Horse people can be a little crazy. Fortunately, I’ve been getting better at weeding those folks out and surrounding myself with knowledgeable, kind folks who make me feel important even though I’m not.
The Black Country fitter is one of those and I am so glad I found this saddle so I could add her to my network of people who are helping me succeed.
Everything about this appointment was amazing…from her early communication to her getting special permission to use a facility after hours to her hands on exam and expert advice. She even kept her cool when one certain Orange Butthead most certainly did not and did his best to show off his airs above ground. It was everything I wanted in a saddle fitting experience.
She services the entire east coast so even though she is based 2 hours away in Aiken, getting with her was looking a bit hairy. An unfortunate need to meet with the mental health counselor at Wyatt’s elementary school granted me a Thursday afternoon off and the ability to trailer down to her last night. I was a bit nervous about the whole ordeal. My experiences in the past left much to be desired and saw the fitter throwing saddle after saddle on the horse and asking me to ride and tell them what I thought. No measuring. No hands on. Really, the only benefit was being able to try numerous models without paying shipping.
I was pleasantly surprised when the first thing she did was palpate his back, watch him walk in a straight line and then took numerous measurements. She explained that she prefers to do all of this before looking at a specific saddle so as to remain unbiased. She asked me a ton of questions about my riding as well: which bend was harder, what was my natural leg position, did I tend to hit long spots or chip in while jumping, did he have issues in up or down transitions? I felt a bit like an imposter answering these. I’m no greatest gift to riding over here and I generally attribute everything to my lack of skill versus gear or horse issues, but I did my best: left bend was harder, I tend to brace with my lower leg in front when nervous or tense, I chip in all the time, transitions don’t seem to be an issue. She then wrote down everything she would want in a saddle had I been ordering custom before laying her hands on the saddle I brought with me.
Diagnosis? I was one lucky mother when it came to purchasing my used Wexford.
The saddle had everything she wanted in a saddle for him, the tree size was spot on and the only issue was bridging in the center of the panels. She took the saddle off to work on the flocking. It was much fuller upfront and softer in the back and she wanted to remove all the flocking and level it out to start with a neutral saddle. When she got inside the guts she was surprised to find that it had recently been strip flocked with all brand new wool inside. She told me “You won’t have to strip this saddle for the next 10 years”.
Once she had evened it all out and fixed the bridging issue, we tacked up and I got on. I have a lot to say about Eeyore, but that will be a train wreck post for another day soon. Lets just say he was not on his best behavior Thursday night and I have a lot of opinions as to why and what to do next. But for now, we stayed on a circle and did walk and trot only because cantering was not an option or I probably would have died. In fact by the end, trotting wasn’t even an option. But…
The first go around she wasn’t happy with it. She said that the saddle was shifting left and that if my left bend is the harder side for me naturally anyway, the saddle could not shift left at all or it would make it harder. Centered or slightly right would be better. She also noted that I do have the bad habit of bracing my leg forward when tense or nervous and had a trick up her sleeve to help me with that too. Off the saddle came and she wen back into her van of wonders.
We tacked back up and I hopped on again. This time the saddle was more centered, felt more secure side to side and I stared at her with my eyes the size of dinner plates and asked why the seat all of a sudden felt twice as deep and more secure. She apparently had added more wool just in front of my seat bones to force me to rock my hips back under me, sit back and up and stop the leg bracing. I had zero idea that you could do all that with a minor flocking adjustment but there it was. My mind was blown.
She still wasn’t happy enough with the front flocking and thought it was just a smidge too left again, so off it came and she added more flocking to the front left panel. The last time I got on was short and ugly, but it confirmed the saddle was dead center on him. I felt like I was being pushed a bit too much to the right, but she assured me I was perfectly straight for the first time. I guess I will need to grow accustomed to being straight and even in my saddle for once.
She did look at the Bates as well and it was pretty clear from the start that there was a big pressure point right behind his shoulder where I had been seeing the dry spots after rides of late.
Overall she kept telling me what a great find this saddle was. I paid $1200 for it and she told me that new it would be $4,000 to get the same thing plus she had never seen one in this condition used for under $2,500. I guess if things don’t work out with Butt head I could at least make some money on this saddle.
As for the half pad debate: no half pad needed. In fact, she said I shouldn’t even need to buy a new girth now that it was flocked better for him and I still had one hole I could go tighter, but I’ll probably still buy a shorter one for my own piece of mind. She said that if he loses a bunch of weight this summer and gets more fit, I may need to get a half pad to help the fit of the saddle since right now he is pretty fat and the saddle is very wide, but as long as his shape does not change from where it is right now, a half pad is not only not needed but would be detrimental.
I’m excited to hop in the saddle at home and give it a real spin and see how it feels. With his atrocious behavior, I really could not get a good feel for it last night but I am optimistic things are going to be great. She wanted me to text her an update after a few rides and said we can always meet up again sometime to adjust as we both get more used to it.
Overall, I was so so pleased with her and her knowledge. She was just the type of professional I adore: kind, smart and willing to answer my one million insane questions without getting frustrated with me. I’m happy to add her to my list of support crew in this stupid endeavor.