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Saddle too small or do I need to learn how to ride all over again? : (

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  • Saddle too small or do I need to learn how to ride all over again? : (

    I am SO frustrated, and not trying to be dramatic, but sort of depressed over this...Usually I lurk on horse forums, but this is really bothering me. Guess it's the first time I feel the need to ask for advice.
    My gelding, Zeph, is a short-backed Arab. Last week I received a new saddle that fits him well. It is a late 80's Simco Arabian saddle. No dry spots under this saddle after a long work out, looks like it fits better,and he feels like he moves out better.

    Here's the problem: Usually my butt sticks to the saddle like velcro, sitting trot, lope, whatever. Not anymore, AT ALL. It feels like I have no balance, and like I need to learn how to ride all over again.
    For the last year I've been riding in a Circle Y pleasure saddle, but the gullet was too wide. That is the saddle I learned to ride in. I take lessons from a man who shows in reining. The Circle Y has a deep seat, but it kicks my legs forward a little. My leg was always hitting the girth instead of Zeph's ribs, so my leg cues were a little exaggerated to the rear of the girth sometimes.

    Well, this new Simco saddle feels like it puts my legs under me more, and the seat is much more shallow. Once we get moving at a trot or faster, my legs want to swing forward, out of habit I think, but I bounce around a lot! Tried adjusting the stirrups, but they are where they should be. On top of it, since my legs are hitting Zeph's ribs instantly, instead of the girth, his "throttle" is much more responsive! So there's more speed from behind and not as much balance from me. Also when I am in a lope, it feels like I'm bouncing back up onto the cantle, which never happened in the Circle Y. Both saddles are 15". The new saddle had been ridden in once by the first owner, so it doesn't help that it needs breaking in, and the strirrups turned. Maybe when it's softened up, it'll be easier? A whole bottle of neatsfoot oil, and it still squeaks!
    Could it be the shape and position of the seat throwing me off? Have I just been learning to ride in the wrong position, and now have to un-learn it? My pride is hurt pretty bad right now. Thought I was a half-way okay rider before this. I ride at least 5 days a week, so this (the frustration) can't keep happening. I've ridden in this new saddle at least 4 times now, shouldn't I have gotten more used to it? There hasn't been any improvement, ugh.

    It also doesn't help that I've hit a brick wall of sorts with my training. That's why I haven't discussed this with the guy who gives me lessons. I'm not sure when or if our next lesson will be.

    Does anyone have any ideas, or advice as to what is happening? Should I stick it out and give it more time, or am I right to think that the saddle fits Zeph, but not me? Is this common when you change saddles?
    Thanks so much for any suggestions, and especially for reading down this far!

  • #2
    I ride English but a saddle that doesn't work is a saddle that doesn't work. Have you checked to see what other people say about the saddle? See if it's size runs smaller than your circle y? One thing that you will need to adjust to is a new position (For english is sounds like it's putting you in a more correct position with your feet under you more.) Having to now deal with a position that is different that could be the only issue. I would have someone put you on the lung line and have you post the jog to help you regain your balance. Hands on hips, arms out to side and over your head as you post to help you find your balance and regain a comfortable position. Dunno if that helps for I ride Dressage but who knows it might.


    • #3
      Ignore the "stirrups where they should be" for now and take them up a hole -- a shorter stirrup will give you better balance/control.

      I have the same problem when I shift from the barrel saddle I usually ride in to my old Tex Tan with a much flatter seat. I have to almost "go English" to feel comfortable in it again for the first couple of rides. I will end up "riding the dashboard" in that saddle if I don't take up the stirrups.

      The other thing that helps me to keep my legs under me instead of sticking forward is to think of "knees down" -- Sally Swift calls it "Dropping Your Knee". Here's a link to the Google Books of it. The link should take you to the right place, if not, it starts on pg 116. It'll help to drop your femur and put your legs where they should be. The nice thing is that once they're in the right spot, they tend to be quieter, so you won't have to worry about giving Zeph an unintended aid. You also won't have to exaggerate since your leg is right there.

      I suspect you're bouncing because you're bracing (your feet are shifting forward and out from under you) and no longer have your center of balance over those feet. Same thing with the lope -- you're getting behind the motion. Do get those stirrups turned as soon as you can. They are of no help if they're guiding your feet to toe out instead lie correctly, 'cause it works to take the insides of your thighs/calves off of your horse's body (ie, this closed hip angle also keeps you from settling in the saddle).

      Don't despair!

      (As an aside, baby powder works wonders for the squeaks -- work it into all the joints, especially up under the fenders and around the stirrup leathers into the points of the tree.)


      • #4
        Try dropping your stirrups for a portion of each ride....you will adust.


        • #5
          Ditto what everyone else said.

          I switch from a 14" barrel saddle with a really "secure" seat and a high cantle and more forward leg position to a 16" equitation saddle that puts my legs directly underneath my hips and has a shallow seat with a shallow cantle. If I ride in the barrel saddle for a while, I feel like a fish out of water in the equitation saddle when I ride my gelding.

          It will take some getting used to; I don't think 4 rides in a new saddle is enough to "adjust" especially if you've been using the other saddle for quite some time.

          It's like driving a new car, nothing is familiar and it takes a bit to get used to, but eventually, it becomes normal.
          "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


          • #6
            It sounds like you've been riding a 'chair seat' with your pelvis tipped too far back and now you're being tipped forward. In a new saddle with no pocket, you have to learn to have an independent seat, which takes good ab muscles and learning how to position your pelvis and upper body. I've ridden some western saddles that made me feel this way, and I had to work to keep from tipping forward and losing the correct pelvis position. If you have a night latch, hook the fingers of one hand under the night latch and pull up as you lean back and let yourself sit centered with the top points of you pelvis back slightly. Be sure your shoulder blades stay down and you don't become round shouldered. Like new shoes, you'll make your own pocket and be a better rider on the way.


            • #7
              If you want to know whether the SHAPE of the seat is a factor, the easy way would be to ride both without stirrups.

              Otherwise I'll echo the above and say you're used to bracing into your stirrups, and the fact the new saddle is more of a balanced stirrup position (ie, leathers hung closer to the center of the seat) isn't letting you do so. If that's the case, moving them up and down won't do a thing except load your knee a bit more and increase the likelihood of bouncing at the sitting trot and canter.

              OTOH, if you moved the stirrups on a forward hung leather up and down it will exaggerate or reduce the tendency for your legs to swing forward just due to basic geometry. LOTS of western saddles have this issue.


              • #8
                Besides bracing in the stirrups, it sounds like your knee and hip are a little too stiff. You can't sit without bouncing in the shallower saddle because you haven't figured out yet how to relax those joints. In can be hard if you haven't tried to "dial them up" before!

                What happens if you ride in the new saddle without stirrups? That alone might not help you to relax. In English world, one of the best ways fix your seat and learn to relax your leg/put in the right position is to drop your inside stirrup only. You'll get tired gripping with your legs, or lose the outside stirrup if you do that and "scrunch up." So you want to ride with the feeling that your outside leg is melting around the horse. That will help you use both legs correctly-- and relax in your knee and hip.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • #9
                  Honestly, it sounds like your old saddle really held you in place and kept you in a chair seat. This new saddle doesn't so you don't know what to do with yourself. You need to really learn how to balance and SIT. Try getting on bareback, walk and jog around some. Find your balance.
                  come what may

                  Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


                  • Original Poster

                    Ha Ha! I am set further back than I thought!
                    The horse is the perfect animal to serve up a thick slice of humble pie. Now it's time to un-learn some bad habits!

                    I sort of had that sinking feeling, but it's rough when frustration takes hold. Looks like much practice is ahead of us, good thing Zeph is a kind and patient boy Even if this new saddle makes it harder, I want to ride better, it is why I bought one with that leg position after all. I knew it was going to be needed from reading about saddle position on this forum previously. Better to start a year into learning than 5-10 years in right?

                    Red Fox, the other day an english instructor at my barn also suggested a posting trot.I tried it, but I have not done it enough to do it mediocre enough to help. I had maybe 4 english lessons in the winter of 2011, then switched to the reining stuff.Trying to post (a few days ago) just threw me more off balance, because I was focusing on that instead of everything else.

                    Thank you for the link, Vaquero. I am going to try that tomorrow when I ride (wasn't able to go out today). While reading it, I could actually feel what she is describing, and could visualize the rubber bullets shooting from my knee caps! I am a visual/hands on sort of learner. It will take a long time for me to get used to this position, especially anything faster than a walk, as my legs want to shoot forward from habit. I do see what you mean about the legs being quieter due to proper placement. This saddle does want to open up my hip more, and just like what Sally Swift says in the link you posted, once I try and hold on with my knees, the butt tenses,hip closes and comes out of the saddle. I have pretty strong abs, but have not been using them as much as I'm thinking will be necessary.
                    Every night before leaving the barn, I spray my stirrup leathers with Neatsfoot oil/water mixture, and place a dowel in the stirrups with my heavy brush box on top of it. They should turn in a week or two. Baby powder might also be a good idea for my butt too, now that it is bouncing around...gives a new meaning to the term "a** chapped"! The only other time I've gotten a rash was riding bareback

                    Longride, you are correct, I've been in a "chair position". What you describe is exactly what I'm experiencing, but I didn't think it would be this bad.Wah! Anyway, even if my butt didn't bounce out of the seat before,it always felt like I was moving around too much in the saddle, with shoulders rounded. Plus the old saddle had a larger gullet, and I'd find myself trying to scoot or tip back at times, probably due to the saddle not sitting right. My poor horse!
                    BTW, what is a night latch?

                    Aktill, this saddle was partially chosen also for its' more central stirrup position. Yes, a lot I saw had stirrups more forward. Guess I'm just flabbergasted at how drastically different it really feels.Maybe most of you here have had some english training, and knew a lot more about the mechanics of riding before moving to the sitting trot and lope? I went from nothing to doing basic reining exercises, so it feels like I need to go back to basics?

                    MVP, you nailed it.The only thing that relaxes are my hips, and shoulders, and hands, but my shoulders aren't always straight. I always feel the tension in my toes the most. Sometimes it seems as though I'm hugging his barrel with my entire leg, because it's not relaxed, and have to stop it.
                    I'll try the new saddle without stirrups. I do try to ride bareback at least an hour or so once a week, no pad, at the sitting trot and the lope. Still working on balance at the lope in that case, but it's manageable. Since I can do that, I'm not scared to try the foot out of the inside stirrup exercise. It makes sense too. In the old saddle, my inside foot came out of the stirrup quite often while loping circles. This was due to having to move my leg back in order not to bump the girth while pushing Zeph out onto the rail, and all the while not losing the outside stirrup due to "scrunching up". Sheesh, I'm just glad to have a little grasp on what you're talking about.

                    Thanks so much everyone! There is hope! It's good to hear that this a common occurance, because I did not want to hunt for another saddle.Giving up is NOT an option, though riding was starting to feel futile.Hearing from all of you who have experienced this only reaffirms that none of this is ever easy.That's what makes it worth it. My poor hubby couldn't understand why I was crying over this last night...It's good to have others out there who do

                    I found a dressage trainer in my area who works with riders of all disciplines on their balance, tempo, and cadence. I barely grasp the first, the latter two will have to come in time. Hope to schedule a lesson in the near future.Who knows? I just may get sucked into that deep, dark abyss since there is not much regarding reining going on in my area. I'm still too green to pick a discipline anyway.
                    Thanks again, I am excited to go try a few new things tomorrow!


                    • #11
                      Nigth latch or bucking strap Here's how to do one fast. You can also buy the leather ones or use strap leather. http://youtu.be/kgv81ijbZvM


                      • #12
                        You may want to twist your stirrups. Here are a few links to show you how:



                        Good luck!


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks! My knees are certainly aching.
                          You know, I've seen the blog before.Just last night I was trying to remember where on the web I'd seen it!
                          The second link looks great too, now if I can get down to the leather shop for the the straps...
                          I was at the National Reining Breeders Classic a week or two ago, and saw some saddles for sale that had this done to them, even some new ones.It was cool to look at it in person.

                          Originally posted by Macimage View Post
                          You may want to twist your stirrups. Here are a few links to show you how:



                          Good luck!


                          • #14
                            I am going to do my saddle too and it's a used saddle I've had for over twenty years (it's probably 30+ years old!), but I am sure the wraps will be helpful on long trail rides.

                            My feed store sells leather straps and I've also ordered from them from https://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/...s/5008-15.aspx



                            • #15
                              Come to the dark side! Have you heard of western dressage? The group I am in has been hosting it and just this weekend we had a clinic on it. You could have best of both worlds. Western dressage is more like reining than western pleasure. The people will complain if you go like a western pleasure person because the test litterally takes 8 minutes instead of the nice 5 minutes. Lol


                              • Original Poster

                                That sounds interesting and fun. Seems like a lot of people are into it, and it definitely sounds more fun than western pleasure as it is today! I've been looking at it online, but am thinking it might be best to try the real thing first. At this point, it seems pretty hard to get what feels like a strong foundation. Even harder to find an instructor who doesn't just tell you you're doing well and what they think you want to hear, instead of bluntly pointing out what needs to be fixed as they are seeing it, or one that is consistent. I can take it, as long as they're teaching me the right thing. Since I don't have an english saddle, guess I can still come home and practice in my western (I think). Of course it won't be the exact same!
                                Will be trying some suggestions from this thread today.Will also be surprised if Zeph doesn't high tail it away when he sees me walking toward the turn out
                                If I can just get a better feel for and understanding of the basics first, it will be easier to determine where to go next.

                                Originally posted by RedFox5 View Post
                                Come to the dark side! Have you heard of western dressage? The group I am in has been hosting it and just this weekend we had a clinic on it. You could have best of both worlds. Western dressage is more like reining than western pleasure. The people will complain if you go like a western pleasure person because the test litterally takes 8 minutes instead of the nice 5 minutes. Lol


                                • #17
                                  Do you ride bareback at all? Maybe some bareback time on the lunge will help with these issues. That would help you balance in a natural position which is what the saddle sounds like it is. (call the grammar police for that last sentence 0
                                  Ride like you mean it.


                                  • #18
                                    More on what I meant:

                                    I'm guessing that the reason you could sit in the deep 15" but not the shallow one is because that seat held you in one place--- so if you were stiff in the knee and hip, the saddle didn't let you move around enough to know it. Now the shallow one lets you move-- which should come from your pelvis-- and it's revealed that you don't follow from that part of your body. D'oh!

                                    Also, it's rare that the person "bracing in the stirrups" feels the most pressure on the balls of their feet. I think they are holding their leg straight from the hip to the knee; the ankle moves some. They might have sore sitting bones in a hard-seat saddle and if they are bracing badly.

                                    So you need to relearn follow. IMO, bareback will get you only so far. If I were standing in the ring with you, we'd talk about what you feel in this saddle while you are walking: If you are following with your seat, how would you describe what you are doing with your body? What can you feel? Any images that capture it for you?

                                    For me, this means I can feel both sitting bones and my pubic bone. I stretch out the front of my body-- from my belt buckle up, but I try to notice if I can feel it stretching down, too. (I have been told that I ride like a guy--crotch anchored right down there on the front of the saddle so that no soft parts pre-arranged to be out of the way could get caught. It's also how you engage your core, which is the only basis for sitting some fugly trots). Also, I feel like my leg is melting around the horse. You could tie a parachute hanging low behind the horse to each of my ankles, and I'd be pulled down, around the horse--- but without any muscular effort from me.

                                    In any case, pick what works for you at the walk-- when you look tall and drapped around the horse. And then! Pick up a jog. Recheck to see if you can reproduce the feelings in your body that you had when you were that tall, elegant equitation rider at the walk. When you lose it, walk again. When you get better at this, you'll start to lose it "take your inventory" and then be able to recapture what you had with your seat at the walk.

                                    That's all. Sitting well does take some fitness. IMO, it's better to do it right for short stretches than to do it wrong for any amount of time. You will get better at it! And when you do, the size/shape of the saddle won't make so much difference.
                                    The armchair saddler
                                    Politically Pro-Cat


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by RedFox5 View Post
                                      I ride English but a saddle that doesn't work is a saddle that doesn't work. Have you checked to see what other people say about the saddle? See if it's size runs smaller than your circle y?
                                      This is what I am thinking - I would not just assume you've been riding *wrong* all along and that you need to adjust to a new saddle and just get over it.

                                      Of course - yes, you may have been in an exaggerated chair seat and now you have to change your seat because of stirrup placements. However, all saddles are not the same for everyone, and if you feel out of balance, then it is bad. You can always work on improving your equitation, but if you are fighting a saddle that doesn't fit you, it will always be a problem.

                                      We had a Pessoa A/O for my paint mare and it was a great fit for her; but I felt like I never could figure it out...I eventually chalked it up to the fact that I wasn't riding as often, and no wonder I couldn't hold a 2-point, etc. etc.

                                      But when I finally just decided to try my old saddle on her again "just for fun" it was like I learned to ride again overnight. I can't say exactly why that saddle didn't work for me, but it just didn't. In my original saddle (which also fit the horse but we wanted a 2nd saddle so dd & I could ride two horses) I could balance at the 2-point all day long.

                                      Do you have any pictures or video? Maybe that will help people give you more feedback.


                                      • #20
                                        If (as you say) the old saddle put you in an incorrect position, and the new puts you in the correct position then keep the saddle for a while and try to adjust.

                                        Speaking from experience (yes it was with dressage saddles, but same principles apply) when I had a saddle that didn't quite fit my horse I developed some unconscious compensation balance/motion without being aware of the fact. It wasn't obvious to look at me either. Until I got a new saddle that did fit my horse. While I was thinking about how it fit him and me I was fine, but when the novelty wore off within a week I discovered that I could NOT post trot for the life of me without popping all over the place (this is EMBARASSING squared for a long time english discipline rider). The unconscious muscle memory adjustments compensating for the unbalanced old saddle didn't work with the new one.

                                        I'm betting you're dealing with the same issue. And I did what people are suggesting - went back to the bare basic position check/trot/position check and correction/trot, repeat ad nauseum until I reprogrammed my muscle memory.

                                        I still remember going to an event a week after getting the new saddle and finding I had to sit trot my Entry level dressage test because I literally could not post the trot.