Wednesday, November 12, 2008

saddle fitting and a funny sign

Keil Bay's saddle got checked yesterday and I have to remind all you riders - if you haven't had yours fitted in awhile, or if you have been having funky little things happen like finding a foot repeatedly floating in a stirrup, a saddle pad bunching up or jamming down, feeling unbalanced in the saddle, etc., it could be something easily solved by a simple saddle fit check.

I've been noticing for a few months that Keil Bay's pad ends up jammed down over his withers by the end of a ride. One day it was so bad he was stretching down and turning his neck and shoulders trying to free himself up. I got a new, stiffer pad with more "swoop" at the withers and that helped but did not solve the issue completely.

My saddle fitter arrived yesterday and I was tacked up and riding when he drove through the gate, so he could see what happens. He had me remove the saddle so he could measure the Big Bay's Very Broad Back and compare notes to the last visit. Keil has gotten a bit narrower through the withers, and the wool flocking in the front of the saddle had gotten very soft. The combination of those two things meant the pommel was tipping forward when I rode.

Well - I didn't feel so much like *I* was tipping forward, but have noticed myself having to put my legs back further, which I suppose was my effort at maintaining the balance.

Keil Bay stood and watched while David worked, completely intrigued with the plastic bag of wool flocking, the crunching sound that I suspect he thought *might* be indicative of a treat, and the satisfied look of a horse being fitted for work. Keil Bay loves being fussed over.

David fixed the flocking and tried the saddle on sans pad. He worked some more, tried it again, and showed me that it was totally stable. He then saddled Keil Bay up for me (a rare treat) and sent us into the arena to try it out.

Wow! I was back in my comfy deep seated saddle again. My legs were perfect. The rising trot was smooth and forward and easy. The pad stayed right where it was supposed to be.

I was lucky that when I bought Keil Bay his previous owner agreed to sell me his custom-made saddle, which happened to fit me perfectly too. I didn't know until I had David out the first time, but it was actually his father who fitted Keil with this saddle originally. The saddle fits him well, as long as I keep a check on it and get things adjusted as needed.

A badly fitting saddle can do terrible things to a horse's back and a rider's position, which in turn throws the horse further off balance.

If the subtle issue I had addressed today made such a huge change, I can only imagine how dramatic something bigger would be.

On a totally different note, I woke up this morning and sent out some emails regarding the current novel. The very instant I sent the last one, the phone rang. I didn't get to it in time to answer, but the caller ID said Feature Film Inc. There was no message, and I'm sure this was some sort of sales call, completely unrelated to anything. But I take it as a sign of something good to come for this novel.

Which, by the way, I feel would make a QUITE FINE feature film, so if you know anyone looking for a project, send him/her my way. :)


jme said...

it's amazing what a minor adjustment can do for both horse and rider! i'm a bit of a fanatic about saddle fit too. we're lucky that we've been able to get all of our horses their own saddles which get professionally refitted every year. i'll never go back to stuffing pommel and riser pads between horse and saddle!

something else to remember: when buying a saddle, get one with wool-flocked panels instead of foam, which can't be adjusted. once the foam flocking breaks down or the horse's back changes, you have to either re-stuff the whole panel (and good luck getting it to fit) or get a new saddle. i've still got 2 or 3 foam saddles and they're fine, from now on, it's wool all the way!

Grey Horse Matters said...

You're so right about saddle fit. If it doesn't fit properly then everything is thrown off balance. The nice thing is you have a good saddle fitter in your area who knows how to assess what needs to be done to the saddle for a proper fit. I wish everyone who rides would invest the time it takes to fit a saddle correctly to horse and rider, it would alleviate so much pain caused by ill fitting saddles.
Good luck with your novel, I'm sure you'll have plenty of calls by the end of the day. Fingers crossed.

billie said...

jme, ours all have their own saddles too. With Cody, because Kenzie and I are now BOTH riding him, and she takes a 15/16" and I take a 17.5, AND Cody is still growing, we have Wintecs in all-purpose and dressage for me and a close contact for her. The gullets are able to be adjusted as he grows/gains muscle, and I got wool flocking so that can be adjusted as well. The close contact doesn't have it, but my hope is to get Kenzie/Cody a custom-fitted jumping and dressage saddle in the next year or so - when the two of them grow a bit more. :)

I do keep my eye open at the local tack shop that carries consignment saddles, in case something that looks promising comes through.

Saddles are expensive, but it's so true that if you find one that truly fits horse AND rider, it's worth the cost.

billie said...

Oh, and I forgot to say, wrt foam panels -

I had my eye on what I call the Antares "musical note" dressage saddle for over a year until I learned it has foam panels! Why in the world would a company put foam in a $5k saddle?!

I decided my County Warmblood 2000 is just fine. :)

billie said...

Arlene, there is a reason it is so hard to get on his schedule!

He rides polocross and coaches a national youth team, and I suspect in that sport saddle fit and balance are VERY important.

And thanks for being such a great cheerleader for my book. It means a lot.

mamie said...

Oooh, Billie. The new photo at the top is stunning. Now I have even more reason to visit your blog!

billie said...

Mamie, I *finally* upgraded this blog to the newer template version which has all the cool possibilities to play around with.

This photo is my current desktop photo, and was taken by my husband. I'm going to be re-vamping my website soon and I love this photo so much I am tempted to use it there as well.

I think it fits camera-obscura, though.

I also change my mind a lot with these kind of things, so don't be surprised if it changes! :)

jme said...

i love the photo above! i was so wrapped up in wool flocking that i forgot to congratulate you on your novel and wish you luck! i can't wait to read it once it's published :-)

billie said...

thanks, jme... until there is a signed contract in my hand, wool flocking is sooo much more interesting!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh. I just love your new title photo. It's dreamy and magical.

Congrats on the better fitting saddle. I'm happy for both you and Keil Baby that you'll be riding safely and comfie.

New Mexico

billie said...

Thanks, Lisa. I'm happy about the saddle AND the new photo. :)