Sunday, August 8, 2010
A Surprising Break Through!
So. In the apparently on going saddle dilemma, I've made a few decisions. One: I don't have a lot of money. That isn't really a decision, but it's a fact of life. My total budget is less than 1k and that's assuming I sell my current saddle. Two: I'm probably not going to get the most beautiful thing on earth. I guess that's ok because my current saddle is beautiful and I love it, so I'll have to settle a little bit. Three: Horses change shape, which means if I can't afford treeless, then I need something with an adjustable gullet. I used to have a wintec AP and it worked pretty well.
All told, I'm looking for an inexpensive saddle with a changeable gullet. Those parameters lead me to scour the Dover catalog at home. From my studies, I appeared to have several options: Collegiate had a couple promising options, as did Pessoa and Wintec. The Bates (same maker as wintec but leather) also looked good, but the prices meant that even used, they were likely to be out of range.
Next, I headed to the local tack shop, hoping that they would magically have one of those options in my size. They did not. They did, however, have a 17.5 Collegiate Alumni on consignment. WIN!! I took it home on trial and spent the next couple hours doing research. It's an adjustable model designed for the higher-withered horse. Hm...
Today I finally got away to try it on Izzy. It had the wide gullet installed, which I thought might work. I threw a variety of pads into my car and figured that anything I didn't have could be borrowed from my friend when I got there. I had pretty low hopes since we went through this exact process last year and it always went poorly.
I got Izzy out, groomed her thoroughly, and put the saddle on without a pad to see what we were looking at.
(Sorry it's so dark. Bright sun out today.)
She had good spinal clearance all the way through. It sat a touch low in the front and a touch high in the back, which meant that the front was a bit too wide.
Ha! Thankfully, I brought my unused front lift foam pad (very slight lift), so I pulled the saddle off and put it back on with the pad.
The next step was to see what Izzy thought of the saddle. She's very opinionated. She's also slightly lame, so I'm trying to take it easy. I turned her out in the roundpen (nice, soft footing) and let her trot around both directions. She's actually doing much better than she was, and she showed no resistance to going forward, which is how she lets me know she doesn't approve of a saddle.
Hm. Interesting. I like how things are looking so far, but I know that the weight of a rider and actually riding can compress the saddle down and make a problem become obvious. I grabbed my helmet and Izzy's bridle, and got on in the round pen. (Side note: I have never ridden in a round pen before. I'm always afraid that I'll catch a foot in the panels and have a leg yanked off.)
Sadly, there are no pictures of this part because I was by myself. I didn't carry a whip and had Izzy on a very long rein. I wanted to let her tell me exactly what she thought of this process. I had some figuring to do, too. I haven't sat in a treed saddle in over a year, so it was a whole different world for me. We walked for about 15 minutes, just on a long rein going both directions. Izzy was quite responsive and even offered to stretch some. She didn't want to trot at first, but it felt more like laziness than pain, especially because she continued to carry herself long and low in the transitions and into the trot. Again, this was of her own volition. I didn't keep a contact with her at all because I wanted her to express herself.
We walked, trotted, and (barely) cantered both directions. At the end, Izzy still had sufficient wither clearance and was moving out nicely. I took the saddle off to examine the sweat marks.
It looks ok to me. The sweat is more from the heat than from doing actual work, but it's evenly distributed under the seat. There are no dry spots or funny hair marks. Both sides looked equal.
I guess my initial saddle fitter's opinion is that all is well. I'll have Cathy look at it tomorrow. Cross your fingers for us.