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Saddle fit - which is lesser of two evils?

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  • Saddle fit - which is lesser of two evils?

    Baby horse is coming back from four months off and during his rest and rehabilitation he managed to become completely soft and fat AND to start growing again, as evidenced by his butt-high appearance. Needless to say, nothing fits him, including any of my girths

    Baby horse has broad shoulders, with reasonable withers, and a flattish WB back. He's 16.2ish and big-boned, five years old.

    I foresee a custom saddle in his future, but in the meantime, here are my immediate choices and neither of them is ideal.

    1. Regular tree Butet Saumur. Fits nicely across his flat back, no bridging, finds the pocket behind his wither and is in balance there. Overall the tree is too narrow, and while the gullet channel has plenty of clearance, I think the gullet from pommel to cantle is also overall too narrow. I worry that his withers and shoulders will be restricted, and that his spine needs a wider gullet.

    2. Wide tree Devoucoux. Nice and comfy through the shoulder and gullet is plenty wide and has plenty of clearance. However, this saddle bridges badly, and on the lunge line last night at the trot I could see the back of the saddle going up and down to His Highness' bouncy step. If I move the saddle back it levels somewhat, but it won't stay there because that position puts the girth too far back around his fat belly.

    So what to do? Hate to get a custom saddle now, since obviously his shape will change with work and did I mention that he's still growing?

    Suggestions please.
    "Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  • #2
    Hard call!

    If the Devoucoux rolls back and forth when you post, it will hurt PDQ.

    Too narrow? While he's losing fat (but hopefully building muscle in his back)? I think you might damage him a little more slowly here.

    In your spot, I'd do these things in this order.

    Ride him for a few days in both and ask *his* opinion of each saddle.

    Mess with available half pads, folded towels or other "home brew" solutions to see if you can make the Devoucoux fit. Real Daniel Boone types have been known to tuck cut-out shims of thick felt or memory foam underneath panels (on the inside-- between tree and panel) in order to deal with bridging. Don't buy anything.

    In either case, keep paying attention to what he says.

    You can also try a duct-tape approach. It might work for some time.

    Ride him in both, alternating. This way you are creating different assaults on his back, not one that makes the same muscles sore all the time. The duct tape approach also includes opportunities to roll, some long-lining or bitting-rig work, even bareback rides that let him use his back without a painful saddle.

    I feel you on not wanting to buy custom for a growing baby. If you get lucky, you might be able to schmooze him along for awhile in what you've got. And by the way, where are your friends with lending-libraries of saddles when needed? In your spot, I might not turn down a borrowed western saddle or dressager if it would let me keep going with the horse without buying quite yet.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


    • Original Poster

      Thanks, mvp, I was hoping you would chime in.

      The Devoucoux is actually a loaner, and I had great hopes for it cause it's a wide tree, but the bouncing up and down cantle made me afraid to put my butt in it and increase the effect. I'll try some shims and see if that helps.

      Bareback is unfortunately not a great option at present, since he is apparently horrified at the prospect of working again and has been expressing himself through monster spooks! Though I'm happy to climb on when his brain is more settled.

      I'm figuring we have at least six months of growth and muscle development before we have a better feel for his eventual shape, and I'm willing to throw away a few hundred dollars on a temporary low-budget fix, but of course simply a wide tree is not going to guarantee a decent fit either. Hmmmmmmmm.
      "Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu, The Art of War


      • #4
        Something to keep in the back of your mind before you try the custom route...maybe try a Courbette. I know they aren't popular in the hunter world - but my guy is built just like your description: hunk shoulders, flat back, decent withers. The points of the tree sit far enough back that they do not interfere with his shoulder movement.

        Just a thought - worth a try if you really hit a brick wall.


        • #5
          If finding something short term (either a rental or cheap buy) isn't in the cards, I'd buy bridging shims for the wide one. A saddle thats too narrow could impede his development of muscle, which I wouldn't want.