Importance of a saddle

For the longest time I rode in a Wintec Isabella.  And most of my students rode in Wintecs.  But when I purchased Ahab, my Wintec saddle did not fit him.  Ahab is shaped like a pot-bellied pig, but that is another story.  This post is about saddles.  So I started looking for a new saddle.  

My trainer and I tried every saddle in her barn.  While at an Arabian show, I tried every saddle I could.  And Ahab liked none of them.  And they didn’t like him.  They rode up his neck, bounced on his back. You name it.  His tongue was out, his ears were back and he was not happy.

I asked around looking for a saddle fitter.  I was referred to one by several people.  So, I called her.  She came highly recommended.  She was “the best”.   Represented a couple different brands as well as carried some used stuff.  So I thought, I was on the right track.  I set an appointment.  And I suggested to a couple of my clients that they may want to look for something as well.  I will be the first to admit when I don’t know something.  And saddle fitting I don’t know.  And boy do I wish I had known more.

Turns out there are thousands of nerves ending under your saddle.  And that is why an ill-fitting saddle can make your horse buck, make them spooky, and generally unpleasant to ride.  If it putts your leg in a bad position you horse will not be very responsive to your leg aids.  A leg-yield will be a leg-force.  Your seat will be totally ineffective and motionless.  You will have to work extra hard to stay on your saddle and in the middle of your horse. You name it, a poorly fitted saddle will make it happen.  It is more than just helping us stay on the right side of the horse. 

 As a result of this “highly recommended” saddle fitter, myself and several of my clients purchased a custom-made saddles.  The saddles took 6 months to be made.  We each spent a BUNCH of money on what was suppose to be the perfect saddle.  We were all so happy when they finally arrived. It was like Christmas with a bunch of 5 years olds.

Fast forward a couple of months: We make a note that one of the ponies is not really making any progress. Even though he is closely related to other ponies in our barn acts nothing like them. He is spooky but only while someone is riding him. He will happily go through the obstacle course while being lead. But will not even get close to it when his owner is riding. We gave him every excuse in the world: he has a mare brain, he has blue eyes and the sun bothers him, he was started incorrectly. You name it, we thought it. Not once did we think about the custom made saddle.

Years later, she tried to contact the saddle fitter to have some repair done.  The saddle fitter no long represented this brand.  She contacted another saddle fitter.  Turns out the saddle fitter that helped us was just interested in selling saddles and not doing a good job.  The saddle that was now several years old, was to long for her pony’s back. (the same pony she had 5 years earlier, who was 7 at the time) and it also didn’t fit her.  She is in her mid-fifties so she hasn’t grown in the last 5 years.  Finding this hard to believe, she contacted another saddle fitter.  Yep, second one said the same thing.

And so we started the process all over again. Measuring the pony, and trying possible options. Measuring the rider. Can we make this one fit, and back and worth trying to decide which is best. We finally decided on a fairly unknown brand manufactured in the UK especially for ponies.

Two months after changing saddles my client’s pony is so different.  He is more focused.  He is working long and low, giving a much more beautiful trot.  He back muscles are changing very quickly. He is not spooking at his own shadow. And he is happy to walk through the obstacle course. My client is no longer struggling with her leg aids.  Her seat is able to move with her horse and now allows her horse to move at a canter.  She can steer with her seat and leg.  Everyone is happy and willing to work.  Long story, short; If you are struggling and not making progress, it might be your saddle.

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