Monday, March 22, 2010

Horse of the Year and Saddle Fittings

Horse of the Year was, as always, huge and amazing. All of the trade stalls make me want to run around spending up large. Of course I don't have the money for that but the day I do I'm going to go crazy. The premiere arena was amazing, but the lesser showjumping rings could have done with a lick of paint, so that was a bit disappointing. I got a chance to look at the Amateur Class that I wanted to ride in, and it was nice so next year I'm a definite for that.

Now anyway it seems I need new saddles for both ponies. I thought Kates saddle was ok, but it turns outI don't know that much about saddle fitting. I know Connie needs one and I wish I had got around to this earlier, bu my options until now have been Bates/Wintec extra wide gullet, or the wintec wide saddles. Neither of which work for my situation. So I went up to HOY on Thursday to book saddle fittings and then on Friday I took the horses up. I thought it would be a fairly leisurely day but it really wasn't. It was flat out from the time we arrived at 1.30 until 6 when my fitting finished. Saddle fittings are really time consuming.

I went in knowing a few things I was looking for- wither clearance, sweat mark, being able to run a hand under the front of the tree, balance of the saddle being level. I also know that saddle fitters are out to sell their brand of saddle. So you have to be prepared to wade through some bullshit. I hope the saying that you can't bullshit a bullshitter rings true because I'm good in that case. The first saddle I tried was a treeless jumping saddle called the Sensation. It was UGLY, but hey thats not what is important. Connie has the back for a treeless so I had a ride in it. It was nice on the flat, but felt very strange over a fence, like I couldn't get out of it very well. Ideally, a treed saddle is better because they disperse the weight better.

Then to NSC for Kate. She put a saddle on Connie and was basically like you are on your own here. She is out beyond the extra wides. Which is strange considering she isn't that large of a horse, she uses a much shorter girth than Kate, and Bill. Well not so strange with the Andalusian breeding but still it is not an ideal situation. What do other people use on their big horses? The NSC was ok on Kate but the saddle was somewhat nose high and she didn't seem that happy in it. Kate being your typical TB mare is pretty thin skinned and not shy about expressing her displeasure, unlike Connie who just soldiers on. It is a very thick saddle also, you feel a long way from your horse, but at the same time that means it offers a lot of protection for the horse.

From there I looked for other brands and found a new one called Strada which comes in a range of trees designed for different types of horses. There was a lot of talk in their pitch about the saddle being in perfect balance, and the heat melding panels preventing all pressure points which I am skeptical about but there you go. Anyway their broadest tree size was a nice fit on Connie and I had a ride in their dressage saddle, as the jumping in that tree isn't in the country yet. It was a lot of saddle to sit on in an already wide horse, but Connie seemed pretty happy in it. And when I cantered she reached down to take the contact which she doesn't really do. She will take the contact and be soft on it, but she doesn't take it down. So I really hope the wide tree trial saddle gets here soon. It's a really pricey saddle too, but if thats my option then so be it.

Then I was hustling around the show grounds (Which are huge) bareback on Connie and leading Kate, while trying to find a gate to the polo grounds to get to my last fitting which was with Prestige with Kate. This fitter seemed the most knowledgeable and thorough, though Kate was not amused by his drawing on her with a vivid. Sensitive, sensitive mare. He did have the best pitch though as well, even trying to get Kim onside which is a waste of time because if I'm skeptical Kim is 10x more so when it comes to sale people. He was though the only fitter that accounted for her muscle wastage, and went for a saddle that will fit her as she starts to build up. So it was the Prestige Event with a 33cm gullet with a pad with front shims. She seemed happier than in the NSC. And once she got going, she was nice in it. It's a hell of a saddle, incredibly comfortable and easy to sit in. Pricey though. But I figure it retains it's resale so I went for that saddle for Kate. Now I wait and see for Connie really.


  1. Glad to hear you did get to HOY and it wasn't a heartbreak to be there.
    Yes, saddle fitting is an amazing subject. And now I know a little bit, I am constantly horrified by what I see! The muscle wastage when you go along the yards and look at people's fit competition horses! Sigh.
    I am also longing for a Strada saddle. Or two. More sighing...

  2. I had never heard of Strada until I walked past the stand at HOY. Do they have a good reputation then? So expensive though I think, for what they are.

  3. I too have never heard of a strada. I do know plenty of people who are thrilled with their Prestige saddles though. Saddles are a complete science in their own right now.I get over whelmed by the thought of fitting a saddle so good for you in getting it right. I got Kylee from Hotspot thermal imaging to take photos to see if my saddle was ok. I'm using a non slip pad now to spot my saddle rolling slightly to one side. Ride in a trial saddle and get her to thermal image afterwards. Its worth the money. All the best

  4. As far as I know, the Stradas are very new to NZ. My (knowledgeable) friends who looked at them were pretty impressed but I don't know anyone who rides in one.

    Yes, expensive, but they are made by an engineer so at least they should be symmetrical. Unlike other saddles I have seen...