My new saddle
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, November 15, 2014 01:02 PM
I have been contemplating a new saddle for Santo for quite a while now. The Phoenix Vogue didn't work for him so I was trying to sell it to have money toward another saddle. I had mixing feelings about selling Vogue and I didn't do a very good job advertising it. As a consequence it didn't sell :) During this time I have been paying close attention to all saddles I rode in when getting on my student's horses to built myself a memory bank what I like and what I don't about different saddles. This summer I decided I will work with a qualified saddle fitter instead of buying something myself. I wanted a saddle that would fit Santo and me very well. The work is getting more and more demanding and the saddle is important piece of equipment for both of us if we want to train seriously.
At the August show I met with a saddle fitter - Donna-Maria Basset. After sitting in several saddles and trying couple I thought that Black Country felt fantastic. Riding in one was so effortless. As I already said earlier I rode in many different dressage saddles. I knew what I wanted. This is why I didn't need to ride in all the saddles Donna had to offer. It was enough for me to sit in them on the stand to know if it worth riding in one. At first I was tempted to buy a used one by Black Country, the saddle felt great and the price was attractive. I even took the saddle home and tried it for a week. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted my own made exactly as I was imagining my saddle should be. After few back and forth emails between me and Donna filled with questions I picked Black Country Optima. I always wanted exposed thigh blocks that do not go bellow the knees. After I confirmed the order it was time to wait 6 weeks for the saddle to be made and shipped to Donna.
When it came Donna wanted to see it on Santo but that would mean trailering Santo to Edmonton. We decided I will just take it and then later when Santo is at Sharon's place in January Donna will come and look at it. It gives me couple months riding in it which will make the saddle settle and ready for check up. When I put the saddle on Santo's back for the first time I was amazed how it slid in it's place and that is it. I couldn't really move it forward or back and it didn't rock or move anywhere. The saddle stays in pace so well I do not have to tighten the girth too much like I used to. The saddle doesn't move from it's position. On the other hand, I feel Santo very well in it. I would say I feel some of his asymmetries and typical issues much better, more black and white now and easier to correct. Santo uses his back better now, easier to supple and collect. In a month of riding in the new saddle I had more progress in canter work than I had this whole season. I liked riding in the saddle from the first ride. But the amazing thing is every consecutive ride felt better. For me the saddle feels so right in size and balance. It is so effortless to ride in it. I had several best moments ever including, sitting and controlling extended trot, getting extension in a trot shoulder-in or a half-pass, collecting canter, transitions walk-canter-walk. I catch myself working too hard, a bad habit developed from riding in the saddle that didn't fit me well. In this saddle I do not need all this work. I can sit quieter and let Santo do his job which he seems to appreciate because he is more attentive and willing lately. We have less number of arguments and more productive time together. This positive atmosphere and a sense of less effort makes me very excited for our future.
I would like to say that I am not trying to endorse Black Country saddles here. Though, they are good quality saddles :) but also many other brands. I am endorsing the idea of using a saddle fitter when shopping for a new saddle instead of going on your own. Even if you do not want to buy a custom made saddle you must ensure that the saddle you pick fits your horse well. And a reputable and experienced saddle fitter can cut your time and effort of looking for a saddle, plus he/she will ensure the saddle fits your horse properly. Also, the saddle fitters usually have a number of saddles to try which can make choosing one much easier rather than taking one for a trial from a store where you can only try one at a time.
There are a few things that are important to consider when it comes to fitting the saddle to a rider:
  • The size of a seat differs in feel depending on the seat type. Deep seats feel smaller and more open seats feel bigger. Trying different sizes and types are important to get it right.
  • The fork of the seat must be wide enough to support the pubic area. This is particularly important for women because women thighs set farther from each other at the top and narrow fork will be uncomfortable, pinching the pubic bone. The whole front of the saddle should feel very supportive.
  • The size of the thigh blocks can influence the impression about the seat size. Small seat and big thigh blocks can make a rider feel very much wedged in and it will force the rider to lengthen the stirrups may be even beyond the correct length.
  • Personal preference is important. Do not buy a saddle you do not feel comfortable riding in because your instructor rides in one or it is popular at your barn. Some saddles just do not work.
  • Trying many, many saddles will give you confidence to know what to pick. You do not have to take a saddle from a store to try. Ask around - your instructor, friends, riders at your barn. Many will be willing to lend you their saddle for one ride, or let you ride their horse for a few minutes to feel the saddle.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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