Prestige Eventing Saddle - Trial Part 3
|Saddle, shmaddle, I want SNAX!!|
Saddle fitting is hard, y'all.
Rachel came to visit Wednesday night to check out the saddle and offer her opinion on how it fit Dino and I. She was really, really honest and objective, which I needed. With the way my week has been going, I just really wanted the saddle to work out so SOMETHING would go right!
She dialed in on the spot that was tight on Dino's shoulder immediately. While it's not a deal-breaker since I can get the saddle widened at a nearby shop, it's definitely a concern. I'm also not sure how widening the front of the tree will affect the rest of the fit, so that's a question I had for the nice lady at Farmhouse.
When it came to riding in the Prestige, Dino went great in the saddle. Rachel was really impressed with how his carriage, balance, and connection have improved over the past month or so. It was really great to hear that what I'm feeling is apparent to others. The snug spot on his shoulder didn't restrict him at all, but how it might affect him in the long run was a concern. Rachel also pointed out that when I thought my heel was down and my ankle was flexed, my foot looked flat. This is SUPER weird as I generally have pretty bangin' heel position. I felt balanced, secure, and like my heels were down, but apparently it didn't look that way. Bizarre. However, in half seat, the heel issue went away. Maybe I was just having an inflexible day!
Rachel also coached us over some fences, and we jumped a LOT. My legs were weebly-wobbly afterwards. We started with the grid, and while Dino at first decided to take the easy way out and break to a trot so he could get to the base of the first fence, he jumped through the whole thing each time and we eventually fixed all of our issues in the grid. Then we moved on to a course: the outside line, rollback to an oxer on the diagonal, the brick wall on the other diagonal, and finishing with the diagonal vertical to oxer. Y'all are going to have to imagine that because I'm not drawing you a diagram.
The first round was a little rough - we had to trot a couple changes and I really had to push my pony forward during the first half of the course. But by the time we got to the final line, Dino was rolling along in a great rhythm with lots of impulsion, and I felt like I could just leave him alone to the fences, which was great! I was happy with the fact that even though some parts of the course got ugly, I kept going instead of pulling up and giving up.
The second time through was SO much better. I only had to ride strongly to the first fence, and after that Dino was rocking and rolling. We worked out any iffy distances, and I didn't once jam in an extra stride at the base.
Back to the saddle.
By the end of the ride, even with keepers securely attached, my saddle pad had slipped back:
Then the deliberation began. Rachel helped me put together my extensive Pro & Con list:
-Perfect fit for me. Seat size, flap shape, and front block positioning are ideal. I feel comfortable, balanced, and secure both on the flat and over fences.
-The shape of the tree & panels are PERFECT for Dino's back. There is no bridging or rocking, and the saddle sits very balanced on him.
-The wither clearance and open spine channel are also a perfect fit.
-The tight spot on Dino's shoulder
-Weird saddle pad slippage
-Heels down issue... if this is even a thing...
At the end of the night I was still undecided, so in the morning I drafted an absurdly long email complete with pictures to the saddle fit expert at Farmhouse. She was INCREDIBLY patient with all of my questioning and gave me some great explanations of her opinions on the fit, and the options we had to make it fit better.
Luckily for me, she had recently fit the exact same saddle to a horse with very similar conformation to Dino: fairly prominent withers with a hollow behind the shoulder, and a curved back. Since the shape of the tree and panels is such a good fit for Dino's curvy back, the fitter said that we can absolutely fix the tight spot on the shoulder, which would also fix the saddle pad slippage. The pad was slipping because where the saddle is too tight on him, his shoulder blades were pushing into the edge of the saddle/pad instead of sliding under them. The solution for that issue is to widen the tree by one size, and add a half pad to maintain the wither clearance. Once Dino builds muscle behind his shoulders in the now-correctly-fititng saddle, the half pad won't be necessary. The physics of this explanation made a lot of sense to me, and the fact that otherwise the saddle was such a good fit for Dino's back definitely helped sway me towards keeping it and having it widened. As the fitter said to me on the phone, "tree shape is everything," and the tree shape is ideal for my pony.
I also asked her about the weird heel thing that Rachel noticed, and she said that she's never seen saddle design affect a rider's ability to put their heels down. I later went back and sat in the saddle on the stand in my living room, and put my heels down without issue. So I'm chalking that up to a fluke.
In the end, I decided to keep the saddle and have it widened. I'm still kind of nervous and thinking "WHAT IF THAT DOESN'T FIX THE FIT?!" but I feel that I made a very educated choice with the help and opinions of knowledgable friends and a saddle fitter.
Here's to one more step to being a properly-outfitted badass eventer!