Friday, May 11, 2012

The Saddle Fitter

Hooray!  Amen, hallelujah!  The saddle, she do fit!

Katie Gussenhofen of County Saddlery came last night and worked her magic to make Sherm's ProFit fit like it should.

I've been holding off panic over whether this new-to-me County was really going to be wide enough for this boy, who just seems to keep growing, without ever getting obviously fat.  He's carrying a few extra pounds in strategic places after the long winter off, but, truly, he's not fat like many in his family.  So when he came out this spring, taller, longer, and, yeah, wider, than he went into the winter, I thought oh no... is he really beyond an XW to an XXW?  Please, Lord, no.  

I'm on a budget, a serious one, and it doesn't make a ton of sense to me to purchase a new saddle for this ever-changing youngster.  He's likely to continue to grow, up and out, until he is nearly 8-- most of the horses in his line have taken this long.  And we're not 100% sure what, exactly, our discipline will be.  So, used it must be for now.  Easier said than done...

While I could find used dressage saddles in that size with no problem (thank you Warmbloods!), the market for used XXW close contact saddles is  Those 12 people who are riding XXW horses over fences had those saddles custom-made for their mounts, and they're not giving them up.  (And, no, we're not over fences yet, but I like the freedom of the "less is more" approach of cc or a/p saddles.)  The rest of the jumping world is riding TBs and TB crosses, and they describe their saddle size using a term ("narrow?"-- have you heard of this?)  with which I am unfamiliar.  Those  saddles are pretty readily available on the used market, along with the size-7 shoes I see on the other side of the shoe store when I am shopping for myself.  It took months to find this ProFit, and it was my only hope...

Katie G came and had a moment's trepidation, too, when she saw the ProFit on the Germ-- miles of wither clearance, and a seat hovering about a foot over his spine.  Uh-oh... is this thing too narrow?  

But further inspection revealed a good bit of flocking in the front panels, so it was worth pulling some out to give it a try.  And pull she did... for about 45 minutes... and about a sheep's-worth:

Once all that fluffy stuff was out of there, and with plenty left inside to make for some comfy padding, we gave it a go.  Sherm, who had stood in the cross ties quietly for 45 minutes-- so not his style, was a bit too exuberant when we got to the ring, throwing me the first buck of our riding relationship.  Wow! And, whoops!  I landed on his neck, in front of the saddle, only because it was probably about a 30% of his capability buck.  Surprised me, and concerned me that something was seriously wrong with his saddle now-- he's never bucked me before!  Hop off, lunge him some, and come to understand that the buck was a 50-degree, blustery-day, been-standing-here-for-45-minutes, and I-feel-good buck.  Gave several more happy ya-yas on the lunge, and then a good bit of canter, and then he stood there and gave me the "Yeah!  I am James Brown, and I Feel Good!" look.  And, the better news was that the saddle actually stayed in place through all that-- none of this sliding forward on to his shoulders crap, not even with all that ya-ya!  Got back on and found that the saddle followed his now happy, relaxed (all the bucks were out) back.  Amen!

As good as that was, it was even better to have the nagging, can't-find-the-sweet-spot sensation I've had with this saddle disappear.  I love-love-loved my first Pro-Fit, like that best-ever pair of jeans that you keep wearing long past decency.  But I've been struggling to find balance and comfort in the sweet spot with this one... disappointed and afraid that something had changed in the design of it between the two models, I've been wrestling with wanting to sit forward, but having the saddle slide me back towards the cantle.  Adjust, settle, slide.  Adjust, settle, slide.  Testing it with tried and true Celby in order to eliminate the variable of a wily 5-year old, I found that the damn saddle just didn't feel right to me...

Well, ripping out all that over-stuffing (probably for some skinny TB with withers!) from the front, lowered the pommel, and voila!  Sweet spot, directly over the stirrups, exactly where I want it.  Yum, yum, yum-- happy bum!

A few more laps around, and a second stuffing adjustment to raise the left rear panel just a bit, and we got rid of the feeling that I was fighting the right front (diagonal pairs are not just for legs, it seems), and we was done, girlfriend!  An hour and a half and money well spent.  We get back to work to get that little bit of winter fat Sherm is carrying melted away through muscle development.  

We'll have to adjust and re-stuff after we re-build this horse, but that's part of the process.

Katie took wither tracings for Sherm's records, and almost had to label them because the wither and the cantle-area arcs were virtually the same... aaaahhhhh, Morgans...

A slightly over-padded Sherm considers the stuffing from his saddle.

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