Let me preface my question with a couple of statements about me and my knowledge and riding ability.
1) I am 55 years old, I have ridden since I was a small kid. NEVER had any kind of lessons or training (no money for it)
2) Never had a really good saddle always had whatever my parent could afford or I could find, and a couple of hand-me-downs
3) hubby and I trailride practically every Saturday in the mountains of N. Georgia
4) I can ride but know just enough to know....I don't know anything and wish I had taken lesson as a younger person!!!
Now my questions... I was given the opportunity to ride in a Henry Miller buena vista sadddle several years ago, I loved it! My knees didn't hurt anymore and we decided to buy one.. so we saved our money and bought two.. one for me and one for hubby!
When we got the saddles I had another horse which I have since sold. My new mare is a Spotted Saddle Horse, she is a very good natured funny horse. I have been riding her about 1 1/2 years. Recently when we go on the downhill, usually a steep downhill she will turn and look at me, toss her head, then sling her head. When she goes downhill she does not go straight down.. it is uaually at an angle not a side pass but not straight downhill. It is hard to explain. She is a long backed mare. Do you think the saddle is hurting her?
Next thing.. this saddle has the d ring under the fender close to the center of the saddle. It has a leather strap coming from the back of the saddle and the front of the saddle to the d ring. The ring has the cinch attached to it. If I were to cinch up the girth right where it falls straight down it would be too far back. I have tightened it up here and it slides forward to where it should be and then becomes too loose. If I tighten it up where it should be it seems to slide over her shoulder blade.
I called the lady who owns the double creek tack store and spoke with her, she said that she was under the impression that some of his saddles were made to go slightly over the shoulder?????? And then when I talked to her about the two fixed straps going to the d ring from the front and the back of the saddle and about whether or not they could be moved to a more forward position she said yes and started trying to get me to buy one of HER new designed saddles..
I have looked on the internet and read the saddle fit posts on here but I can't really find the answer to my complicated questions. I know that I just enough info floating around in my brain to make me dangerous and drive me nuts.. I really need some help but don't know where to get it.
Soooo.... I am asking all the experts on this forum what they think.
PS. I would post photos but I am an idiot with trying to download and attach a photo
Below is what is written about the "rigging" on the Henry Miller Saddles, maybe it will explain better than I can. Rigging
All Double Creek Saddlery is built with "Double Rigging", not to be confused with "center-fire rigging". Double Rigging is under the fender is one leather strap attached to the rear of the tree and one strap attached to the front of the tree. The two straps meet at a stainless ring to which either english billets are attached or your western girthing. Double Rigging has great benefits: the pressure from the girth is in the center instead of very far forward seen in many traditional saddles, so the horse is way more comfortable since the rigging is pulling down from both the front and the rear of the saddle. You may find that you may be able to tighten less due to this feature. If on the other hand you want true "Center Fire Rigging", then order the upgrade "Rear Rigging" and specify that you want the Center Fire (not the rear flank strap). Note that true center fire requires careful checking and rechecking to insure that your saddle is rigged balanced on both sides! Who might need center fire? If you ride in very steep terrain you may require this style, but otherwise for pleasure riding double rigging is all you will need.
Photos would be very useful. To add them onto a post click "go advanced" and then click on the paper click icon (attachments) then you select what picture you would like to use from your computer.
I am personally a fan of double rigging, as with my mare I had issues with saddle movement, regardless of how tight the girth was (literally would just fall over sideways) and being uncomfortable with the girth. Double rigging helped that out a lot.
I would post pictures except I don't have that saddle anymore. My mare grew, saddle didn't fit anymore, so we went back to the drawing board. As of now she's just got a traditional western style saddle that she has no issues with (for now).
Have you tried a crupper to keep the saddle from sliding forward downhill? (If not, make sure you train her with it before you go out!!!) if that's what makes her uncomfortable, then it may help prevent it. Also, I would probably check fitment of saddle, make sure it doesn't need to be adjusted.
It does sound like the way she is going downhill indicates the saddle is interfering with her shoulder. I am in no way a saddle fit expert, but I think if you put your hand on the part of the saddle that sits near her shoulder and have your hubby lift her front leg and rotate it up and down a few times, you'll be able to feel if it is interfering. The other possibility is that it just doesn't fit quite right and is slipping forward onto her shoulders when going downhill. In any case, sounds like it would be worth it to spend a few bucks on a saddle fitter to evaluate the fit. Most are very reasonable with their consultation fees, and you'll know one way or the other if you're dealing with a saddle that fits or not. If it turns out your saddle does not fit, they would be able to provide you with recommendations of a brand that would fit better.
I am no expert, but I have learned a bit about saddles over the years from a really good saddler, so preface this with that. Additionally I have never seen one of those saddles before but I just had a look on Google images at some; so I might be a bit off here (so apply what I say here with a bit of criticism). It sounds to me, despite what the blurb from them says, that the saddle has centre fire rigging. Centre fire is a rigging position rather than a rigging set up. The way to tell is to have a line between the ends of the cantle (where it meets the seat on each side) and then to the middle of the fork (roughly, some are stood up or lean forwards so itís a guesstimate where the middle is. Well it will all be a guesstimate since the rigging will be measured off the tree, before it had all the leather put on, not the finished saddle so measuring it like this will be a little off). Now, along that line, find the middle and that should be where centre fire rigging goes. The next position from there is three quarter, then seven eights, then full double rigging. All of these terms refer to where the girth rigging will go forwards of the centre by dividing the remaining distance in half each time. So ĺ is half way between centre and full, 7/8th is half the remaining distance, and full is under the middle of the fork. If that doesnít make sense its just my silly way of describing it. Centre fire rigging typically has no flank girth rigging, and many saddles with ĺ rigging may not have it either, when you get to 7/8ths they likely will have it and full double rigged saddles need flank girth rigging. Now the way the rigging is attached to the saddle can vary wildly from Sam Stag rigging, in-skirt rigging, flat plate rigging and any number of variations, it seems to me that is what they are talking about when they say double rigging. Not so much the position but the system its rigged to the saddle tree. As for where the saddle sits on the horse to where the girth will go, the saddle will go to where it should sit if it fits the horse properly, the girth will also work its way into the horseís girth, and if the saddle is centre fire rigged the girth will slope backwards up from the horseís girth. What that is all about is distributing the pull of the girth in relation to pulling down the tree. So centre fire rigging will pull down on the back of the saddle in a way that full double rigging can't, hence the need for a flank girth for full double rigged saddles. There are pros and cons to each style of rigging depending on what you want the saddle for. Have a look at the photo of my old horse. He has my stock saddle on him, which has ĺ rigging. You can see that there is a bit of a slope back from the where the cinch goes under his belly to the saddle rigging. Once that saddle is in place, it doesnít move, despite the angle of the girth. As for the saddle moving around on the horse, that would be more likely an indication that the tree doesnít fit it so well rather than a function of the rigging position; my gut feeling is that the saddle may not have the right angles for the horseís back behind and around its wither/shoulder area. If the tree fits well the rigging wonít pull it forwards. If you are going down some really step country a crupper might be an idea once you have ascertained that the saddle fits right, it is possible to move a saddle about, no matter how well it fits, if you donít move with the horse well, or you stiffen up a bit on steep hills etc (not saying you do, just a reason why a well fitted saddle might move). As for the saddle interfering with the horses shoulders, if it is too far forwards it might, or if the skirts havenít been put on the tree properly it might too. Basically if the tree, and saddle on it, are well made the shoulder will slide under the tree while the horse has the weight OFF the shoulder so there is clearance there, when the weight comes back on to that part of the tree the shoulder wonít be under the bar (unless you are riding in some really odd stiff way or something). Donít know how much any of that helps, but anyway, my felling would be to get someone who knows about saddle fit to have a look at how it fits, I doubt the rigging position will be causing it to slide forwards. Actually, just one more thought. If the rigging position is slightly off on one side compared to the other, that is, if one is a little forward, or behind the rigging on the other side of the saddle, that might cause it to move about as well.
O yeah, and to make sure the saddle is in the right place in the first place, when you put it on, find the back of the horse’s shoulder blade and position the BAR of the saddle, not the SKIRT, slightly behind that, maybe the width of a couple of fingers. That should get the saddle where it should go.