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PSA: Saddle Fit and Youngsters

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  • PSA: Saddle Fit and Youngsters

    Please have your saddle fitter check your saddle fit on your young horses every 6 months!

    After repeating "my saddle was fit/flocked to his back in Feb" to both my trainer and vet for weeks, I finally called the fitter back as something was just NQR.

    My 6y/o OTTB grew in 3 months... Like saddle no longer works grew and saddle fitter has never seen such a dramatic change between wither tracings grew. His topline has at least an inch difference, meaning his withers popped up... This horse does not need bigger withers! Not to mention the all over widening. I'm going to take the measuring stick to him and see if he's now taller than 16.3 (says the person who said the next horse didn't have to be tall).

    Unfortunately, this means my awesome, pry from my dead hands xc saddle, will no longer work Tree/bars just do not fit his shoulders/conformation. No amount of padding will work, we tried.

    Off to go find a money tree and shake it for all it's worth, or I may have to "shake it for all it's worth" to pay for this horse...

  • #2
    This is why I DON'T get a saddle fit to a young horse...they change WAY MORE than every six months. I prefer to start off with something that generally fits them ok and then pad and shim as needed. As Vernon changed and developed (the last young, young horse I brought along), I was probably changing pad set up every couple of weeks. At about 5 and a half, he stopped changing so rapidly.

    Unless you've got gobs of money to spend on a fitter, I rather invest in a variety of pads for the young horse....for this exact reason. What fits them as a baby won't necessarily fit them in the future.


    • Original Poster

      I thought I was good, waiting until he developed some muscle/actual topline. I figured at 6, he'd be done growing right? Some things you just cannot shim/pad. With really only one saddle to work with, I don't have a ton of options.

      Horses, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!


      • #4
        I just opted out of saddle fitting for my young horse, and rode him in a treeless saddle. He's now coming 8, and is finally looking like a mature horse, so I will think about investing in a different saddle. The treeless is great for trail riding and dressage work, not so much for anything else. We have jumped in it, but it was....interesting. I love that thing though, it's SOOOOOO comfortable for both of us.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Heliodoro View Post
          I thought I was good, waiting until he developed some muscle/actual topline. I figured at 6, he'd be done growing right? Some things you just cannot shim/pad. With really only one saddle to work with, I don't have a ton of options.

          Horses, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!
          He's probably done growing UP, but, especially since he's off the track, his shape is going to change dramatically. It isn't growth so much as developing muscles and a topline. OTTBs don't exactly have big, round toplines. And, even with Vernon, though his saddle fit didn't change dramatically, he did change shape A LOT from 5-7. Toby, who I got as a 7 year old with an already nice shape to him, is a freaking BEEFCAKE now, as a 9 year old. The better their work, the rounder they get.


          • #6
            It can be shocking how quickly these horses can change. I sold a lovely 4 yr tb to a friend of mine. He was maybe 16 1/2 h when I sold him and fairly balanced. Then all of a sudden he shot up and is 16.3 with a way higher butt. Her saddle rubbed the heck out of him and she lost riding time and right now his shape is hard to fit. I am sure he will level back out but holy moly!I do have wool flocked saddles and although all my saddles are county's the various styles fit a bit different. I have a range from narrow-wide all with skid row panels that allow them to be fit/padded as needed. One fits flat backed horses better and the other fits curvy backs better.I try to document the horses with before and after pictures because sometimes it makes a really interesting study in why saddle fit is important in training young horses. Rarely can you get away with one saddle from the age of 3-6yrs old.


            • #7
              A really good fitter will guide you through what you need to look for and make sure you have appropriate pads and shims to tide you over while he's changing. You're right - they change fast ! With my youngsters it's easy- I ride them in whatever demo saddles I have to hand at the time - which means that their saddle is checked and fitted to them almost every ride ! But realistically, I am not setting trees or changing flocking every day, I'm simply choosing between our various padding and shimming options.


              • #8
                I thought I was the only one! Currently, I am on my 4th jumping saddle for a mare I've had 3 years. She turned 6 in January.

                I recently decided to invested in a dressage saddle. I got one that can be flocked with an adjustable gullet. We will see how that goes. I am crossing my fingers that we don't need another jump saddle, or that the one I have now can be adjusted.


                • #9
                  I bought my prestige when Boom was a 4 y/o. I had it opened up 3 cm when he was a 7 y/o and it was still not quite wide enough.

                  Horses change seasonally. They change when the weather changes, when the grass changes, when the hay changes.

                  I have wide saddles. Everyone goes in them. I just use a sheepskin and an Equinity Performance pad (a gel type pad) as needed. And I have a home made wither gusset.

                  Personally I don't understand narrow or even medium sized TBs. Every TB I've ever had has been a wide. And if they come to me as a narrow or medium...within 6 months they are wide.
                  Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                  • #10
                    Purp- all depends on the saddle and the tree shape and channel.

                    Most Tb's fit super well in my county saddles (very rare that they don't) but most go in the narrow! I just had the saddle fitter check my guy again because you wouldn't think he would work in the narrow tree but he does. Here he is- http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6109/6...2f2e0ef6d6.jpg

                    This is my conn/tb http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2216/5...68a026f9a6.jpg and he takes a wide in a county..he would probably be a xxwide in other saddles

                    This horse was just fitted and he take an extra narrow with shoulder gussets and skid row panels! http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8465/8...c914deed3c.jpg


                    • #11
                      Oy, tell me about it... Had a Prestige that fit everything. Fit my now 8yo OTTB when I bought him as a 6yo, stopped fitting at 7yo, so invested in a new saddle and had it flocked for him, thinking it would work later on. Nope, horse's whole back changed back to fit my trusty Prestige. Sold the new saddle and we're both happy with my beloved old Prestige

                      FWIW, it's a 33cm tree... a bit on the wide side of medium, and it's perfect on him.
                      Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                      • #12
                        This is why all of those "this saddle will fit your horse (or any horse) for its entire life" claims make me all bitey and raptor-ish. Any REAL fitter will tell you that your youngster will grow out of saddles, the same as a human kid will grow out of his/her clothes. Being vigilant and proactive is very important with saddle fitting, esp. with the youngsters; we try to make their under-saddle experiences positive, and if the saddle's not fitting correctly, we're missing that goal. Every 6 months is a good average, but if you feel there's an issue sooner than that, my recommendation is always to table the u/s work and longe, long-line, ground drive etc. until your fitter can come out.
                        Kitt Hazelton
                        Saddle Fitter


                        • #13
                          All of these stories are why I bought the cheapest Wintec all purpose for my 4 y.o. warmblood. My TB's saddles don't come remotely close to fitting (rock like a banana on a table!) but I keep hoping he'll change enough that they'll work someday...

                          Adams Equine Wellness


                          • #14
                            I *know* they change a lot from 3-7 or so, and then again in their late teens. I have the hole in my wallet to prove it.

                            But I also have a fine Saddle Library to show for that as well. All the saddles fit me and one of 'em will fit any horse I ride in the future.

                            Among these, friends, is a good ol' western equitation saddle. It rides like a dressage saddle and has a huge number of uses. It's hard to fall out of, it spreads my weight out over a larger surface area on the back of a sensitive or slightly-back sore horse, it's very different from any CC saddle that was causing a problem for the horse. It's a great addition to the Saddle Library.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat


                            • #15
                              I went thru 3 saddles w/ my horse - the first one I'd already had, so used that for awhile, then went thru a round of saddle fittings got another, and I had that for a couple of years, then the last and current is a Bates CC and i think we changed the tree out twice? I pretty much did as yellowbritches posted. fortunately I was able to trade in/sell my saddles so my outlay of cash wasn't too awful..


                              • #16
                                Wow-- is it possible that was why he was so unhappy under saddle? I'm glad you found something you can help him with... sorry about your budget, tho....
                                Taco Blog
                                *T3DE 2010 Pact*


                                • #17
                                  I've got the ample library of out grown saddles, too. I'm now awaiting another new saddle. This one is an adjustable in panels, gullet and withers. We will be using the pliance testing and motion capture to check it. Annette Gavin is the saddle fitter.


                                  This one has wool flocking and prolite memory foam for both horse and rider. My Princess and the Pea mare loved the demo g.p. I also ordered the Fairfax contoured girth for her.

                                  Intermediate Riding Skills


                                  • #18
                                    bumping up this post as you all seem to have years and years of experience with this while i am quite new to the saddle fitting of youngsters. all of my horses up til now have been adults when i purchased them and so saddle fitting issues weren't as... idk what this is. i have a very hard to fit older gelding but i have addressed that knowing that his back shape won't change as much.

                                    how do you do that with a 3yr old? that probably sounds really dumb but it's an honest question. i have an old collegiate close contact that i'd love to start him in but i don't feel it fits - it bridges. my dressage saddles are all too long for him (if the saddle is 3 fingers behind his scapula the cantle is basically at his hip, maybe 1/2-1" past T18). can someone point me in the right direction for a close contact saddle that has a bit more of a curve to the tree than an older collegiate RD graduate close contact but not as much curve as say a prestige dressage saddle? maybe a stubben? ugh... knowing i'll go through a ton of saddles is a bit daunting - i don't want to cause any harm to him!
                                    WH Miakoda - 2010 Appaloosa gelding
                                    Storm N the Harbor - 2007 Thoroughbred mare
                                    WHS SlikBlak Cadilak - 2014 Appaloosa mare (RIP)


                                    • #19
                                      I'm currently going through this as well. MVP's saddle library sounds like the approach I need, since I own one youngster but ride many. It's daunting though since I only own one xc style jump saddle that fits me and ride 7 a day (same ones regularly, 10 rotating sometimes). I have use of two dressage saddles that sort of fit me and some of these horses. Otherwise that's it, I really need a more show jumping balanced jump saddle and at least one dressage one that fits me comfortably. Of course I stupidly bought a young horse with some saddle fit issues and have a very limited budget. Just wanted to share my woes and let you all know you're not alone. I hate saddle shopping! Learning saddle fitting has crossed my mind as a solution too!