Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saddle Fitting Day!

I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before.

I ran over to get Betsy's trailer early in the morning and I picked up my boys. At least that was the idea... Toby had other ideas. Toby had a bad experience in a trailer prior to him entering my life. In a nutshell, he will only travel in stock trailers now. Betsy's trailer is a two-horse straight load built for warmbloods. Ollie was fine with it until Toby fussed about getting in. So I let Toby win because I didn't need both of my horses acting brainless.

Ollie was a trooper. We arrived at Betsy's barn and had to walk past a small paddock that has a Quarter Horse stallion. He's a halter show horse and that's all I'm going to say about his looks... The stallion was very vocal as we went by and my insecure, worrier named Hola C Bright was on his toes a little but he was actually very very good. I put him in an empty stall where he proceeded to leave a whole lot of loose poop. He let out an occasional whinny but otherwise was darn good.

The saddle fitter is a representative of Albion Saddlemakers. We started out by measuring Ollie's back, getting his weight with a weight tape and checking out his back for soreness and other problems that poor fitting saddles can create. We caught Ollie at an early stage of "uncomfortable" so his back was in good shape. That's one of the advantages of having an expressive horse. They let you know right away if something isn't working right. On her notes she wrote that his back was clean, soft and supple. Clean, I'm certain she means from damage because as often as he rolls there's not a truly "clean" spot on him...

Then we went to taking a trace of his back. She uses a ruler that is pliable and moldable to areas of his back. She molds the tool to an area of the back then traces it on a sheet of paper. She traced the withers, then the area that would be the middle of the saddle and the area towards the back of the saddle. The fitter told me that with Ollie's short back, that HE probably needs a size 17" saddle. She showed me this by pointing out the location of his last rib and where the back of the saddle should comfortably be. She measured the saddle area and it turned out to be the area for a size 17 saddle!

Ollie was impressive during all this. He wanted to taste the tracer tool, see what was going on and EVERY TIME he stood absolutely square without us forcing him to do it. What a star!

After getting his measurements and tracings, I longed him so she could see his movement. This is what she wrote in her notes- " Lovely walk, metronomic. saddle area goes flat at movement, slightly uphill at walk."

Metronomic - I love it! He really is a rhythmical mover. I sure as heck don't want to ruin that!

After that we put Ollie back in his stall and out came the saddles for me to try. We had a plastic saddle horse which the saddles were placed on and I would try them out. Turns out I like a flatter pelvic floor and wider pelvic area. The super deep saddles tended to make my back curve too much and my butt stick out. So the flatter saddles straightened out my spine. I tried out many different types of saddles and the one I liked the best was the SLK. The one she had was a little bit too wide for Ollie so we padded him up and used shims to make it lay right. Then I got on. I rode him for quite awhile, mostly at the walk because he was wound up again.

After awhile, Betsy and the fitter watched us as we trotted around. It was the first time Betsy had seen me ride Ollie! She talked us through his insecurities and got us moving straighter down the long sides. Then once we both relaxed and I realized that praise is a good thing, we really went to a new level! I would pat Ollie on the neck when he did even the most remote thing correctly and he relaxed. Then he became really round. THEN he went long and low! JUST LIKE THIS!


I was thrilled. Ollie was relaxed. And we were getting a new saddle!!

We ended up ordering this lovely gem of a saddle... We should have it in 5 to 6 weeks. It will be customized for my behind (flatter pelvic area) but will still be a size 17 to accomodate Ollie's short back.

As for my other Albion which I use on Toby, it was tested for balance and it was spot on. My girlfriend who was also getting her Albion saddle refitted, is going to use it while I'm away and hers is shipped to be readjusted for her horse. That was fortunate for her that my saddle with some padding and shims will work for her for a short time.

Now I'm off to head to Kentucky. I've got my photo credentials for Rolex and for the Kentucky Derby. So you can guess where this blog is heading for the next 10 days or so. Fun!


  1. Sounds like success! Congratulations!

  2. Hi Wendy! Keep up the great work with the photography, and while at the Kentucky Derby could you have a Mint Julep (or two) for me!!??

    Best, Claudette :)
    New Horizons Equine Center

  3. Hooray! I'm so glad you found something that works for the two of you.

    And enjoy that Rolex... take lots of pictures.