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How Transformative is 'The' Saddle?

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  • How Transformative is 'The' Saddle?

    Okay so I posted a little while ago about a search for the right saddle. I know fit is obviously quite critical for the horse. I've seen that in action, but how much of a difference do you feel the right saddle makes to the rider?

    I rode a ton as a kid. I ride a ton now and honestly I never gave much thought to how my saddle might have influenced my riding. I now catch flat some and I do occasionally sit in saddles I equate to human rights violations, but how much difference does it really make?

  • #2
    For me, the "right" saddle is the one that I can use for several horses a day and still be able to walk tomorrow. If the tack fits into that category, I am honestly not too picky. Mind you, I've got back issues, so it can be hard to get into that category. :P

    That said, for me, the most important piece of the puzzle seems to be flap forwardness and block placement. I had a devil of a time jumping a horse in a friend's Hermes Essentielle. I take a long/forward flap. My knee was well over the flap and getting pushed around by the knee block, and my calf was being shoved forward by the thigh block. I just couldn't stick with the poor horse- couldn't use my leg effectively. Ended up doing my best interpretation of the Richard Spooner Maneuver.

    I don't think I ride any differently in my Devoucoux (long/forward flap) versus my sister's CWD (same) versus an old school Beval World Cup (standard flap) versus a 15" Crosby Prix des Nations (we'll disregard that my behind has never been 15".) In the latter two, the flap isn't the right fit, but it doesn't interfere with my position.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.

    Comment


    • #3
      Understand that the saddle fitter trend is a commercial opportunity that many are happy to jump on to sell to people that are not successful as a riders.
      www.midatlanticeq.com
      Mid-Atlantic Equitation Festival,Scholarships and College Fair
      November 11-13, 2016

      Comment


      • #4
        For me, an aging and not too talented amatuer, having the right saddle is pretty key. Something that helps me sit where I _should_ be sitting (and not in a chair seat), with enough support that I can stay in the saddle when things get interesting, is essential.

        Comment


        • #5
          I do IHSA and hack at a few different barns. I can ride reasonably well in a quality saddle that doesn't fit perfectly, and I can usually get away in a lesser quality saddle that fits well. I'm much more likely to find a serious fitting issue in a poorly made saddle. I hack one horse at home in his owner's CWD. She's much shorter than I am, and as soon as I start to trot I can feel her saddle tipping me forward, but after a few minutes I can forget about it. I also used to ride ponies in an older Beval, flat as a pancake and quite a few sizes too small everywhere, but I felt totally fine in it. But nothing beats the feeling in my saddle - my stirrups sit perfectly on my feet, my leg locks into place, and my balance comes naturally.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by chunky munky View Post
            Understand that the saddle fitter trend is a commercial opportunity that many are happy to jump on to sell to people that are not successful as a riders.
            LOL...now that is what I've been concerned about. When I was a rated circuit child many moons ago, saddle fit was not even on my radar but then I was 12 and riding in a very nice saddle which I still own but may be dry rotting in storage

            I do need a new saddle for my semi-retired 'baby' because the fit is deplorable on both of mine but I just wonder how important how my fit is in the search. Since I have returned to the land of the riding I still find changes of saddle seldom matter, but maybe I'm a troglodyte.

            Edit: I do have a weird thing about flap forwardness. That is my peeve right now. I never thought about it before, but that is my main issue with my current saddle which fits the show pony well.
            Last edited by snowedunder; Jan. 14, 2014, 10:05 PM. Reason: Peeve

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            • #7
              My trainer and I were both, frankly, stunned by the difference in my position (her) and my pain levels (me) as well as my ability to put my legs where they belonged and KEEP them there. Her lovely dressage saddle made it *impossible* for me to keep my legs on the horse. Switched to a they-don't-come-cheaper-than-this Wintec and voila!

              Granted, I was and am a fairly extreme case. YMMV.
              Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
              No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.

              Comment


              • #8
                I can say that the wrong saddle can be absolutely horrible. I can not, for the life of me, ride in my mother's jump saddle but when I was riding her horse regularly and used my own saddle at the time (a devoucoux) he was super easy for me to stay with.

                That being said, a lot of saddles are fairly similar and so as long as the saddle fits the horse it doesn't make a huge difference. What starts to mess with your position is a short flap or blacks in the wrong place. I can ride in just about any saddle except for my mom's.
                "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by OnDeck View Post
                  I do IHSA and hack at a few different barns. I can ride reasonably well in a quality saddle that doesn't fit perfectly, and I can usually get away in a lesser quality saddle that fits well. I'm much more likely to find a serious fitting issue in a poorly made saddle.
                  I don't think it has much to do with "quality" once you're past a certain basic point. I've ridden a friend's horse in her very nice, custom-fitted English made saddle. It's a very nice saddle. I can barely ride in it, because it's custom to HER, not ME, and she's a good 6" shorter than I am. If it's going to be a wonky size that's not right for me, I'd rather have it be an older, plainer flatter PDN-type saddle, because I can get by in a 16" there and not feel all akimbo, because nothing's forcing my anywhere.

                  The "right" saddle does make it easier to ride well. I've found that that seems to be more important for me in a dressage saddle than in a jump saddle. I can deal with a lot more variance in a jump saddle, since those generally leave you a little more room to adjust position and just hold your leg from swinging too far anywhere over a fence, versus a dressage saddle, which can really lock you in place, and that place may really not work for you.

                  As far as what the horse thinks about fit, I think it depends on the horse. Some are really sensitive, some don't care so much. I tried a ton of saddles on my mare last year when I bought a new jumping saddle, and there was exactly one that made a decided negative impact on her way of going, but it was a pretty dramatic one. Otherwise she was good to great in most of them, which ranged from OK to great in the fit category.
                  A Year In the Saddle

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                  • #10
                    I have never cared before I hit the 4'+ mark consistently on Miss Mare Face. But she is not an easy ride, and not exactly metronome-like in her canter, with a powerful jump and a wicked kick behind. I borrow my friend's devoucoux to jump her, and I really, really appreciate it.
                    You know, if you took this jello, put it in a mold and froze it, you could be like look....an emerald. Dude, I'd kick some guys ass he ever tried to give me a jello ring.

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                    • #11
                      I'm short and I grew up in the PdN era, so I can make myself able to ignore, or not hit any parts of most saddles that are built wrong for me.

                      That said, there are saddles better and worse for me out there. IMO, however, you need to develop that basic, correct PdN-style position before you go looking for the saddle that will cure your ills. If you don't have a solid position, sooner or later you'll feel betrayed by some saddle that didn't push you back into place at some crucial moment. And sometimes saddles for people with weak positions can vary based on the horse's tendency to be a push ride or a pull ride.

                      Being short (usually on big, wide horses), I was very, very aware that I wasn't getting the help from good saddle geometry that my taller friends were. Yeah, I could ride in what fit the horse or whatever, but it took a lot more muscle to do so. I even started taking my own custom set of measurements in order to figure out what dimensions would make a saddle fit me. That has worked.

                      Originally posted by ambar View Post
                      Switched to a they-don't-come-cheaper-than-this Wintec and voila!
                      That's not too surprising. Those Wintecs have a very conventional, uncomplicated geometry to them. They are a pretty good design, given the "mission" of that saddle.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The saddle has to fit both horse and rider. If the saddle doesn't fit the horse, it will result in poor performance and potentially worse but it also can deeply affect the rider's position. If the balance isn't right then it will be very challenging for the rider to maintain their balance whether jumping or flat work. It also becomes much more difficult to offer reliable aids to your horse if you are fighting for a neutral and effective position.

                        People can deal with flaps not forward enough and sometimes too small a seat but if the balance, twist, blocks, stirrup bars and so on don't fit properly then it is not a recipe for success.
                        Jay McGarry
                        sms trained saddle fitter
                        www.trumbullmtn.com
                        800-442-9672

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          It makes a huge difference for me. I'm very small and if I'm in a saddle that is significantly too big for me, I have a very difficult time keeping my position. I really struggled with that when I did IHSA - I would tend to fall/slide back in saddles that were substantially too big for me. I have 2 videos that illustrate the difference quite well.

                          This is a round from IHSA Nationals in a saddle that was way too big for me.
                          This is from a week later and in my saddle.

                          Clearly, it makes a big difference for me - but I am child-sized. It makes an enormous difference for me when I'm jumping bigger jumps; I got another CWD a few years ago that was just for Nikki and the seat was semi-deep (no fault of CWD at all, mistake on my end). I could barely stay in it! I ended up sending it back and getting it remade with a flat seat, which is what I use now.
                          http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
                          Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This is a kid, but still demonstrates the difference… my DD was 9 when she was outgrowing her 15" Pessoa Pony. I noticed she had developed a chair seat and literally seemed like she was fighting the saddle. While her butt still fit in the 15", her leg did not.

                            I bought her an Antares 16" and the next weekend she was winning equitation flat classes against teenagers. The change was night and day.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No saddle is going to make up for big holes in basic riding skills (despite the hopes of many), but the right saddle can make life a lot easier. There are plenty of good riders who can ride in pretty much anything, but if you don't have to fight for your leg position or balance, you and your horse will be a lot happier.
                              Kitt Hazelton
                              Saddle Fitter
                              www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                              www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If I don't think about the saddle while I'm riding than I consider it a good fit for me and the horse. I have a County for my old guy and a Devoucoux for my young one and both of them keep me feeling secure and stable to the fences and are comfortable enough for me to take my stirrups off on the flat.

                                The saddle I was using on my younger horse fit him ok but was very painful for me (as in chafing and muscle soreness after only ten minutes- at the walk), and I got jumped out of the tack over everything. I tried a few different ones when saddle-shopping and the Devoucoux was so lovely to sit on that I wanted to snuggle with it. I've ridden in three other saddles in the last few years that were memorably uncomfortable, which means they did not fit me and whoever I was riding.

                                Some people can ride happily in a lot of different sizes and styles of saddles, and some cannot. Some horses are stoic and don't react if the saddle doesn't fit very well, others don't and will throw a hissy, and some have a shape that lots of saddles fit so it isn't an issue. I don't think it is a marketing scam- a lot of horses years ago had saddle sores, and we used all sorts of padding to try to make the saddle fit better. I'm much happier using less under the saddle because it fits the horse, but maybe other people miss the days of the foam lollipop pad and the eight inch high pile of fitted and square pads....
                                You can take a line and say it isn't straight- but that won't change its shape. Jets to Brazil

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  For me, the right saddle was absolutely critical to both my riding confidence and starting to enjoy my horse.

                                  I spent two years taking lessons in a saddle that I spent a lot of money one, but it really put me in a "chair seat." I'm a heavy rider, and I thought that the whole reason I literally could not post my horse had to do with my fat out-of-shape legs. Then fast forward thru a set of a couple of whims and ending up with an eBay find that cost 1/4 the price of my expensive saddle ...

                                  I was completely transformed. I suddenly felt like I was riding, not just sitting like a bump on a log. I had balance, I could post easily, I could recover better from spooks, and my confidence started to improve with leaps and bounds.
                                  I've never understood the insult calling a person a "fruitbat." It's not much of an insult to the person. More often than not, the person’s behavior proves it to be more of an insult to the fruitbat!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I don't find the right saddle exactly transformative, however, in a saddle that is well balanced with a seat flat enough for me to get out of, I find myself not even thinking about the saddle and concentrating on my horse. Not fighting the saddle to keep your position frees you up to actually RIDE. There is no magic saddle that will force and lock a previously incorrect leg or position into perfection but you can be a much more effective rider when a saddle isn't pitching you forward or shoving you into a chair seat.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      When I decided it was time to invest in a saddle for my boy, I decided after trying a couple other brands that either didn't fit my horse, me or both, that I was fairly sure I wanted a Stubben. I didn't know, however, which model I needed.

                                      So, I called a rep and she came out and brought every Stubben model under the sun - everything from the very basic to the super fancy monoflap. First we sat each one on my horse to see which models looked most promising for a good fit. Then I rode in about 6 of them. Let me tell you that each one felt very different and produced very different results.

                                      I knew almost instantly when one was just wrong and when I sat the right one - it blew my first favorite right out the window. Everything slid into place, my horse's trot got a little loftier and I didn't have to work to keep my leg where it was supposed to be. Same riders, same horse, same day, same brand, different models, different results. Even my mom, who admits she doesn't really know exactly what she's looking at (she rode, but saddleseat, not hunt seat), could see a clear difference and was suddenly much more understanding of my willingness to drop some serious change to find a saddle that was right for me and my horse.

                                      I therefore firmly believe that saddles can make a huge difference. For the horse, it obviously makes a difference in how they go, carry themselves and soreness. For the rider, no, they can't make a bad rider a good rider, but they can either:
                                      • Do nothing to help (probably the majority of saddles we use)
                                      • Get in your way, force you to fight for your position or just leave you sore and uncomfortable)
                                      • Get out your way and make everything a little easier

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                        I'm short and I grew up in the PdN era, so I can make myself able to ignore, or not hit any parts of most saddles that are built wrong for me.

                                        That said, there are saddles better and worse for me out there. IMO, however, you need to develop that basic, correct PdN-style position before you go looking for the saddle that will cure your ills. If you don't have a solid position, sooner or later you'll feel betrayed by some saddle that didn't push you back into place at some crucial moment. And sometimes saddles for people with weak positions can vary based on the horse's tendency to be a push ride or a pull ride.
                                        THIS.



                                        Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                        Being short (usually on big, wide horses), I was very, very aware that I wasn't getting the help from good saddle geometry that my taller friends were. Yeah, I could ride in what fit the horse or whatever, but it took a lot more muscle to do so. I even started taking my own custom set of measurements in order to figure out what dimensions would make a saddle fit me. That has worked.
                                        Story of my life!! And when I ordered my Beval Natural years ago, I worked very closely with the customer service rep: sending pictures of me riding, sending her my measurements (hip-to-knee and knee-to-ankle) to determine which flap would best suit me, etc.... IMO, it was the best way to do it. My horse (at the time, I no longer have him) was notoriously hard to fit- he's a BIIIIIGGGG bodied, big-shouldered, wide-sprung, wide-chested TB who most mistook as a QH [when I first got him] or a warmblood [after finding the right trainer].

                                        I am 5'1 (on a tall day), and have a very small build. So the saddles that fit him "off the rack" were always way too big for me, which did absolutely have an effect on my position, even though I also grew up in the pancake PdN days. I had a solid position indeed, but that doesn't matter when you're fighting the saddle to maintain yourself through the entire ride... you spend more time trying to keep yourself together than actually properly riding the horse that you'd be better off not riding at all. At least IMO. Which is worth what you paid for it. :-)
                                        Originally posted by Martha Drum
                                        ...But I don't want to sit helmetless on my horse while he lies on the ground kicking a ball around without a bridle while Leatherface does an interpretive dance with his chainsaw around us.

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