Monday, January 25, 2016

Take What You Need and Leave The Rest

I'll be writing a lesson recap post soon but first wanted to talk a little about my saddle fitting appointment today because, frankly, I need to vent.

Katai was scheduled for a massage at 10:00am and then the plan was for me to get to the barn around 3:00pm so that we could do a saddle fit appointment at 3:30. I got to the barn a little early, helped with turn in and then got Katai all groomed and ready to go.

We started out with Katai fully tacked up and the saddle fitter, who I'll call H, looked over my set up in detail, did tracings, and took some notes. I was pleased and she let me know that Katai LOVED her massage and was all relaxed and blinky and happy about the whole thing. That made me feel good and we were off to a good start.

Unfortunately that's where my happiness ended.

Let me preface this by saying that I'd prepared myself for every contingency. While I felt it was unlikely that my saddle was a horrible fit I was ready for everything from it just needing a flocking adjustment to needing to buy a new saddle or even being completely unable to ride in it because it fit so horribly. What I wasn't prepared for was to have my emotions played with.

This pretty much captures our whole experience.
So, when H started poking around at the channel of my saddle with a concerned face I was ready for the worst and then she said she thought my tree was broken. I can't even imagine what my face looked like. The saddle is 6 months old, Katai doesn't have any sore spots and seems comfortable in the saddle, I haven't noticed anything off, the box the saddle came in was in excellent condition when it arrived and there wasn't anything scraped or scratched on the saddle that would show there had been any sort of damage.

Common sense has always been my friend so I started asking her about thing things above. Basically she said that no, Katai's back hadn't been sore during the massage, she couldn't flex the saddle in any way that was unusual, when she asked if I'd been hearing or feeling anything weird I let her know that I hadn't. She remained unconvinced and spent at least 10-15 minutes trying to (I felt) prove that my saddle was broken. What she was feeling were these two small metal lines that were unevenly long. Not unevenly placed but one was longer than the other. If I had to hazard a guess I would say that there was one line of solder that was longer then the other on the individually made tree. She also said that some of the stitching looked uneven and I agree but this is a handmade saddle and it's very, very, very slight. She finally decided that it was time to proceed so we tacked Katai up and she really examined everything both with me out of the saddle and with me in the saddle.

At this point I was already a little frustrated but was still hoping that H would have some advice. The problem was that I think I'd already lost a little trust in her because the idea that my tree was broken was so far out of left field that I had a tough time even beginning to entertain that idea.

Then, with me mounted up, she said that my saddle was beautiful but didn't fit my pony. Again, I felt a little crushed but was all ready for her to give me some ideas for what to look for in a saddle and some ideas for where to shop. Except when I started asking she hemmed and hawed over the saddle again for awhile and then started naming things that did fit. The shape of the tree, the shape of the panel, the length, the tree width, the flap, the billets, etc. all in the "fit" category and then she said that she didn't know what she would do differently. More hemming and hawing and then she felt around in the channel again, still sure that my saddle was broken in two and going to stab my pony's back, and said that she would change the width of the channel which was slightly too wide.

Saddle fit picture I was encouraged to take to show the maker. Not quite sure what this will show him other than that my saddle fits? Although after the flocking was added it does look a little high in front...
That was the first, and only, advice that she gave that I trust at all since she was actually able to show me what she was looking for. I do know that channels can be too wide and can see that this one could be too wide for Katai. This is what I was looking for, proactive advice before she gets sore and how to change it. Even better, she is able to fix it by doing some work on the panels of my current saddle.

Bad news, she want's me to contact the company about a warrantee to see about having them fix my "broken tree" and "uneven stitching". At this point I was about ready to gouge my own eyes out so I tried a different tactic and asked her what the cost would be for her to work on it. Common sense again since I knew that shipping it back (even if it weren't ridiculous) would be at least 200 even if there were a warrantee (which there's not) and the maker didn't think I was completely batshit crazy (which I'm not). She said that it would be around $150 so I let her know that if I decided to go that way I'd want her to do it rather than shipping my only saddle back and forth (and making it even more likely that my tree might actually be broken). She still pushed that I should contact the company and send pictures. I wanted to ask what I would be taking pictures of exactly but figured that would be too snarky.
but damn my pony is starting to look like a beefcake!
I kept thinking that I must be crazy, she's the expert right? She should know but every time I looked at the channel of my saddle and felt what she was feeling all I felt was a well constructed, not factory made saddle with a small quirk. She still couldn't tell me anything concrete that was making her think it was broken other than those uneven lines. I'll try to get a picture for the blog but honestly I don't think there is a picture to take since I don't think you can see them since they stick out about a millimeter from the underside of the channel (on the tree), slightly under each of the panels and you have to push on the leather lining pretty hard to feel them.

My phone a friend. Apparently I'm no the only one thinking it might be because it's hand-made
I was so frustrated that I couldn't get out of my own head on the drive home. I ALWAYS trust the expert. I want to trust the expert, that's why I work hard so that I'm able to involve them in my horse's care. At the end of the saddle fitting she kept saying that my saddle fit great (she did add a little flocking in the front and the back) and that it must not be broken or we'd be able to tell but by that point how was I supposed to trust her. She'd gone from the saddle is broken, to the saddle doesn't fit at all and you need a new one, to it just needs some flocking, to it fits great.


I'm going to talk to L and see if she has any advice. H wants to put a front gusset in it as well and I can't even begin to imagine that that will help it fit since I thought those were more for narrow horses with big withers. I can always stand to learn something though :-)


  1. WOW what an INCREDIBLY frustrating experience! I hope you are able to bring another professional in to the mix and get another opinion!

  2. It was truly frustrating. I've never had anything like that in all my time with horses though so maybe I was due ;-)