Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saddle update: Narrowly escaping disappointment

Riley relaxes as I check saddle fit...
Well, I figure a lot of you have read my "Bummer" post. It was disappointing to find my dream saddle is a less-than-perfect fit. I posted to COTH, and it was nearly unanimous--too narrow. I also studied the saddle pad mark and the problems with the fit were confirmed.

 Shhh... Don't tell.
One night, in frustration, I parked Riley in cross ties near the tack room and tried almost every saddle in the barn on his back. Don't tell anyone. But that's what I did. Ri's back was immaculately clean, and I left the saddle covers on, and each saddle rested on his back for about 30 seconds.

The result? None really seemed like a good fit. Not one, not even the wide and medium-wide saddles.

 I guess this drilled home to me that most saddles will need some sort of adjustment.

 It is good to be resilient. 
The saddle fit is very close to being right, and Riley is responding well to it. It may be the saddle, and it may be that I am riding better. I am riding better in this saddle, in no small part because of the monoflap design. I'll blog about that later. The saddle is going back for tweaking, or I'm getting a wide and having the flocking raise it a bit, but I'm getting this saddle.

I think I shared pix on Friday of the saddle on Ri's "cold back." The serge panels mold quickly to the horse, and Black Country flocks its saddles softly from the manufacturer, so the Trumbull Mountain lady suggested that I ride in the saddle to see if it drops. Here are some photos taken of Riley in the saddle after a 45 minute ride. I removed the thin saddle pad, took pix, and then mounted and had my friend Cassandra take pix of me in the saddle.
Here you can see the main problem -- the top of the points are hovering over his back.


  1. I have a Black Country Vinici jump saddle for my horse, who seems to be similar in shape to Riley - while not what one'd typically consider a wide horse, he's rather wide over the back and doesn't have much wither. His saddle is a MW as well, but has been adjusted to a W by a master saddle (he's filled out); it was not too costly an adjustment, likely less than the 20% restocking fee you mentioned. It also needed some flocking adjustments(mainly because he's bigger on the right side than left), and the fitter recommends I use a thin shock absorbing pad underneath(I use a Thinline). It now fits him quite well however. I agree that unless you get extremely lucky, every saddle will need some sort of adjustment.
    Hopefully with the "tweaking" you can make this one work, it's certainly a very nice saddle(my dream saddle as well).

  2. Personally, and again, I'm sure you're getting more assvice than you really ever could have imagined - I'd go for the large and flock it or shim it with a half pad (I love love LOVE thin-line's shimable pad - i have an issue with my guy's back soreness, and this is a MUST have product when I work on my sitting trot.)

    Here's why I say this - Riley's topline is only going to fill out more. Your plan is to keep riding, keep developing him, and ideally, he's only going to get more muscle there. It may take months or years, but better to go up in width NOW rather that get the medium and find out a year from now when he starts doing lovely collected work that WHOOPS, saddle is too narrow now.

    But that's just me. Good luck. I'm glad you're seeing improvement - that is the biggest hurdle. (I found out in january that the stupid custom saddlery rep sold me a saddle too small for me - it was after I begged a different rep to help me with my saddle fit, that I discovered this. So my 16month old saddle went in as a trade and I had to order a new one. !@##$^#$)

  3. Looks as if it can be "tweaked" to fit him though. I'm no expert on reflocking, however, so don't depend on my opinion. Sounds as if there is a solution that's going to work. Good luck.

  4. I'm also no expert, but have spent the last 6 months trying to find a new saddle to fit my wide, flat backed, high wither Arab and have picked up somethings on the journey. One is that if you HAVE to choose between slightly too narrow or slightly too wide, go wide. You can add shims, pads, flocking to help the fit. A too narrow saddle will remain too narrow since the problem is in the tree, not the extras. Adding more generally creates an even narrower fit.

  5. Honestly, after having dealt with a number of high withered horses over the years, more often than not you are just not going to get that ideal wither clearance. In my experience, as long as you are able to verify that, albeit close, the saddle is not going to interfer, a less than ideal wither clearance is OK. I've done it before and so far, no problems. You just have to make sure that it won't interfer (I do this by putting my hand down the gullet while riding, if any pinching that's too close, otherwise I'll take it, even if it doesn't pass the "finger test"). good luck, I hope it works out!!

  6. I know you may not like Parelli, but a look at their saddles is worthwhile. There is a lot to read about them on their site too! I love mine!

  7. Oh the saddle fit nightmare. Trying to fit my mare for an English saddle may be the way to go, but trying to find a western saddle wide enough for her and small enough for me has literally been a pain for both me and my mare. I've finally found a saddle that actually fits her, but in order for it to fit me, I need a seat shrinker and someone to completely replace the fenders and stirrup leathers.

    And I agree with Sara, if you find one slightly too wide that works mostly you can shim/pad it right. but you can't do anything with too narrow.


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