Saddle Fitting Question: Wintec AP, Friesian Cross
Hi there, I have a REALLY complicated and convoluted question about saddle fitting. Currently I am riding (but don't own) a 5 yr old Friesian cross--he's got an ENORMOUS shoulder, low/little wither. If he were my horse, I'd definitely get him a custom saddle, but the situation is complicated (I'll explain momentarily), and getting him a new saddle is out of question. Basically, I have a job working at a very small breeding farm, and in exchange for cleaning some stalls and doing some chores (which they really desperately need help with), I sort of informally lease one of their geldings. He's a friesian/Irish sport horse cross. For one reason or another, they don't have a saddle that fits him, so I thought I'd try my Wintec 2000 AP. It SEEMS to fit him, and I have the gullet measuring tool, etc, so I have the correct gullet in.
So here are the problems I've noticed with the saddle:
He is 100 percent fine on the trail but acts like he's uncomfortable in the arena. The owner thinks he's just a little stiff and acting up because I'm a softy (he has bad ground manners with me, working on it...). However, his arena behavior really looks like pain to me.
I did a little lunging with him in just the saddle and the girth only, and while I positioned it correctly, I noticed that the saddle seems to slip forward and ride up on his shoulder. I had a look at my girth and realized it was total crap--a wintec, fully elastic girth that never tightens correctly. I did some research and found that an anatomical girth and a no-slip pad might help. I ordered these and they should come next week. What do you think, will those help?
In the mean time, while these are in the mail, I took him on a trail ride yesterday and borrowed a leather girth (instead of my crap girth) from the woman who lives there and used a gel half-pad pad around the wither area. This really seemed to help and we had no slipping and had our most amazing ride on the trail. He seemed really comfortable and happy to work. When I got back, the lady who owns the farm took him in the arena (to check him out to see if he was in pain) and he did really well, although he was tired. I bought one of those Roma wither relief pads (also in the mail) because I thought that might create a little bulk around his wither area where the saddle can sit and not slip forward--but after using this gel pad, I'm thinking maybe I should get one of those nice, thinline half-pads or mattes half pads and try that.
Basically, I'm a newby at saddle fitting, and because of a complicated situation at the farm, I've been sort of left to figure out the saddle fit on my own. I don't want to go into details, but basically, having a saddle fitter come out is probably not an option. I know in a perfect world we'd all have custom saddles, but right now I have to make do with what I have. There's no way the woman can afford to buy him a perfect saddle right now, and theoretically he's for sale anyways. What do you think, will the anatomic girth and the no slip pad help, or do I want some sort of half pad/gel pad too, for padding, and if so, will the Roma Wither Relief suffice for this.
All answers appreciated, especially people who have experience with the funky Friesian and Friesian cross conformation (bulging shoulder, low/forward located withers, etc).
If you have any questions about his conformation of the saddle fit, please ask me. I'd prefer not to go into the situation at the farm because it's complicated and personal and not really solvable. Thank you in advance.
I've attached a picture of him. It's right after a bath and he's standing pretty down-hill because he's on ah hill (you can't see it because I'm a lousy photographer and cut off his feet...), in reality, he's slightly uphill but mostly pretty level.