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ohmyitschelle 04-10-2011 02:40 AM

Fitting saddle to an obese mutton withered horse.
A subject with limited answers, I'm aware!

My mare has spent the last two years out of work. She was brought back into work to address her obesity in January (I have struggled over a very good spring to keep my mare in her pens and not staying behind her fences. I invested in an electric unit but sadly the incredibly good doer that she is, was very obese by that time. Under saddle we got two weeks into work, only for her to let me know she was sore (not related to the weight problem)... and during the period of waiting for a chiropractor to come out to my mare, I came across the opportunity to get a saddle that works with me very well. As I have used one before on my horses, I snapped up the chance and bought it.

Of course horse comfort is paramount, especially when I'm a heavy rider myself. I contacted a saddle fitter in our area who is very reputable. I included photos of the size/weight of the mare and the brand of saddle (Wintec Isabell Werth 18" CAIR) and asked for an appointment. I received an email back basically telling me what was my point for even trying to get a saddle on the mare. I had explained in detail that for her health it was important for her to lose weight by exercise. She is already in a position where she lives in a little paddock with sufficient hay to get her through the day, and no grain. It has been now recommended by the chiropractor for this mare to begin light work back under saddle, to ensure her recovery to injury (was through the shoulder) and to lose weight.

I feel despite using my avenues as a horse owner, and trying to ensure my horse is comfortable, I'm struggling a little in whether or not I ride this mare or I let her have the winter to lose the pounds and try again in spring. I have included photos of her today from where I put the saddle on this mare. I came home and did some research (checked out MIE’s thread ) and found it very informative, I am going out to retry everything I took down notes on. I was a little worried of the fit myself (a lot of height in the gullet despite being in an extra wide gullet) and had no idea of my mare being a mutton withered horse so when I found I could fit 5 fingers in there, I was very hesitant. I checked for pinching and found none, and can see day light down the channel and it clears her spine well. I know the saddle WILL fit her when she’s lost the weight, as a lot of it is making her wide and sitting high, under where the saddle sits. I also noted that the girth straps do shift forward but it seems to have done that ever since she’s gained the weight as before when I was riding her constantly before our accident putting her in the paddock for the 2 yrs, it sat right on my Wintec 500 Dressage. On that saddle too the straps are coming forward at the moment.

The photos aren’t the best, they were taken by a non horsey person, and will have to get some without the saddle blanket, and at better angles. I was a little too excited to just be able to sit back up on my mare after some time and in my new saddle. I found for myself her belly was so wide I couldn't bring my leg to mold around her, and rather, it stuck out. I couldn’t figure if that was to do with the knee rolls – I do have the smaller ones and will be trying them.
Honey at liberty, and lacking a wither haha!

And the pictures from today.

If there are any handy hints or advice people can give me, with these less than ideal pictures, that would be grand. I understand they’re not the best. I just want to give my horse the exercise she needs, but I don’t want to do it if the saddle is going to cause too many problems with her.

Thanks in advance!

Tymer 04-10-2011 09:58 PM

Are you a stable enough rider to ride bareback? While she's losing a lot of weight you could ride bareback and not use a good fitting saddle until it'll fit her for more than a month.

ohmyitschelle 04-10-2011 10:52 PM

No, I have an injury to my right leg. So I do not have the stability bareback to ride. This saddle was specifically bought to accommodate my injury and to enable me to be a more correct and effective rider so I'm out of the way of my mare.
I have spoken with my instructor and she has said that for the exercise Honey is allowed to do (walking for three weeks starting at 10mins and by the third week up to 20mins), the saddle is clearing her spine and not pinching so it is more effective to assist my mare in losing her weight so the saddle can fit to her, than not ride and leave her for the winter to lose weight and get stiff again. I have agreed to try, and so long as I'm aware I should be okay for what I'm asking of her.

Thanks for the suggestion, it is one I thought of, but is not feasible. I do not have someone who can ride her for me at present if that was my only option, either.

Angelina1 04-11-2011 07:11 AM

I have had the same problem with my Standardbred Gelding (he is 14.1hh) - he is a little barrel on legs - no wither, broad shoulders and back and the extra wide gullet was still pinching him and I tried many, many saddles trying to make him comfortable - he ending up with mounting problems as all the saddles "off the self" so to speak would not fit and were very uncomfortable for him - I ended up finding two that worked well for him and me - the 1st I use when his weight is up ie Spring and early winter (no matter how much he stays off the grass he still manages to pile on the kilos LOL) I use a Dressage style treeless saddle with memory foam inserts - this moulds to shape and stays stable on his back and he and I are very comfortable - the second is an icelandic saddle as these saddles though treed are wide trough the gullet and sits back off his shoulders to allow free movement - He is alot happier in these saddles and I am able to exercise him and keep his weight down. It is not an easy task finding the right saddle for hard to fit horses - but keep trying I am sure you will find one and dont give up as you horse needs the exercise and the fun for you to ride your mare again.. Good Luck..

Angelina1 04-11-2011 07:14 AM

PS: Your Mare is gorgeous!!

ohmyitschelle 04-11-2011 06:34 PM

Good idea there and something I'll definitely have to keep that idea in mind. I'm hoping that I wont have to change saddle. Her half brother is built exactly the same and ridden in the same saddle. His owner is able to monitor his weight to keep fit for it. I will be doing the same with honey now that I have the electric system to keep her in place! This saddle fit is important for me as it helps me ride. But if I can't ensure a good fit when she's thinner I will have to find a solution.
Thanks for the idea and yeah she's a real sweetheart!!
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Iseul 04-11-2011 07:52 PM

If you have another horse to ride, you could pony her around hills/trails while she loses a little weight until the saddle looks better on her. I can't comment much on how it looks though, since I ride western, haha.
You could also just do some lunging daily until she loses a bit of weight.
That's if you can deal with not actually riding her, and you aren't too impatient like me. :p
Otherwise, I can't say too much since I know nothing abou how English saddles should fit, haha.
But, good luck. She's a very pretty girl.
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ohmyitschelle 04-12-2011 03:36 AM

Thanks Iseul, sadly this mare is not allowed to lunge atm, as she's recovering from a shoulder injury. Rode her today, it went quite well! And I don't have another horse, just Honey - much to my dismay! Lol.

Amlalriiee 04-12-2011 06:40 AM

My horse is similarly shaped and I also ride in a treeless. If it's just temporary you could get a cheap treeless (some you can get for around 100-200 and then you'll have it in case you ever need it again) or try to borrow one? Of course in the long term a "cheap" saddle isn't always best, but if it gets her into that one better it might be good.

Anyway, I'm not great with saddle fit, but just make sure you're checking her back for sore spots-where you aren't riding heavily your trainer may be right. Good luck, I know how frustrating it can be!

ohmyitschelle 04-12-2011 07:31 AM

Thanks heaps Amlariiee. Will have to look into treeless saddles for this situation.

Rode her today and it went quite well. I'm checking her before and after riding and spent 15mins before even getting up on her back doing her prescribed exercises and making sure the saddle was where I wanted it. I'm hoping if I try really hard *for now* I'll get somewhere!

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