Thursday, October 5, 2017

Saddle Fitting Clinic & More Hot Mess Express

Thank-you everyone for your comments on my last entry - sometimes it feels better knowing other people have been on a similar Struggle Bus. I find the blogging community to be so helpful in that regard. You can think you are alone and when you look at the comments, you realize almost every single person who has commented has similar stories. It gives me self-assurance and a little bit of confidence that we can get past this and keep going :) 


"Hay to the left of me, saddles to the right,
here I am, stuck in the middle with my human."
This past weekend, a new saddle fitting representative made the trekk down to our area - I am not only super pumped about this, but am even more enamored with the fact that the owner and operator is a very familiar "face" among blog-land. Hamer and Clay, anyone? Some may be unaware, but Kelsey has started her foray into the wonderful world of saddle making and is working her way to becoming a fully certified saddle fitter!

Since she grew up in the area, she knows how lacking a lot of our equestrian services are and I jumped at the chance when I heard she was coming our way for a visit with family and was willing to tie in a saddle fitting clinic with any riders who wanted it.

I had been in contact with Jen (The Saddle Geek) over the last few weeks, attempting to try and find a solution to Annie's curvy and short back. While I completely loved Jen's suggestions and felt she hit the nail on the head, there is just something to be said about "in the flesh" visits. And as fate would have it, a few weeks after I had contacted Jen, Kelsey announced she would be coming our way.

I was curious to see how the two saddle fitter's ideas would line up and what recommendations would be given.

It was a pretty brisk morning!
Since N wanted to check the fit of her saddle on AJ, we trailered together to the covered riding arena in the next town. We wanted to make sure that if it was raining, we had a dry space to take measurements and data without making poor Kelsey suffer in the elements should the sky decide to leak! As fate would have it, it stayed sunny all day (although it was bitterly cold in the morning).

N and I unloaded the horses upon arrival and tied them to the trailer while we unloaded our stuff into the indoor and met Kelsey. No sooner did we get things ready, N and AJ jumped into their appointment and started getting measurements taken and all kinds of neat things.

While we waited, Annie made her displeasure known each and every time AJ "left" her (he just walked to the other end of the arena), but she seemed to settle and was content to munch on her hay so long as she could see her beau. Mares.

I drooled over a few of these saddles.
When it came to our turn, Annie was compliant with being measured and having saddles placed on and off of her. We came to the conclusion I needed to make some minor adjustments to my jump saddle for it to be a comfortable fit. We started on implementing some of the changes and poor Kelsey struggled with my Wintec's silly gullet system for quite a while. Oops!

Knowing the Bates (dressage saddle) was a hard pass, we didn't opted to not even put it on Annie to check the fit. It's a terrible fit for the horse and it's a terrible fit for me. No thanks. Kelsey did take it on consignment though, so hopefully she will have better luck finding it a new home.

I rode in a few different saddles and ended up falling in love with one that is totally out of my price range (isn't that always the way).

I started by trying out a Verhan saddle (Saddle #1) which I didn't completely love. It felt pretty secure in the seat, but the flaps were def too long and would need adjusting.

The saddle fitter tried to get some photos of me
in the various saddles to show me my position.
This is Annie trying to leap into canter for
the billionth time... -_-
Unfortunately, Annie wasn't being the most cooperative pony and I spent almost 40 minutes riding around in Trail Saddle #1 because it went from a "test ride" to a "schooling ride" very quickly. I apologized to Kelsey and told her that I was going to have to school for as long as I needed and would like to keep riding in the saddle until I felt we were in a place of agreement. Kelsey was super kind and basically left us to hash out the issues undersaddle.

It was basically the same nonsense as Saturday, except was amplified to Annie attempting to canter at a few particular spots in the arena. She cantered sideways, she bucked (once), and she ran around on her front end like a deranged zebra.

I stayed light in my seat and leaned back just enough to offset any kind of additional bucks she may throw my way. She was very stiff and hard in the mouth, unwilling to bend in either direction and unwilling to comply with any kind of request. Whenever we got down towards the bottom of the ring, closer to AJ, she was much more agreeable, but as soon as we trotted away, she made her displeasure known.

That one time we were actually able to trot through this corner
and not completely canter sideways.

We managed to get into a more positive mind space, so I opted to switch over to Saddle 2 - a Hastilow dressage saddle that I completely fell in love with. The one Kelsey had for me to try, was too small in the seat and if I decided to go with a custom saddle, there would be other changes made to ensure it fit my and Annie a bit better.

Going back out onto the rail we encountered the same problems as before, but not as bad as the first go round. I managed to get more acceptance out of Annie and was pleased when she actually tried to meet me half way in a few things.

Well... that's a middle finger.
When she started to get bouncy, retracted, and threatened to leap into canter I gave her a little growl and rewarded the good behavior when it showed (however brief it was).

I mixed up my tactics in dealing with the misbehavior and a when she bounded into the canter, I let her. And we cantered and cantered and cantered and cantered some more.

We also alternated between trot-halt transitions and even threw in some halting (which she yanked into me for every single one).

By the end of a very exhausting and frustrating school, she started to get her eggs in a basket and I could feel her softening to me and finally starting to be a bit more amicable.
(In the Second Saddle) A brief moment of acceptance.
Note: I realize the seat is too small for me. Was just trying
it out to see how it felt.
I was only able to walk in the last saddle, as Annie had started to get her shit together and I didn't want to push my luck. I just opted to cool out - I don't remember the brand of saddle I rode in though. As we marched around the ring, Annie kept stopping and tried to walk back towards AJ, but I kept her marching and made sure to tell her she was doing a fabulous job when she complied.

We finished up there - a lot of my appointment time was taken up with a silly horse and Kelsey had other clients to meet.  After  I untacked N took the horses out to graze and I stayed back and talked with Kelsey about my options and ideas. It was really enlightening and now I have to save up for the fancy saddle I fell in love with because my butt wants nothing else. Fingers crossed she finds a new home for my Bates too!


  1. Sounds like a great experience, with lots of good info. Once a butt sits in a fancy saddle it's hard to go back! :P

    1. It was really interesting to learn the "hows" and "whys" of things. Hilariously enough, riding buddy N was measured as 24" along her leg and I was measured at a pitiful 15" lol. My need for a short flap is obvious. :P

  2. Oh Annie, too many emotions for baby mares to handle :) Best of luck with the perfect saddle!

  3. Ugh Isabel was WILD for a saddle fitting appointment once and it was a total PITA. Glad you still got what you needed from it!

    1. Oh no :(
      It's hard when you are trying to get a feel of a saddle and the horse isn't making it easy for us... at least it shows how secure the saddle keeps us? LOL

  4. I had a saddle fitting recently and went through the same thing. I totally wanted to buy the saddle I tried, but it cost way too much.

    1. it reminds me of those wedding shows where the bride tries on the gown wayyyy out of her price range and loves it!

  5. Oh, drama queens! Glad you got it sorted out, though - although it sucks that you didn't find your perfect saddle! I really need to do a saddle fitting sometime...

    1. MUCH DRAMA.

      I have the perfect saddle - it's just out of my budget lmao!!

  6. ohh inquiring minds wanna know what dream saddle did you fall for?? (I have a fitter coming later this week, so excited). :) And boy Annie made you work for it all didn't she? LOL Poor you! what a sport!

    1. It was a Hastilow Concept Dressage saddle!! :)

  7. i tried a Hastilow jump saddle it fit Remus but made me sit like i was in a lazyboy recliner :) Good luck!

    1. I didn't try their jump saddle, just the dressage. My wintec works ok for now for jumping :)

  8. That is pretty cool to be able to try several out on the same day. Not many people get that opportunity! I'm of the opinion that you get what you pay for with saddles, so the nice ones usually are, well, nice.

    1. It was really neat to feel the differences between them all