A New Toy (A long post loaded with photos!)
Surprise! I bought a saddle this month!
As you guys might remember, my trainer has been hounding me to glue some thigh blocks to my old-as-dirt county saddle. Well, the thought of hotgluing anything to leather was giving me the shivers and I wasn't able to do it. So, I took a hard look at my savings and started seriously browsing sale ads. As luck would have it, an amazing deal popped up, and I jumped on it.
Check out my new (to me) Barnsby AVG! It's a 17.5 medium tree, with HUUUUUGE thigh blocks (to me).
|Sale photo ...|
I was a little excited for it's arrival ...
|Seriously. Packing peanuts. Whyyyyy??|
In fact, it was pretty hard to sit at work all day and think about the shiny saddle waiting to be tried on and ridden in. I even made it out to the barn that night despite the 4*F temperature. Brrr. The things we do...
What followed that night was an example of how horses can bring us up so high, and bash us down so low. I tried on the saddle, and it appeared to have amazing wither coverage and be the perfect fit. Then I girthed it up, and that amazing wither coverage shrank.
Guys, it shrank a lot.
I screwed up my courage and decided to take it for a test spin just to see...
... nope. The saddle ended up settling more after some trotwork, and it was rubbing slightly at the top of Pig's withers. I was crushed. The drive home was hard, as I thought about all the money I have tied up in saddles (this saddle makes 4 .. FOUR saddles I own. That's $3,500 tied up in leather, guys. For a girl with a husband in medical school, that is really disheartening. "Eat ramen for the next year" disheartening.). When I got home I drank a lot of wine.
The next day things started looking up. I emailed Barnsby and they put me in contact with a fitter in the Chicago area. Then I started thinking about the possibility of padding it up, and about the fact that it was so cold that I may have accidentally placed the saddle too far forward. The Barnsby fitter asked me to send her photos of the saddle on Guinness.
Fast forward to Saturday ...
The day dawned bright, and warm (finally). I was feeling a lot more optimistic about the saddle, and prepared with options if it didn't fit. I was also confident in my ability to resell the saddle if everything failed.
|Gratuitous adorable puppy shot from Saturday. It really was a beautiful day here.|
Armed with confidence, I set off taking photos of saddle fit for the Barnsby rep. First, girthed up without a pad. Things were looking good. I had about 3 fingers of clearance between the narrowest point and the withers.
|Fit prior to riding. I actually think I have the saddle too far forward still in this photo. Sigh. #horseswithshoulders|
|Gullet fit on back. Looks pretty good to me, no? Much wider than my County, and cleanly clearing the spine.|
|Wither clearance with front riser pad.|
|See how the saddle tilts backwards with the riser pad? I do not like this, Sam I Am.|
After removing the riser pad, I went ahead and jumped in the saddle. Stirrupless and all. And? I went on to ride for 45 minutes. I checked the clearance on the saddle obsessively throughout the ride, but it never again rubbed the withers. I would still describe the clearance as "a little close for comfort", but I can comfortably ride with one finger stuck between the lowest point and the wither without pinching.
|Without front riser pad.|
|Wither clearance after riding for 45 minutes. Plus? Oh my god, thighblocks. I didn't know how much I loved you.|
I'm cautiously calling this a success. After the 45 minute ride (which was nothing if not intense, I really pushed it), the hair on Pig's back was undisturbed where the saddle fit. There were no signs on the pad of pressure points or pinching. He moved out happily enough under the saddle, and didn't react to my prodding his back post ride. (He's pretty stoic about saddle fit, though. Nothing but truly awful fit seems to phase him.)
The great thing? The saddle is an amazing fit for me. The thigh blocks are truly a revelation. They remind me to ride from the hip, instead of cuing from the leg. And, they keep me from riding in a chair seat. It's pretty much impossible in this saddle. And, the true black color is so pretty compared to the faded havana of my old County. I love it.
As of now I haven't heard back from the Barnsby fitter about her thoughts. I told her about the change in fit, and hope she has some ideas on how to improve it. The saddle could use a good flocking, and that just might be what it needs to fit Guinness perfectly. I'll keep you posted as things develop.
What do you guys think?