Saddle Fitting: The Final Round
|Someone's getting a new saddle for his birthday!|
Since I had done most of the legwork over the past two months, we didn't have many more saddles to try. I sat in four more saddles, and thanks to my vastly-improved saddle fitting education courtesy of trying just about everything under the sun, I was able to determine within a minute or two whether a saddle worked for us or not. One was definitely not good, two were okay but not great, and one was absolute, heavenly perfection.
When I swung up into the serge panel, monoflap, extra-soft seat version of the Elegance I had loved from last week, it was like coming home. I was immediately comfortable with no adjustments, felt secure without being 'stuck', and perfectly balanced. Dino, as determined previously, loved the shoulder freedom and soft serge panels, and flipped a switch from a little grouchy and resistant to lit up and "LET'S GO TO WORK!" It was the first saddle I'd sat in since the Veritas that felt like it made sitting so easy, but in contrast to that saddle, the monoflap Elegance didn't suck me into the seat so much that it took extra effort to post. No matter what I did - sitting trot, posting, canter, lateral work, lengthenings - it just felt easier in this saddle, even over terrain in the middle of Dino's turnout field.
|A mock up of the final design! The "Build My Baines" tool is VERY FUN. Highly recommended.|
- Brown, grippy Memel leather on the flaps and lighter Makala suede on the seat and knee pads. I love the suede more than I thought I would - it's soft and grippy without being grabby, and even with silicone breeches on it doesn't provide too much "stick". Plus, the stuff wears really well! The Memel leather is also soft and textured without being as delicate as calfskin.
- Metallic copper colored piping along the seat welt. Just a little bit of bling!
- A medium 17.5" tree with short panels for Dino, with soft wool serge panels and a narrower channel than what is standard to prevent too much compression. This combination will give him loads of shoulder freedom, and the serge panels really mold in a lovely way to his back that he seems to find very comfortable. This is also a tree shape and size that is able to be modified for future ponies, as long as I stick with the same general "type" as Dino. So, the saddle should last me a good long while even after HRH retires, whenever that may be!
- Shortened billets with more holes up higher to allow for less excess strapping once girthed. Pony problems, y'all. We're also giving ourselves the option to convert to a point billet if needed to improve the fit once we are able to adjust it to him after it's made.
- A short 15" flap to give me a bit more contact with his barrel.
- Long, tapered velcro blocks that allow me to swap them out for different ones or change positioning as needed. As my fitter pointed out, ladies of our age tend to experience shifting of various body parts as we get older, have babies, etc., and a fixed block gives me a lot less flexibility than the velcro should I find my thighs greatly change in size or shape, or if my riding style changes.
I am SO. EXCITED. to have a saddle made with all of the features that are hard, if not impossible, to find in off-the-rack models at a reasonable price point. As a normally-proportioned adult on a pony, there aren't many dressage saddles out there that cater to our particular combination of a human with a long femur and generous behind, and a pony with a long sloping shoulder and short back. Plus I get to have it in BROWN with some SHINY STUFF on on it, which just makes my little heart happy.
|Bonus: I don't have to sell this bridle that I got for Christmas.|
I've also learned an incredible amount about saddle fitting, types of saddles, and how different shapes and features of saddles affect me as a rider and my pony's performance. I am able to articulate in a way I wasn't before exactly why a saddle works or doesn't work for me and Dino, and what modifications need to be made to make it work, or if no modifications in the world will help improve the fit and feel of a saddle. Some eye-opening takeaways about Dino's and my own preferences include:
- I really don't like an external block unless it's perfectly fitted. I tried several saddles with external blocks, and the only one that worked for me was the Veritas. And while those blocks were relatively unobtrusive, I found I definitely prefer the subtler support of a smaller block located under the flap. Most of the external blocks were uncomfortable, restrictive, and annoying.
- I love a short flap dressage saddle. On a large pony, every square inch of contact is precious, and just an inch or two of extra barrel not covered by the saddle flap makes a big difference.
- While the first rear-seated saddle I tried was a big hit, after trying a dozen others I found I really prefer a saddle with a more centered, upright balance point.
- Dino REALLY HATES those big, flared rear panels you see on a lot of modern dressage saddles. He hates them with a burning, fiery passion.
- A too-wide twist turns my leg out from the hip, pointing my toes outward and destabilizing my position. A narrow twist - or a medium twist in a monoflap style - allows my leg to drape down properly from the hip.
- As far as seat depth goes, a medium-depth seat is my happy place. Not too open, not too enclosed, but juuust right to give me a nice little "pocket" to sit in without restricting me too much.
- When Dino likes a saddle, his trot gets bouncier - in a good way - and his canter loftier. He is expressive about his comfort!
While the whole process has taken a lot longer than I'd hoped, It's been really fun and educational. I loved getting to ride in so many saddles that were all so different from one another and really nail down my preferences and what works and doesn't work for Dino and I. I'm excited to see how this new saddle custom-fit for us will help us along in our dressage journey, especially considering all we've been able to accomplish in a saddle that we've just "made do" with for the past two years! I'll be counting down the days until it arrives in my hot little hands, and working hard as always in the meantime!