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Riders who fight ill-fitting school saddles- any tricks?

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  • Riders who fight ill-fitting school saddles- any tricks?

    My mom is a re-rider and she’s having a wonderful time getting back in the tack on my guy, who’s an old pro. His saddle is cut to fit me, and not her- it is a size too big in the seat (a deep seat, with a short working center) with a flap too long and too forward, with the effect that she’s stuck in a chair seat and fights the tack to get her leg on. My horse is a particular saddle fit and borrowing another saddle is not an option. Short of buying her own saddle, which she’s not inclined to do (a used model of the right geometry is $4k) or going back in time and doing some genetic meddling so that she inherits the, ahem, seat that skipped a generation from her mother to me, thus filling in the seat of the saddle, it seems she’s out of options. It’s getting to the point where she’s frustrated because she can’t use her aids properly, and I’m sorry to say that my canny old fellow uses that as an opportunity to evaluate whether he considers her to have asked in the first place. He’s a round fellow so he’s already asking a big question of her hip flexors.

    Riders who borrow saddles, or ride lesson horses in their tack... are there any tricks you use to mitigate a poor fit?
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

  • #2
    Have you tried a thick gel or sheepskin seat saver? They’ll take up space and “shrink” the seat a bit. Also, have you tried putting rubber bands on the front of the stirrup bars so the leathers stay back a bit to help prevent the chair seat?

    Comment


    • #3
      I showed a horse for a while who had to be ridden in his owner's saddle. It was 1.5" too big for me and way too forward of a flap. The seat size wasn't an issue, in fact my personal saddle is too big for me because I prefer to have some wiggle room. Since she saddle is fitted to the horse she should be able to simply use the amount of seat she needs. No need to sit farther back just because there's extra saddle back there.

      The flap being too big was another story. My knee wasn't completely on the knee roll, but was close. The seam of my knee patch breeches was uncomfortable against the seam/stitching between the flap and the knee roll. I would stretch through my heel or land from a jump and not know if I was hitting knee roll or saddle flap and by the end of the ride I would have pretty raw patches. I also noticed myself taking my knee away from the saddle when I used my leg which is not a habit I regularly have at all. I ended up shortening my stirrups to get my knee more on the knee roll. I wasn't riding too short but it was probably more of an appropriate length for jumps a foot higher than what we were jumping

      If this is part of your mom's issue I wonder if some type of seat saver would help? Or a different pair of breeches? Just something to put some cushioning between her knee and the flap.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thanks for the responses. The issue with seat size is that the deep seat and the position of the working center relative to the stirrup bar and the design of the flap put her way too far back in the tack with her leg out in front of her. The working center is pretty short, and there’s nowhere else for her to go. Where she ought to be sitting is where the pommel is. This is not conducive to sitting trot. Lengthening the stirrup a hole would probably help with this because it would open up her hip and knee angles and position the femur pointing more towards the ground than the horse’s head. Unfortunately she has old injuries that make it hard for her to flex her ankle at this angle.

        I’m intrigued by the rubber band trick and that might be worth a try.

        I should note that her instructor is a petite person who has ridden my horse in my saddle and had the same difficulties, so she’s also aware of the issue and is coaching through it.
        "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm a short and short-legged person who doesn't own her own horse, so I feel your mother's pain. When I was leasing a horse, it was helpful to get my own stirrup leathers and stirrups. Thicker leathers might help with leg stability, and sometimes if the current leathers are slightly uneven (which you might not notice or which might be less of an issue for you), for a shorter rider, I feel this can cause more problems because the unevenness may be magnified. In other words, a half-inch difference on a stubby leg can feel huge, and newer leathers are more likely to be perfectly even. Also stirrups which are a tiny bit smaller might help if her foot is really swimming in them.
          Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!

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          • #6
            Renn/aissance , How much is your mom riding? Times per week/length of rides/ intensity of rides? Was the custom saddle strictly a him problem, or was there an issue getting a saddle that fit both of you? If she's just riding 1-2 times per week and the rides aren't super intense, I am just wondering if you wouldn't be better off finding a saddle that is a better fit for her and is "good enough" for your horse if you factor in light rides and some creative padding setups. I'm currently doing the opposite juggling act... My OTTB doesn't fit in any of the "Kate Sized" saddles that I have as he's much smaller than any of my other horses. However, I plan to lease him out soon(ish) and wasn't looking to spend a lot of money on ANOTHER saddle. So for the moment I'm riding in my sister's 16 inch Pessoa that she used on her large pony.... it's got a deeper seat and more padding than I prefer, but it works. If I want to jump a little more. I use a friend's pancake-flat Hermes that is more comfortable for me but doesn't fit him quite as well. It's not ideal, but he mostly gets ridden in the saddle that fits him great and occasionally in the saddle that isn't as perfect but is "good enough".

            Might be worth a trip over to MD saddlery to see if they have anything that might work better for your mom.

            PS, I am in no way underestimating the value of a well fitting saddle on a hard-to-fit horse! Just trying to be practical.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              She rides once or twice a week in lessons over 2'-2'3" speedbumps. This is also pretty much the realm of what my horse is doing with his life these days- he's semi-retired and I dropped him down to lower heights so that he can hopefully keep at it for longer- so he's doing the same duration with her as he does with me, albeit slightly lower intensity as she does not typically school the degree of flatwork that I do. The horse is hard to fit and particular about it- needs a medium-wide tree shaped like a banana. I could probably shim the rest but we don't have anything else in the barn that has that basic geometry and I haven't seen something on consignment or sold stock that has it, either.

              My sister and I did talk about wrangling the entire family together to get her a used saddle that would fit both of them as a combined holiday and birthday gift, so I keep half an eye on the market, but it's not realistic to expect what he needs to drop into the price range given how few brands seem to make something suitable.
              "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Renn/aissance View Post
                She rides once or twice a week in lessons over 2'-2'3" speedbumps. This is also pretty much the realm of what my horse is doing with his life these days- he's semi-retired and I dropped him down to lower heights so that he can hopefully keep at it for longer- so he's doing the same duration with her as he does with me, albeit slightly lower intensity as she does not typically school the degree of flatwork that I do. The horse is hard to fit and particular about it- needs a medium-wide tree shaped like a banana. I could probably shim the rest but we don't have anything else in the barn that has that basic geometry and I haven't seen something on consignment or sold stock that has it, either.

                My sister and I did talk about wrangling the entire family together to get her a used saddle that would fit both of them as a combined holiday and birthday gift, but realistically, she's going to be ready to move up at some point in the next few years (whether because she rediscovers her competitive ambition or because my horse needs to step down further,) and she wouldn't like that saddle enough for herself to keep it.
                This makes sense. What about the idea of her taking one lesson on him and one lesson on a horse with a saddle that fits her better? It's hard to find your "feel" when you are constantly struggling with the saddle. Maybe if she spent some of her time riding something that fit her better, she could fix herself on your guy a little easier?

                I do agree with playing around with different leathers/stirrup irons and her having her own "set" of those that are adjusted to her and only used by her.

                Comment


                • #9
                  With the medium wide banana shape, have you thought of trying a Stubben on him - maybe in a 31 cm tree? They can generally be found very affordably used in a variety of sizes and models, and if your mom is just really playing around and enjoying him, perhaps trendy/in style isn't as much of a consideration? If your mom is on the petite side, maybe the Juventus jump model might work for her?
                  Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If it wouldn’t make your horse sore I would pad the back of the saddle up a bit. This will move the low spot of the seat further forward and the stirrup bar back underneath it. That should help her ride the front of the saddle keep her leg underneath her. I’ve fought this fight myself. Give your mom a high-five for me!

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Spud&Saf View Post
                      With the medium wide banana shape, have you thought of trying a Stubben on him - maybe in a 31 cm tree? They can generally be found very affordably used in a variety of sizes and models, and if your mom is just really playing around and enjoying him, perhaps trendy/in style isn't as much of a consideration? If your mom is on the petite side, maybe the Juventus jump model might work for her?
                      Not recently, but I did try a few about 10 years ago while in the process of finding mine- I don’t remember the models. I recall those being flatter in the tree. I’ve been kind of intrigued by the Portos for a bit but haven’t sat in one.

                      Mom is not short- she’s 5’7”, as am I. The difference in our builds is that my height is all in my legs, which came from my dad’s side of the family, whereas she’s long in the torso. I’m not sure the Juventus is right for her. If they have models that are curvier, I’ll look out for them. Though, to be clear, finding a saddle to fit him is TOUGH. It was an ordeal of multiple years to find the right fit for him, and he’s very clear about what he likes and doesn’t. While it’s the ideal solution, it’s a complicated problem to solve.

                      As for riding other horses- she doesn’t want to right now. She and my guy get along splendidly and he is very suitable for her in that she’s in the tough part of re-riding wherein she remembers what she used to do as a junior (train greenies and problem horses) but her body has changed. My guy is an old equitation horse and she’s finding him appropriately challenging to ride well because she has to be quite correct, but also very enjoyable because he can do a little of everything and has fun doing it. He also LOVES the professor job with her. They’re well matched. I keep telling her not to cancel her lessons when ex. the farrier comes but to ride a school horse instead, as we are lucky in our school horses, but she is having a ball with Tip and wants to stick with him.

                      Which I guess means I won’t be buying her her own anytime soon.
                      "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm having this exact problem myself! I'd be interested in hearing any suggestions as well. The large pony I'm currently riding is fairly wide, and has an all-purpose saddle. I started using a thick thinline pad to help push the front of the saddle up higher so I can sit deeper. In order to keep this pony cantering, she really requires a deep seat and lots of leg. Of course, I am by no means a perfect rider but I do believe this saddle fits me poorly so it is a bit frustrating!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My lease horse has a very expensive, very custom saddle, and it doesn't quite fit me. Not terrible, but not great, and sounds like in a similar way to what your mom is dealing with (I have to be right up against the pommel to have my legs under me).

                          I feel like I've (mostly) overcome it . . . 2 years into leasing this horse. When I was really fighting the chair seat a few things helped me.

                          Working without stirrups actually puts my leg in a slightly different (more correct) position, and feeling that is helpful to keeping up the fight against where that saddle wants to put me, I used to drop my stirrups on and off throughout warmup to help feel that feeling.

                          Doing an exercise where I stand up in my stirrups (at halt, walk or trot), drop my heels, and then slowly lower my seat back into the saddle *while keeping my legs where they are*. When I started doing this it was excruciating, and I'd have to do it pretty frequently to keep my legs in a more appropriate place, but over time I built that muscle memory and strength, and I can generally keep myself in a more or less correct position.

                          Thinking about where my seat bones are. When I started riding I was a "duck butt" person, over-exaggerating the curve of my low back, and in the process of fixing that I over-corrected to actually having my pelvis slightly tucked (seat bones too far under me), which I find also encourages my legs to go forward.

                          I also ride in stirrups that are just a hair long for me (because the shortest hole is a bit long for me, and we never added holes because it does help me keep my legs under me better).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Can you play around with knee and thigh blocks to change things up a bit? I have a weird leg configuration and gave up on finding saddles that fit me the way I liked many many years ago. Now I buy 4" strips of adhesive velcro from amazon, stick them on my saddles (the ones that don't already have velcro sewn in) and then move the knee blocks I have from that saddles that have adjustable knee blocks (a couple of my Counties have the option), and rearrange blocks such that the knee block sits about 2-3" further "in" toward the middle of the flap than a normal person would ride with, and then match the thigh block to where it needs to be as a result. That makes a big difference for me.....I just have to remember to move them when other people ride in my saddles! That might be a cheaper way to "customize" a saddle for your mom than buying a whole new one.

                            That's also assuming that the balance of the saddle is okay aside from the flap configuration.
                            __________________________________
                            Flying F Sport Horses
                            Horses in the NW

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                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              PNWjumper It’s interesting you mention that. I’ve contemplated having the blocks removed entirely- I should have thought of having the saddle made without them as I don’t prefer it. You say it makes a substantial difference to place them in other locations- have you ridden without them and also found that changes things up?

                              It won’t change the overall balance of the saddle, which doesn’t suit her, but it’s a change I’ve been thinking about anyway that might benefit her also. Of course, then we will both be riding bareback while that’s done- I don’t mind, I’m roaming around bareback half the time anyway, but Mom might!
                              "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Renn/aissance View Post
                                PNWjumper You say it makes a substantial difference to place them in other locations- have you ridden without them and also found that changes things up?
                                The two saddles I use the most - the one for my GP horse and the one I rode 3 of my mares in - are not fun for me to ride in without the blocks. So it definitely changes the feel of the saddle. I also had my County gal pull out the big knee blocks I had in my older Innovation with plans to put velcro in so I could do my weird knee block thing. I don't have enough velcro blocks to add to that saddle too, so I tried riding in it without anything and absolutely hated it. Can't say if it would help or hurt your mom, but might be interesting to try!
                                __________________________________
                                Flying F Sport Horses
                                Horses in the NW

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Hm, that’s something to think about- I’ve never cared one way or the other about blocks and I didn’t think particularly about them to change the fit. I’ll have to think about how that will change it up for my own leg before I do it, but it might be worth a shot.
                                  "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    The thing is, if you hate the saddle without the blocks, it's super easy to slap in some velcro and then just use velcro-in blocks. Or you could have a saddler actually sew some in, but I think it's pretty unnecessary.
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