Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lose weight and eat all you want!

Oh, how I would love to believe this is possible, Zsa Zsa...
As equestrians, I bet every one of us has encountered a variation on one of these themes...
  • A fellow boarder tells me that her horse's hooves have shown dramatic improvement after using a hoof supplement for only one week!
  • A GMO classified ad lists seven saddles for sale, all at the same barn. Seems that a name-brand saddle seller/fitter visited their barn, did a fitting, and found all of their saddles were damaging their horses' backs. Seven new saddles are now on order (est. 50K in sales), and now the original saddles are for sale. 
  • A dressage diva is thrown from her horse. The only possible explanation, she claims, is that the barn worker must have neglected to feed her horse its magnesium-based calming supplement. Are you kidding?
There is truth, and there is marketing, and it's increasingly hard to make a distinction. We want things to work, want to believe that something can fix our horse's arthritis, cribbing, bucking, and what-have-you, and that makes us vulnerable to people who want to make a buck. As I told my husband of my hunt for saddle perfection, he got exasperated and said, "It's a piece of leather stuffed with wool. How much  can there be to this?" It's great that we are thinking more of the horse's experience and feelings when we ride, and there is a lot of new research and technology to help us arrive at a better fit. However, where do you draw the line between bona fide research-based findings and the  smoke and mirrors of marketing?

That's my opinion. What do y'all think?


  1. Well, you know what I think about saddle fitting.

    But I do have a friend who is a fitter and if I had a treed saddle, she'd be the one I'd contact.

    There are a number of companies out there they do the "hard sell" on their saddles and have a very effective sales pitch. One, in particular, tends to insult a lot of other manufacturers in order to sell their saddles instead.

    There are a lot of good saddle brands out there and usually, with a lot of looking, you can find the right saddle to suit both you and your horse. Trouble is, as you've noted, wading through all the sales talk can be a hard job.

  2. Oh, meant to add...I think my horse's feet really are better after switching over to Purina Healthy Edge....BUT...It's been a least a year since the feed change, as it takes at least that long for the hoof to grow down from the top.

  3. I think you are one of the sanest horse people around. :-)

  4. Ha! I've heard the magnesium one used time and time again.

  5. One of my favorite resources is Alternative Therapies in the Horse by David Ramey, DVM. Helps cut down on the woo-woo- bull puckey.

  6. It's crazy isn't it? I had an awesome fitter out and we tried 2 saddles (Both fit, I liked the second one).... so many people I know have major issues though. I'm really glad I was able to hit the nail on the head on the second try. Now I'm thinking I want a different saddle... hope it goes as well as the first try!

  7. I'm def a noob when it comes to fitting. Since buying my first saddle last fall, I have also wondered just how much of this stuff is legit and how much is people making up their own theories and trying to sell more saddles/fittings/pads. I rode at a barn in college where none of the school horses had individual saddles. You would just grab one you liked from the cabinet and use it. It seemed like a totally weird concept, but it was actually a nice, reputable hunter barn and none of their horses had lameness issues when I was there...not advocating that, just saying it wasn't as disastrous as expected. I'm sure people had ideas back in the day about saddle fitting that we consider totally wrong now, so who's to say we're currently right; I mean just look at how much rider position has evolved over generations.

    1. Theresa, it is a really weird phenomenon, eh? I rode at a few of those school barns too. And, the same rang true. People just grabbed whatever saddle fit their bottom and went about a tough, one hour lesson on a complacent school mount. These horses were ridden in different saddles for about 2-3 hours a day, every day. Yet, our primped and spoiled personal horses MUST have a saddle fitter and custom saddles to stay sound.

      How does one explain that? Some of these school horses last well into their 30s and are still regularly used. There is a school barn within a mile of my house. Her horses ride in random saddles daily and she is well-known for having school horses that still JUMP COURSES into their early to mid 30s.

      It's just really good food for thought. Are we putting too much emphasis on fit and other nitpicky specifics? Not that I want my horse uncomfortable AT ALL ... but the school horse phenomenon really does make me question all the worry, money and time we spend on exact tack fitting.

  8. Well, when I sit in my temporary Wintec dressage saddle and then sit in a friend's County dressage saddle ... Sigh. There IS a huge difference. I'm looking forward to the replies on this one!

  9. I agree with you that saddle fitting is a bit of a nightmare. Saddle fitters are not all created equal is half the problem, and they can come with thier own agendas.

  10. Caveat Emptor all the way. What's that old adage again? Oh yeah: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. *facepalm*

  11. Essentially I'm skeptical until something makes a believer out of me. Like.. Back On Track products I believe in 100% because of what they have done for me and my horse.. but I still don't trust chiropractors..

  12. After 50 years experience riding, I think I can safely say that saddles and how they fit the horse make a HUGE difference. Although some horses are stoic and will perform well no matter the saddle and its respective fit, others are just way too sensitive and will be sullen or misbehave when the saddle hurts. I can absolutely feel it when one of my saddles needs a tad more stuffing somewhere because my balance gets out of whack. When I was a child and switched from my original Argentinian saddle to a Passier, it was like light bulbs went off everywhere - riding was just so much EASIER!!! Ditto I've burned through numerous custom and semi-custom Schleeses - some fit, some are awful, even when made to my measurements. But when you get it right - ooh la la! I'm sure our horses feel the same.

  13. @ Theresa - Sounds like every H/J lesson barn I've ever been at. I had no inkling about proper saddle fit until, oh, about 10 years ago and I've been riding for a LOT longer than that! Never had my own horse, never even had my own saddle until 12 years ago. Never considered horse fit when I bought it, either; I'm just a lesson student so I'm afraid I was only worried about it fitting ME. Luckily I managed to purchase a medium-width, medium-tree saddle that (at least according to Dover's ad copy - it's one of their house brand Circuits) fits a huge variety of horses. In my experience, it has. But lesson horses - yep, they pretty much take what they get according to the rider. My latest barn does do chiro, pays attention to their needs and supplies nice half-pads for everyone to use, so I feel the horses' backs are adequately protected.

    I must comment on that Ayds ad. I remember that stuff being advertised! And NO, I am not the same vintage as Zsa Zsa, AND I'd rather die than jam myself into a girdle and shirtwaist dress like that :-)! So it must have still been around in the 60s and 70s. I think it turned out to be nothing more than amphetamines cleverly disguised as "diet candy"...

  14. I had a saddle fitter out and bought a saddle from her that I am quite pleased with. About 6 months later I was chatting with a Stubben rep at the horse expo and she proceeded to trash the reputation of my saddle fitter. I'll admit that although Stubben has a good reputation I don't know how much I'd trust a saddle fitter that works for the saddle company and only sells one brand.

  15. Getting back to hoof dressing, the best one I've ever used is a mix of neats foot oil and mineral oil. Yes, I know, it's not expensive and doesn't come with a lot of promises, but it really works well.


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