's back connecting the dots, and measure the width at the widest point. THIS is the width you want for your gullet.
                                  Very interesting. Didn't realize that, thank you.
                                  Blacktree Farm
                                  Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
                                  Blacktree Studio
                                  Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    You know it just occurs to me why on earth is custom made English saddle so pricy? A couple of years ago we purchsed a Billy Cook custom western saddle for my husband and his belgain x quarter horse for under $2000. I mean it was complete custom made with custom tree made by Billy Cook himself.

                                    We hauled the horse to Billy Cook's shop, Billy Cook came out to look at the horse and decided we needed a custom tree. The widest tree they had was too narrow for this boy... I remember Billy was grumbling about "draft horses are not riding horses". lol.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      why are custom english saddle so pricey? because people will pay it..... and when one saddle maker ups their price - everyone has to do it otherwise they lose "cred" and people will think their saddles are no good.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by WarmbloodColor View Post
                                        I was actually thinking of approaching a trainer at one of our local dressage barns and asking if they would be willing to have me pay to haul my horse in and try any of their student's saddles on him that are willing to let me (under their supervision of course). I don't even need to ride in the saddles, I just want to be able to go to one place and put a bunch of saddles on him - to get a feel for a brand/model could work for us (w/o all the delay of doing this one at a time by mail). Has anyone tried anything like this before, or is this idea pretty 'out there'?
                                        I have actually done this. It was at my own barn and was at my trainer's suggestion. I can't tell you how educational and helpful it was to be able to compare them one after another, sometimes going back to a previous one and looking at it again. I didn't have the major problems you've had, but also I was a lot less knowledgeable. I think it shortened my search quite a bit. But I do think you absolutely have to at least sit in a few of the saddles yourself, and by all means ride for at least 10 minutes if you possibly can. I think most people won't mind as long as you take excellent care of their saddle for those few minutes.
                                        Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?

                                        Comment

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