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egrogan 04-29-2013 12:04 PM

Crossing billets on dressage saddle?
I've been refreshing my memory on saddle fit/position (have some concerns about my saddle sitting too far forward on my mare's shoulders), and I came across this video, in which the rider recommends crossing the billets before doing up the girth:

I've never heard of this, and am really curious about why you would do this. Any thoughts?

Also, can anyone recommend good videos or tutorials on checking for shoulder clearance? I can't get good pics of tacking up my own horse because of the terrible lighting in our aisle way- when I have someone around to help me, I'll try to snap some good squared up pics of her saddled outside.

Delfina 04-29-2013 12:40 PM

I've never heard of that either.

I too struggle with getting the saddle perfectly situated for shoulder clearance. I've found I can judge much better if I am looking at the horse on a lungeline, so I will often send my gelding out for a circle or two then bring him in and re-adjust the saddle. Seems also to be a cut of the saddle/particular horse thing too. I have zero issues putting a couple of my trainer's saddles on (even on her gigundo warmblood whom I have to jump up and down to get the dang thing on him) but my County Dressage saddle is just a pain!

egrogan 04-29-2013 12:49 PM

Delfina, mine is a County too. Wonder if it's something about that type? Most of the other saddles at are barn are Wintec/all purpose, so I don't have a good comparison for my mare.

She is also coming out of the winter pretty round in the belly, and I think that's what's making things so awkward all of a sudden. The girth doesn't fit right, the saddle seems jammed forward, and I feel like I suddenly have a chair seat, which is not something I've ever worried about. I think that big belly is pushing everything forward- which makes it even more important to ride frequently! So, I've got to get this fit problem resolved so she's not getting sore while she's being ridden more often and more intensely.

2horses 04-29-2013 01:04 PM

Egrogan, I had the same problem with the chubby Haflinger. He has a forward girth line, which tends to pull the saddle forward. I read about all the different solutions, including crossing the billets. I wasn't sure about that; so I ended up buying an Ovation anatomical girth. It seems to let the girth go forward without pulling the whole saddle. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than it was. By the way, my saddle is a Wintec.

Golden Horse 04-29-2013 01:22 PM

Now I'm wondering how many people take the "even girth, 4 holes this side and 4 on the other" as totally gospel, not a hole more or less, but 4 each side:lol:

Delfina 04-29-2013 01:40 PM


Originally Posted by Golden Horse (Post 2381578)
Now I'm wondering how many people take the "even girth, 4 holes this side and 4 on the other" as totally gospel, not a hole more or less, but 4 each side:lol:

Umm... :oops:

Ok, I won't do the 4 on each side since I'd be lying in the dirt since I need 7 holes on one side and 6 on the other but I am really darn anal about making sure that it's equally done up on each side until you have to go odd because you can't go even because the horse only needs a single hole more, not one on each side.

Drives my trainer batty.... I do up two holes at a time on each side and then switch to one hole on each side at a time, so I am going back and forth, back and forth.

But hey, being anal and counting holes lets me know if he's gaining/losing weight! :oops:

Golden Horse 04-29-2013 01:49 PM

LOL, totally absolutely agree with equal numbers each side, It's the 4 that is making me giggle, I just know that someone will be perched on their saddle with space between the girth and the horse, while their friend is still in the stalls trying to get fatties girth up to the fourth hole.

Those of you who don't believe anyone would be that silly, well you haven't worked in customer service have you.

Corporal 04-29-2013 02:21 PM

First, any English saddle needs to be level. You should always place the saddle WITH pad too far forward and then pull back towards the tail. As soon as the pommel levels out, you have cleared the shoulders. Also, you should be able to fit four fingers between your horse's elbow and the girth. I ALWAYS try to have the same # of holes on both sides. If one side is higher, I make it the off side. Think of your own clothing. One side higher feels strange. I believe your horse feels this, too.
If your saddle slips forward you could use a crupper. On most horses the saddle slips backwards and then a good breastplate works well. I realize that you don't see this equipment at any Dressage shows, but they were designed with a purpose. In lieu of that, use a girth with elastic.
If you look up European and US Cavalry history photos, you will see both.
Certainly the Spanish Riding School uses breastplates, on occasion.

Cherrij 04-29-2013 02:52 PM

We have always put the saddle a bit higher up and slid it back down, first trying the saddle fit without a saddle pad, put the saddle on and check how it fits without a girth, on top of the horses back you should be able to put a hand in the canal on the wither and looking from tail-side should see light through the whole saddle canal.
Then put the pad and the saddle higher than needed, slide back till the saddle fits in a place itself and is level.
girth is always done up about the same holes on each side, if new girth or new horse we try slowly taking a few holes on each side and going back and forth, but for horses that are ridden with the same saddle and girth every day its already well known, what number of holes is put up on each side.
Shoulder always gets checked and girth is placed away from the elbow. If worried about saddle placement near the elbow and shoulder, sometimes you can lift the front legs of the horse, one by one, and stretch them out forwards, 1) gives a nice stretch before work after standing still for grooming, and 2) frees shoulders and all the skin under the saddle. Also lunging a bit before riding will help with saddle placement and tightening the belt.
most well fitted dressage saddles wont need anything else to hold them in place, jumping saddles always get a martingale with saddle holders ( not just a neck martingale, but it buckles up to the saddle).
However we do know a pony that is impossible to fit a saddle for, so many saddlies tried and all just slide almost on her neck in canter. she has very flat wither and is quite round, the tail piece scares her, she is very panicky about things going on her back/tail. even blankets can scare her sometimes..
Most important thing that a lot of people forget is to pull the saddle pad into the canal of the saddle before girthing it up, as if the saddle pad is too flat on the horse it will actually apply pressure on the wither and the horse will not be happy about it. However I have also seen very wide saddles used for horses with narrower back and higher withers causing the front of the saddle to actually lay on the wither... the person just claimed - nothing to do there... I was very sorry for the horse. I never use a saddle that doesnt fit well on a horse.

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