Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Washington State
The saddle my horse likes will cripple him?
I am faced with a dilemma. I have a 4 year old gelding who has been under saddle for a bit less than a year. Before we started riding him, we had a professional saddle fitter come out and take all of his measurements and adjust a saddle to fit him just so. The saddle has interchangeable gullets, and she has the training to adjust the wool flocking -- so theoretically this saddle should fit him wonderfully.
Things were more or less fine and dandy for a while. We had some of what we considered fairly "normal" training dilemmas for a greenie. Recently, he seemed to become a bit more resistant to contact, wouldn't always pick up the correct leads (which had been just fine initially), and just generally didn't want to move out. I also noticed that when I took the saddle off, he would often have roughed up patches of hair behind his shoulders. All of this indicated to me that he had probably grown and changed a bit, so we might need to have the saddle adjusted. I made an appointment, but it was a couple of weeks out and in the mean time we were signed up to go to our first schooling show. With so many problems, I agreed to try out one of our trainer's saddle on him just to see if it would work better until his saddle could be addressed.
We tried my trainer's saddle -- and all of a sudden I had a completely different horse. There was more suspension in his stride, he seemed more willing to accept contact, and he was much more willing to move freely. We took my trainer's saddle to the schooling show and had a wonderful time. The day after the show, he had his saddle fitting appointment. I talked to our saddle fitter about the problems that we had been encountering and told her about our trainer's "magic" saddle that seemed to have resolved so many problems. The moment she heard what brand the saddle was, she dismissed it as a horrifically bad saddle and told me that while he may have seemed to do so well with it during a few rides, if we continued to use it we were almost certain to experience all sorts of horrific back pain problems. She had quite a passionate "rant" against the tree of my trainer's saddle and the fact that the panels are filled with foam as opposed to wool. I was a bit put off that she wasn't even interested in seeing the saddle on him and comparing what it might be that he liked so much better. Our saddle fitter took new measurements and readjusted our saddle. The balance of our saddle did feel better, and it didn't create the same rub marks.
A few days later, I had a riding lesson with my trainer. The lesson was going poorly. My gelding (Aurelio) didn't want to move, and was very resistant to contact. My trainer commented that he looked like an old stiff horse, not a 4 year old -- and suggested that we try her saddle again just to see if it made a difference or if he just wasn't in the mood to move out. We swapped saddles, and suddenly I was sitting on a firecracker. We went from me tapping him with the whip every couple of minutes to having to have a discussion about listening when I half-halt or ask for downward transitions. He was more willing to accept contact, and we had a few of those 'aha' moments where he started to collect and extend a little more.
So now I have no idea what to do. Theoretically his own saddle should be adjusted to fit him wonderfully, but it just isn't working out for whatever reason. He's performing beautifully in a saddle that I have more or less been told will cripple him. Do any of you think it's true that my horse could be telling me that something is so "right", only to find later that it really was "wrong"? Do I call the saddle fitter back out? Do I sell our saddle and buy another like our trainer has despite the fact that we have a young horse who could still grow and change a bit? Do I find a different saddle fitter?
Last edited by Eolith; 07-11-2014 at 11:14 AM.