Saturday, September 13, 2014

That was then. This is now.

When you get out of horses for twelve years and get back you inadvertently spend a lot of time spinning your wheels trying to replace things or revitalized your old stuff, only to find it's completely obsolete.

I had a Crosby Hunterdon saddle that I purchased brand spanking new in 1993.
I loved that saddle for the balance, for the fact that it fit almost any horse I put it on, for the fact that it caused me unmentionable lady problems that resulted in month long bouts of celibacy that almost destroyed my marriage... Wait, except for that last thing. I loved that saddle. Part of the issue was that after riding almost exclusively dressage in my late teens and early 20's I sat rather than perched in the saddle like I did during my hunt seat days.

I learned that nowadays, jumping saddles are cushy, padded affairs. So I swapped the Hunterdon to my trainer and got a Bates Caprilli jumping saddle.

This saddle was was fine for a few years until I really started jumping. Then I just felt like I was fighting with the saddle to keep my leg from swinging and to keep my upper body from lurching forward. Of course, I assumed I was a terrible rider and the saddle had nothing to do with it. Plus the scary marriage busting problem began to rear its ugly head on longer rides. I eventually had to face the facts, the Bates just didn't fit me.

I lucked into a great deal on a Black Country Wexford jumping saddle that I got on trial from these folks: Hastilow Competition Saddles USA. Suddenly, in my jumping saddle, I can have my heels down, my leg underneath me and on the horse all at the same time. My body isn't being pitched forward. So now any forward leaning issues I have really are caused by my boobs er, I mean rider error.

The good folks at Pelham Saddlery in New Hampshire managed to sell my Bates for me in about thirty seconds for way more than I was asking when I tried to sell it myself. They were thrilled to get it as it was in such great shape and in a hard to find size and color.

But it aint over 'till it's over. You can't just buy a new saddle and throw it on your horse with a big squishy pad and ride off into the sunset! No, that's horse abuse. You must hire a qualified saddle fitter to come move the stuffing around to make sure it's a perfect fit. Otherwise you may as well call the humane society out and tell them to bring their trailer to take your pony away to a more suitable home.

Back in the 90's I boarded at a pretty fancy barn and NOBODY had a custom saddle or a professionally fitted saddle. You made sure there was room for the withers and that the saddle was roughly level, either with shim pads or whatever. But now you pay High Priestess (or Priest) of the Church of Saddle Fitting hundreds of dollars to reflock or refit or build a custom saddle just for your horse. The costs are staggering.

That Hunterdon I bought back in '93 was $800 or $900 dollars and that was a fancy show quality saddle. You can still get some new saddles for around 1k, but the quality is pretty iffy. And nobody expected me to drop another $150 on a saddle fitter.

However, grumbling aside I do see tremendous value in the concept of saddle fitting. Saddles are unnatural. the more thought we can put into evenly distributing our weight through a perfectly flocked saddle the happier these honest, giving creatures will be.

Now, if I could just get that saddle fitter scheduled for my newfangled saddle fitting. Then I'll yell "Hey you kids get off my lawn!" while she's working. Just to show I'm still old and crotchety. Even if I am embracing this newfangled equine technology.

1 comment:

  1. I had the same problem with my hunterdon at age 13. Outgrew it and didn't know it. Shudder. I still remember that pain!!