Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pretty and Effective

My trainer brought me a saddle to try last week. I guess she'd finally had enough of trying to teach me while I contort my body like a drunken yogini. Whoops. In my defense, life is hard when you're trying to cram yourself into a slippery saddle made for the exact opposite of your body type.
Seriously. This saddle is kinda the worst for my leg, unless you're into having your knee stick out in front of the thigh block and leg panel.
You see, I have one of the longest hip to knee lengths out there. I'm basically absurdly long there for someone of my otherwise average height. Unfortunately, that means dressage saddles tend to fit me very poorly and compromise my balance. It's really tough to stretch your leg down and put it on at the same time, when your balance gets shoved so far back in the saddle you're sitting on the cantle.
For example, Pig's saddle used to put me so far in the backseat I was always thankful I didn't fall out behind. Putting my leg on used to squeeze me right out the back, because there wasn't enough room for my long thigh. To compensate I was always collapsing in the lower abs and leaning forward. Not great.
Photo by Liz Stout
While the saddle Emma generously lent me has been a godsend as far as fitting Bast, it's been doing me the opposite of favors when it comes to my position. In fact, every time I put my leg on in this saddle, my seatbone had to come off the saddle. This left me twisting frantically to try to make my aids make sense. It also left me struggling to keep my balance.
Note my twisting hips trying to keep my seat somewhat in the saddle while my leg goes on? Also my balance is so compromised my heels are jammed down in an attempt to keep me remotely with the horse. Also not great.
I've started to find the issues with Emma's saddle to be setting Bast's training back. My twisting and flailing in the canter departs couldn't be helped, because otherwise I actually couldn't stay with him. Unfortunately this twisting was very confusing to my green horse trying his hardest.
What happens when you have to choose either holding on with your legs or being able to balance your upper body...
My trainer is built somewhat like me, with a longer hip to thigh ratio. I hoped the saddle she was bringing me would work well for my body type. I also had hopes, because it's a Custom. I've always had very good luck with this brand's deeper seat and more forward flaps.
So far so good... Plus amazing gullet clearance!
Bast had been starting to shift shape and not fit Emma's saddle as well. I think he's getting wider. Somehow, he magically fits the Custom right now. The moment I threw it on him, I was astounded by how nicely it sat on him!
Can't ask for better than that for a blind fitting!
Of course, the saddle wasn't worth springing for if it didn't make riding easier for me. I had pretty high expectations and hopes for this thing when I swung into the saddle.
Leg on. Seat on. Miracles do happen, friends.
Somehow, this saddle does the impossible. It allows me to separate my leg aid from my seat aid without having to rip apart the space time continuum and force me to split into two separate people. In other words, in this saddle, riding correctly is easy.

I am pretty sure Bast breathed out a big sigh of relief as well. His canter departs have stopped being so leapy almost immediately. His movement is more relaxed more quickly into our rides. Plus I'm able to stick with him and make minute adjustments from just my seat, instead of throwing my whole balance to try to put my leg on.
No collapsing in my lower abs. No jammed heels trying to keep my balance. Easily dropped leg that can hug the horse. Magic, I tell you. All magic.
In fact, riding correctly is so much easier that my abs have been horribly sore from my last few rides in this new saddle. I'm treasuring that pain, as it means I'm getting stronger and more able to guide my goofy young horse on his dressage journey.

Anyone out there like me, fighting your saddles for years and years? Anyone else looking at finding something that fits you better? Or maybe you've never considered how much saddle fit can effect the rider? I want to know! I'm especially interested to hear from people with different body construction. How do shorter legs change your saddle fit needs? This is such a universal issue with such different answers, let's talk!
Finally able to do turns on the forehand, now that this saddle gets me out of my own way!

16 comments:

  1. What a difference. When Irish was younger I needed a new saddle. My then coach’s saddle fit him and she sold it to me. I spent the next few years trying to ride properly. Keep in mind that this coach was teaching me. I actually started to believe that I sucked as a rider and would never improve. I thought about giving up. I then signed u for a clinic and in the first 5 minutes she said “that saddle doesn’t fit you. It puts you in the wrong position “. I found a saddle fitter and a new saddle that worked for me and it felt like a miracle. I could put my leg on and stay balanced. My coach suggested that if I had lost weight the saddle would have worked better. Sigh.

    When I read blogs or listen to others speak of their constant struggle to ride effectively I always suggest that they look at the saddle fit for them. Often they don’t believe me. Or don’t think it’s impacting them that much. But it can and does. I love my saddle fitter because she works on both horse and rider.

    When I start to stifle with my position I make an appt with her because it usually means that the flocking needs adjusting. She does a few magical things and when I sit in the saddle it’s so much better.

    Well that was a long reply. 😁

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saddle fit TOTALLY affects the rider. To some degree, with an okay fit (like Pig's saddle was for me) you can get away just by being an incredibly strong rider. My abs back when competing Pig were a washboard, because they had to be to ride in that saddle correctly. (I mean, you always need abs, but I really needed more than I should because of the saddle pushing me back.)

      But also adjusting a saddle to the horse can help a ton, too. I had a saddle fitter out to look at Emma's saddle. She added a couple of front shims and VIOLA it was MUCH easier to sit. Still not great, but I no longer felt like I was sliding out.

      Delete
  2. I either don't know what I'm missing or don't have that big of a problem - we'll go with both - because I've never encountered huge discomfort. Though I've never gotten down and dirty focusing on so the minutia of training in the manner you and others have! I did loooove the feeling of sitting in that County at Rolex a few years back though and definitely dream of having a dressage saddle with a higher cantle that really hugs me one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, this was really an issue once I started focusing on my position and how it related to balancing my horse. It started to become really obvious where I was fighting the saddle and where I wasn't. Except in extreme cases, it's doable to ride in a saddle that doesn't fit you well. Emma's saddle was causing me a lot of significant issues, though. Pig's was more workable.

      Delete
  3. I don't know why people don't come harder at saddle fit for them. It took a NON RIDER to be like "hey you look like youre sitting funny" before I did anything. It's really irritating to think that all the fitness and chirporactic i did ON MYSELF could've been aided by just buying a saddle that fit.

    whatever the precious is 3-4 weeks away (OMG!) so ... progress.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that it's far better to throw some extra $$$ at a saddle that properly fits both you AND the horse than it is to try to spare some pennies and make do. I have the same issue as you (super long thigh) and I tried out about 15 different saddles in one go. The difference between good balance and no balance is immediate and obvious, but you need a wide sample of options to really be able to feel it. I'm glad you found something that works for both of you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'd be inclined to agree. Only I didn't have the $$ to spring for such a purchase. With Bast I was hoping to get to a point where he'd be pretty well set in his adult shape before buying something more suitable.

      Delete
  5. I have the exact same problem. I'm actually pretty tall (5'10), and all of my height is from hip to knee. I tried saddles at Kentucky one year, and the one that fit me the best was an Antares monoflap with 3AAA flaps (lol crying). Unfortunately that saddle was way out of my price range, and it's super hard to find a used saddle that has the specs I need as well as fitting my horse, who has shark fin withers but also huge shoulders. I'm hoping to one day be able to afford a custom saddle once my young horse is old enough to need her own. I'm sure the investment will be worth it long term, I'm just terrified of spending that kind on money on a saddle that my horse may or may not grow out of. I also find it sketchy that so many saddle fitters can look at the same saddle/horse/rider combo, and come up with wildly different suggestions for fit. I'm worried about putting my trust in the wrong person and ending up with something that's not right either. Ugh, saddle shopping is the worst!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had saddle fitters say things like "oh you just need a bigger seat size to accommodate your long leg." They aren't completely wrong, a bigger seat would give me more of a balance point to find, but also it would take away my security. A longer and more appropriate flap/block set up would be a much better solution. You know? Independent saddle fitters are really much better. Though I've had really good luck with my Custom fitter out here, she worked on my other saddles and was really knowledgeable and helpful!

      Delete
  6. That saddle puts you in a really nice balance. It is amazing how many people don't know that fitting your saddle to your horse, also improves the fit to the rider. I think it is often forgotten that the saddle must also be right for the rider. So happy for you to have one that fits you both beautifully.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can't speak for dressage saddles, but fighting a saddle is just awful -- it slows your progress down SO MUCH. I never realized that until I finally got one that fit me.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had an Albion and struggled with it so much because the stirrup bars were set too far forward. I was so tired of going through saddle after saddle after saddle that I threw down $3500 and had a custom saddle made for me and my horse. Best thing I ever did. Revolutionized my riding.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I’m pretty sure I’m fighting my saddle especially after reading this but I have even more limited options with a 13.2 hand pony as an adult rider and this saddle is WAY better for both of us than the previous ones that I had. Maybe someday I’ll win the lottery and be able to afford a Custom saddlery saddle!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Once I sat in my Custom saddle I immediately knew I had been fighting my old one. I quit rocking so badly in the canter, and was better able to feel my seatbones. Made a big difference!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Huge difference!!

    I have the same issue - long thigh, long legs. I've found that I love a (very) narrow twist, too. The more saddles I ride in/different horses I ride, the more obvious it is to me what saddles I like and which ones I absolutely hate! So far, I'm generally more comfortable in most Customs I've tried. I like the Albion I'm borrowing for Crumble. And I've never met a Schleese I actually liked...they drive me crazy.

    ReplyDelete