I hate saddle shopping. It makes my head explode.
I have a young mare just starting and I’ve tried to inspire an extremely ancient Wintec to survive long enough for her to finish growing. Well, we had a flat. Ever ridden on only one panel? Neither of us liked it much; she thought I was really heavy on one side, and I thought the same thing about her.
Reluctantly, I knew this day would come; it’s time for my little flower to get her big girl saddle. Literally. She was on the high edge of the widest gullet. By spring her withers would have had cleavage.
I’ve lost count of the number of dressage saddles I’ve owned over the years. Some bought new, some used; in the beginning I blundered along blindly. I thought anyone knew more about saddles than me.
Then I took the expensive home study course- the one where you mail order a new saddle and hope it fits. I wasn’t lucky with that, more than once. I’ve used several saddle fitters but they all seem to have differing opinions. In the end, it’s up to the horse. Looking right might not feel right. That much I have learned.
And finally, cost is no object. Meaning, like most things in the horse world, throwing money at it doesn’t necessarily solve anything.
Confident? Not so much.
Let’s say all of that is good and your saddle fits both of you simultaneously. Hooray, but then his body changes, the level of work changes, or like our case, the saddle changes, and the deal is off. It feels easier sometimes to go with what you have, and not open this can of worms, but I am out of excuses.
Start with some online research maybe? Is it just me, or have saddles changed more in the last 20 years, that the 200 years before that? Pour over magazine ads. Look at websites, scroll through the pictures and read the theory. Go to the next website and do the same- it will contradict the last one. Then read some of the owner comments and get really crazy. At this point the choice is yours: some open a bottle of wine, some do better with chocolate. It’ll be a long night. I mean nights.
This is the only smart advice I have: ride in as many saddles as you can and then listen to your horse. Is he willing to walk out, willing to trot? Saddles are like bits, you can tell right away if they don’t work… but telling if they are actually right takes more time.
I told my friend at a party that I was saddle shopping and she commented that it was much harder to find the right saddle than the right boyfriend. We cackled about our standards, but she’s right of course.
Still here I am, thinking of other activities I prefer to saddle shopping.
I’d prefer having a root canal than shopping for a saddle. There’s a finite amount of stress and pain but then you are good to go. Usually forever.
I prefer the feel of my Mom’s 1960′s avocado green Naugahyde sofa- it was sticky in the heat and crackly in the cold, but oddly comfortable.
I would go so far as to prefer modeling a string bikini for drunken hockey fans. They will tell you right away if it is a bad fit.
And it’s definitely more fun to drive the truck around and throw cash out the windows. In the end, you have nothing, but at least someone else is happy.
Clara and I are trying a new design of saddle right now. It has an adjustable tree with mono-flaps and long, exposed thigh blocks. Different isn’t necessarily bad, right? She seems to like it. I’m cautiously, cynically, and skeptically optimistic. For now.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.