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Saddle Fitting Experience

So much happened this weekend that I want to write about. I’m conniving some exciting plans for the near future  and I need to really need to write about the lesson that went very awry on Friday, but have to put more thought into how I want to do that. Instead I am jumping forward to the saddle fitting experience I had on Sunday.

I had the Custom Saddlery rep out. She is local to me which is a plus and was easy to talk to/schedule with. I’m trying to go about this saddle shopping ordeal with the least amount of money waste as possible. With Gem I did the whole trial and error method which seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up costing me thousands in trial fees and shipping costs. This time around I am trying out the saddle fitter route.

She came fully loaded too

After the debacle that was Friday, I wanted to hop on him and warm him up a bit before she came. The last thing I needed was a bronc under me while trying to evaluate if the saddle fit him or not. He came out fairly well only melting down one time when he noticed Gem and Pete grazing just outside the arena fence. I got his head back in the game quickly though I was curious how he would handle getting tacked back up and working again and again and again.

Skeptical pony wondering what horrors this white van was bringing. Side note: I need to do something with his mane.

What surprised me the most was that she didn’t take a single measurement of him or me. She looked at him, palpated his back and then went to the van and pulled out six saddles. I had told her I rode in a 17.5″, but she didn’t know if that was the right size for me or not. In fact, we didn’t even really talk about my goals, level of experience or his training. I told her I wanted a jump saddle and that he currently went in a wide Kieffer AP.

To her credit, I think some of this was because the trees in her saddles can be adjusted with her special machine to fit any size, so it really didn’t matter what his size was as she could easily modify any of her saddles to fit him. Still, it was a little odd to see a fitter just throw saddles on him and say “yep, looks good!”.

Not sure if he likes this new game or not. He ended up working for a good 90 minutes which is a lot more than typical right now

Anyway, I ended up trying six saddles: two Jeffries, an AP and an event, and four Custom, all jump. It was nice to sit in a variety of flap configurations, seat styles and leather types to get a feel for what I like.

H’Appy for his part was holding his crap together as best as he could given the fact that we kept tacking him back up and heading off to w/t/c and tackle a cross rail. I made the nearly fatal mistake of using the Wintec Chafeless girth which is 2″ longer and fit a bit better with the shorter billets on her saddles. I very quickly remembered why I no longer use this on him. He hates it. Deep in his soul hates it. I hopped off and changed out the girth to his fuzzy fleece one which appeased him some. Of note, when I tried the event saddle with long billets I borrowed her short leather girth and that made him very happy. I’m telling you this pain in the butt beast has expensive ass taste.

Of the six saddles I tried, two I ruled out before even asking him to move on. I sat weird in them and just plain hated them. One he ruled out without question even with the happy girth. That left three remaining, one I didn’t like the super flat seat on and two I gave a second go around in to compare.

Jeffries event. The seat was super comfy and grippy. Ignoring the saddle, look at how shiny he is becoming!

The Jeffries event saddle was a nice fit for him, he moved out really well in it and I sat pretty ok. I liked the single flap design (different than a monoflap apparently although right now I can’t recall all the details on how it is different) and the large knee roll. The flap was a bit too forward for what I need and I found the calf block to be restricting on the flat. Not surprising since it is built to go cross country in a more forward seat position. Lovely saddle, just not what I need.

My matching game was on point. Damn if the guy doesn’t look great in blue. This is the Monte Carlo.

That left the Custom Monte Carlo close contact. I rode in it twice and it was my favorite of the bunch. If you look closely you can see pretty blue piping. I was a bit worried the +2 forward flap would be too forward and I am still iffy on that, but my leg hung effortlessly and when he decided to buck a little because someone had to pee but refused to do so in the arena, I felt secure enough. The seat felt a bit roomier than I would like and kind of slippery, but she assured me it would break in.

I was waffling quite a lot. It fit him well, but honestly he is a really easy horse to fit. He has plenty of real estate, a standard shaped back with well defined shoulders that keeps the saddle back plus he has lower withers. Seriously, I think most saddles as long as they are wide enough will fit him which is such a difference from my extremely hard to fit Gemmie.

The fitter was hard to get info out of. I know she doesn’t want me to go looking for used but I did pay for the fitting and deserve to know the findings.  Eventually I got that she had him at 27 cm, 17.5” seat, 14” flaps and 2” forward flap.

The saddle I tried was a well used two year old demo and while it was reduced in price it was still a bit of a shock when she told me the price. For that much money (think double my planned budget) my butt better be singing and I better never come out of it. I was about to tell her no thanks when she mentioned the 10 day free trial. Since she lives close by it wouldn’t even cost me shipping to return. I figured taking it on and riding in it for a while wouldn’t be terrible. If I did decide I loved it I could start a search for a used version or if I still wasn’t in love I’d know for sure to move on.

When she left I had a not bad but not wonderful fuzzy feeling either. Like, all she did was slap a bunch of saddles on his back and have me ride in them. No real input otherwise unless I dragged it out of her and honestly who knows if a smaller seat size would have been better, she never even mentioned it and went off the 17.5″ I told her I typically ride in. I’m honestly not even sure it was worth the $95 it cost to have her out, but I will say that she was very patient with his shenanigans and my own wimpy refusal to canter or jump until I had his focus at least somewhat on me instead of firmly up his own butt.

I have another fitting this Sunday with Bette, thanks for the invite!!!!, with a totally different line of saddles that I am excited to try. I will need to apologize profusely in advance for his behavior. I have zero idea how he will be off property surrounded by other horses and  rain is in the forecast today through Thursday so no riding will be happening. Which sucks. But oh well. As long as he stays in the arena and I can test some things out I’ll be happy. Well, mostly happy. Happier if I end up with a saddle I love and can move forward with my diabolical plan to make him a better behaved steed.

31 thoughts on “Saddle Fitting Experience”

  1. Can I give you totally unsolicited advice? If no, stop reading and skip to the fourth paragraph. if yes, just keep reading.

    I think you might be sitting too far back in saddles. This might be because the 17.5″ is too large for you, or it could just be the way you’re accustomed to riding. Your seat bone should sit in the deepest part of the saddle. With the Monte Carlo (since you gave us pics both in and out of the saddle), it looks like your seat bones are slightly behind the center of the saddle.

    Next time you get in it (or another saddle), get as close to the pommel as possible and let yourself slide back a bit into the sweet spot without stirrups. Then get your stirrups and put weight in your feet. If your seat slides forward or back, the stirrup bar is in the wrong place for you. This will make a massive difference when you jump or do any XC work in 2 point.

    On Another notes, I think most saddle fitters are complete crooks and have never gotten anything out of any of them I have tried. (Up to 4 at this point). One adjusted my saddle so tightly it no longer fit, One only tried to sell me a $6K custom saddle that she had no demos for me to try, One tried to convince me that a saddle fit when May’s back was actively SWELLING from using it and it popped up 10″+ in the back over small fences. The final one, just wanted to sell me a new saddle and offered no information beyond what I already knew. (i.e. the 32″ Stubben Genesis tree fits my horse)

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    1. I love advice especially well meant. I’ll try sitting differently as you say. I kept asking the lady if it was right and she said she loved how I sat in it but I wasn’t convinced. I’ll move forward and see if it changes anything.

      Yeah fitters and me aren’t super good friends. I have no idea where else to even begin though.

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      1. I don’t trust any of them hahaha. Even ones that come highly recommended from one person, will be a “do not touch with a 10′ pole” recommendation from someone else. Which is probably why I gave up, and just bought May’s dressage saddle in jump form.

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  2. I’m with you and Emily on this. Saddles are super expensive and the right fit is super important. A saddle fitter who doesn’t come into the situation with that in mind shouldn’t be making a sale. For a $95 visit fee, their money is coming from selling saddles, not the fitting. So, that kind of skews how they look at the entire experience.
    We have really nice Custom saddles that a few student ride in. They are NOT cheap. We have a County rep who comes out and is constantly telling us how inadequate our non County saddles are as she flocks them and then tries to get us to buy a County. She couldn’t find the holes in my Amerigo so she could flock it and I was so pissed. If you do this for a living, get accustomed to different saddles, or Google it. Instead she just wanted to talk about trying a different saddle. I love my Amerigo, and never used her again…

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    1. I keep seeing a lot of used Amerigo saddles in my budget but have no idea how to go about selecting one or a size. I spoke with my county rep but she was very abrasive and honestly even used they are out of my price range. Since no two brands follow the same measurements it isn’t helpful to have her out if I know I won’t be purchasing.

      I’m a little lost as to how to proceed from here and I am really hoping this weekend goes well with Bette’s guy. He is independent I believe and carries a lot of lines one being Smith Worthington which I can actually afford

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      1. Can you trust your instructor? In my experience, my instructor has always helped me make the final decision. They have to deal with me and the horse for the long term, so have our best interest in mind..
        I say get what you like and fits you and then try on H’Appy and see if it works for him too

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  3. I see what Emily is saying with how you’re sitting. I really see it with the Jeffries. It really looks like you’re sitting far back in that one and there is a lot of saddle in front of you there. I see it less with the Monte Carlo, but there’s still a lot of flap with that saddle. I’m not sure how that would change if you were to move up a bit. Right now, you knee is barely on the knee roll. This all could just be based on how you’re seated.

    I have no personal experience with saddle fitters. I know some people who have had great experiences, other less great.

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    1. The flap is a plus 2 forward which I asked her about the because it is a lot of flap in front of me though that is by design of the flap being made that way. Her reasoning was that the knee roll was available to tuck into with jumping and out of my way when on the flat. I don’t know if I buy into that or if it was just the only flap config she had on hand to sell me but I’ve never ridden in one so far forward

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  4. Some saddles your seat size may change, based on the tree and the flap etc. That may be why she didn’t care what your seat size was.

    I’m surprised she said 27cm tree, that would be a narrow I think and not a wide.

    I obviously can’t way whether she is legit or not, but I have used this lady many times, as have friends and she is amazing. You send her measurements and pics and she tells you what you need to find, or helps you find it. https://equestrianimports.com/

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    1. Just wanted to add she has done 2 of my horses, 3 of my parents, and at least 10 of my coaches students and no one has had any saddle issues since. She also is an Amerigo expert as I see you mention that brand above. She has fit 2 Amerigo dressage for me.

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      1. you may be find in a 17 you are not that big and you do look a bit lost in those saddles.I agree what everyone else has already said (I couldnt post today at work for some reason so pardon my late reply)! ALSO, Remus is a 29 cm in Stubben which is a mediumish tree. NOT a wide. And I am pretty sure Remus is wider than Doofus. Just saying….i think County is similar then to Stubben since they are similar but a 27 did not fit Remus but the 29 (I think that is what i have) did.

        It is nuts how hard it is but for a two year old demo I would not pay that money. Sorry But for what i think she was asking you could get a custom stubben almost. LOL. I mean I told you what mine was as a demo and it was pretty good deal considering New Zaria’s can come in over 4k with all the bells and whistles. 🙂

        Good luck with the fitter. I had a universal fitter but I just didn’t like any of the saddles she showed me and she really had none big enough to fit Remus even though I had told her he was a biggun 🙂 (Tho she did measure him and I still have those sketches which is good). HA HA MY stubben person was the only person who looked at Remus and sized him up correctly. She measured and also really messed with the saddles once they were on him but I wasnt on him yet. I felt like she really did pay attention to what he needs AND what i needed. Now I got a 17.5 and probably should have gotten an 18 but the tree size and blocks were what I want so I got that one. I could always sell it for more than I paid for but then would have to order a new one. Nope. 🙂 HA

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    2. Seconding/thirding/whatever Ann! She’s awesome and we’re lucky she actually comes here once a year to our barn. I bought a County from a local dealer, but Ann fit it this summer to make sure it was perfect (and luckily it is)!

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  5. All I can say is, do not buy a saddle you don’t love. When you sit in the *right* saddle, I swear, it feels like your butt wants to sing, and angels will fly out of it. Seriously, I did not know until I sat in one I really loved, how much of a difference it makes. I’ve sat in saddles that I felt like all of my position issues magically disappeared. Saddle shopping is such a pain in the @ss, it’s easy to give in and buy one that is “good enough”. But seriously, hold out for the right one. It’s out there.

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  6. Shauna is right- when you sit int he right saddle it’s like a ‘click’ happens. That said, the saddle sometimes has to have flocking adjusted on the horse. I am surprised that she didn’t take tracings. I have a file of Carmen’s to compare over time. I agree that you are sitting too far back in the Jeffries- but it could be your posture in the photo.

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  7. I think that, even if this fitter’s input was worthless, just being able to try a whole bunch of saddles at once so you can see how they fit H’Appy and how you feel in them and even ride in them, is well worth the $95. Way less expensive than paying shipping on dozens of saddles off of the internet when you don’t know where to start sizing-wise with him with the enormous amount of saddle models out there.

    Just for variety’s sake when it comes to input: I had a wonderful experience with my saddle fitter in South FL. She owned the local tack shop. I went into the store, selected the saddles I wanted to try on my slab-sided Warmblood cross gelding (this was before Lily) off of the consignment rack (I could have tried new but I wanted a used saddle), and we made an appointment for her to come out to the barn so I could try them on my horse and ride in them. She was a certified fitter and a Schleese rep, but she never once pushed the Schleeses on me. She took measurements of my horse’s withers with a “knobbly stick” (it’s a saddle fitting device that you can shape to the horse’s back and then insert in gullets to see if it will fit) so we could narrow down the saddles I had selected. She took her time with us and only gave me her very objective opinion on the fit of the saddles I was trying. Cost of the fitting was $25; I didn’t buy anything that day. That said, one of those saddles fit both my horse and I magically and I ultimately went back to the shop and bought it at a later date.

    Like Shauna said: do not buy a saddle that you don’t love. It’s a lot easier to find a saddle that’s “the one” than a horse that’s “the one,” and you will definitely know when you sit in the saddle that works for your anatomy and posture. That’s how I felt in an Alta Escuela when I first sat in one. 🙂 Everything that I had been struggling with position-wise magically disappeared. It was amazing. And that’s exactly how it will feel when you find The Saddle: like riding is suddenly so much easier!

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    1. It’s nice to get a chance to see what I like and what doesn’t work. I was hoping for more education but I’m an education whore and suck up anything I can get. Your FL fitter sounds amazing. There is a lady in Aiken that has a consignment shop and is an independent fitter. You can take your horse there although there isn’t a riding space. It highly depends on her inventory but if she has a lot it is a good option. It is where I got my Kieffer

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  8. What a disappointing experience all around for you.

    Saddle fitters can be very hit/miss depending on who you get and where their affiliation to brands lie.

    I feel your pain here, as the only *independent* fitter I trust is over 5 hours away, and whilst there are others that come recommended they will only suggest brands they stock, which doesn’t do me much good when my chance of getting a new saddle or even a used one of their line is D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T with my budget.

    Sad to hear H’Appy is being a pain, I’ll be keeping my eye out for your next post!

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  9. It seems very odd that you had to pull that information out of her! But the comments on this post are amazing. Sounds like you’re going to be on the right track in no time one way or another!

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      1. See and my stubben rep gave me all the measurements and even sent me the link when Stubben was having their sale (I would not have known about it!) AND then not only that but she went thru the sale pages and told me which ones were worth looking and which ones weren’t. That is service considering I bought from Stubben direct and she got no money except like a 125 dollar fitting fee. SO worth the money!! When I sent her the one I got she was like BUY IT NOW. So i did 🙂

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