Friday, February 15, 2013

Saddle Fitting

Almost two weeks ago now, and I'm only just sitting down to make my notes about Sherm's Schleese saddle fitting experience!  It was a big, big weekend for the big Bay Boy and for his human mom.  Among other elements, we took on:

  • my first solo hauling experience
  • his first overnight outing away from home
  • only our second time riding away from home, and in an indoor arena at that!
  • being handled intimately and fitted by strangers in a strange place, being asked to ride briefly, then return to the fitting area for adjustments three times-- a lot of standing still in the middle of a lot of activity...soooo not BBW's style
So I was nervous going in.  Hauling by myself; asking the Boy who, out of boredom, had broken a board in his stall the week of the fitting to be well-behaved away from home overnight (please, Sherm, don't break the lodgings!); riding in a strange setting without routine turnout, and with other horses, particularly after, in all honesty, a good six months away from any real saddle work.

But I should know better.

Bored Sherman = damage
Sherm was a superstar.  He hauled like a pro, unloaded and settled in to his new digs like he's been doing it quite regularly.  He was a bit up when I rode Saturday night to get him used to things, but I realize now (the value of hindsight) that he was most settled when I gave up trying to settle him with longe and long-line work and just got the hell on and rode.  He stabled overnight quite nicely, with nary a nibble on anything he shouldn't have, and stood for the fitters like a champ. We got through the riding part-- he was fine; it was all my lack of fitness (mental and physical) that got us into trouble, but we did well enough to get the fitting job done.

The best news of all is that Sherm now has a saddle that really, truly fits him as well as can be on my current budget.  We learned that the Schleese JES Elite I purchased on ebay in December lines up this way:
  • very recently re-flocked, so the stuffing is soft and in excellent shape... for his body, the fitter would have unstuffed it, but made the decision not to because it was not absolutely necessary for his fit and comfort, but rather for a general lowering of the seat of the saddle down into his body--- it would have made for a closer ride for me, but that wasn't absolutely necessary and a shame to un-stuff what had so recently been so perfectly stuffed.  Next time, probably, we'll do that.
  • the saddle itself has had a $1200 upgrade to the panel-- it is not only a shoulder-relief panel, but also a wedge relief, swooping upward at the rear for freedom at the loin (and to make a shorter profile)...these are not stock features on the JES, but someone paid to have it made this way
  • the seat of the saddle is, of course, too short for me; I should really be in an 18, not a 17, but it will require a custom saddle, at significant expense, to create a large enough seat (18") on a small enough panel (#1) for me to meet Sherm where we need to be...without going custom, this really was hitting the jackpot for us.  The #2 panel is borderline for him; a #1 would be better, but this is okay.  Not perfect, but okay.
  • the saddle is in excellent condition-- no wear & tear, no twisting or other issues, so it was a good purchase, and considering the custom panel upgrade, I got a hell of a deal.  Schleese's appraisal of fair market value for it was $750 more than I paid for it.  Whew!
How marvelous to learn all this and bring the good news home to a husband who said, "um, this saddle is going to cost what?!"  and then said, "hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do..." Now there's a Man  Wonder of the first order!

So, anyway, with some adjustment of the saddle-- which I didn't get to see, unfortunately, as the fitters were working in the tackroom, where there was some heat from a space heater, while I held Sherm in the crossties-- the saddle fits him like a dream.  It needed to be widened, and the angle of the tree changed, but not much, not terribly much.  Just enough that it now sits level (instead of pommel-high) and it does not budge forward or side-to-side no matter how we move.  The rear does allow him to move and bend under it, but other than that, it is glued to him, and he is a happy, happy customer.  I couldn't be happier with the change in him since getting the saddle.  He was already well on the way to quieter before the fitting, and now he acts like a horse eager to work and happy to see me coming with the tack.

Now the thing is to just ride.  Ride-ride-ride.

This morning we had a lovely hack around the farm, our first under saddle in well over a year.  He was brave and proud and so, so happy to go out and about.  I am delighted!

Yeah, I'm comfy.  I'm cool.  Let's go!

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