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12.7.15

My Saddle Fitting Woes

I have considered many times sharing my saddle fitting experiences with my readers and have always shaken the subject off as a bad idea...reason one; because I haven't had much luck and two; because I am relatively inexperienced when it comes to the fit of a saddle. 

However, this week I realised I am not alone, I am actually with the majority and as our beloved horses change shape, develop muscle, loose and gain weight as mother nature intended very few of us have it right all of the time. 

Before owning Oscar I'd loaned horses, horses that came with their own tack and it seemed to fit okay...I was happy, the owners were happy and my horse wasn't showing any sign of discomfort, annual checks happened that box was ticked and all was good. Then I bought Oscar and everything changed...how naive I was before owning him, within the week of him being home the saddle fitter was booked. A local gent who came well recommended within the area, I was full of excitement! My FIRST saddle, a moment I'd dreamed of for so many years!

The long awaited day arrived and the fitter pulled up in a van bursting with saddles and began placing various ones on and off Oscar's back, wiggling them around, girthing him up and short-listing a selection for me to ride in - a process taking no more than 10 minutes. I remember feeling intimidated; I was desperate for a saddle yet felt the fitting had been about as thorough as trying on a pair of off the shelf shoes in New Look during my lunch hour! However being in need, and in an uncomfortable situation a deal was done and I had my first saddle.

Welcome saddle slippage, no matter how tight my girth, whether I was having a leg up or using a mounting block...it slipped!! And I could never, ever tack up without my Acavallo grip pad. I was heartbroken and kept to light work, saving and saving for a better saddle. 

The second time around I booked an appointment with a professional saddle making company to finally own a saddle that fitted both Oscar and I, I counted down the sleeps and thanked the Lord for our indoor ménage as when the day came the heavens opened, it poured with heavy rain all day - maybe I should have taken this as a sign to cancel and lied about our indoor being so fabulous?

I was paying a hefty sum for the fitting alone but because this company held a Royal Warrant as suppliers of saddlery and lorinery to HM Queen Elizabeth II and had been in business over 200 years figured I was in safe hands, however once the fitting began, in my opinion, I was not. The fitter looked at my horse and produced a number of saddles for us to try...I remember thinking "I've been here before, aren't you going to measure my horse, see him move, discuss both our strengths and weaknesses" but shook the idea out of my head, I couldn't get more professional than the company presenting itself to me and I repeatedly told myself that they saddle some of the best horses four star event horses in Great Britain, not to mention their impressive sponsorship presence at events - these are professionals - I settled upon an ex-demo that was far from cheap, I can't even bring myself to share the price but we are talking four figures - the saddler was totally against me having a new one as I'd hoped and saved so long and hard for, at the time this should have rang alarm bells **face blushes with foolishnes**. The sale of the saddle included a three month follow up period in which I could change the saddle if unhappy or if happy would be refitted as new saddles often require additional flocking/changes within this agreed period.

So month one passed and the saddle slipped, I was devastated but figured I'd continue to use my Acavallo pad, allow the saddle to settle and ring the saddlers on month two, once I'd had time to think about the areas I was unhappy with. When I rang, the company informed me they'd fallen into administration; in my opinion the advisor was rude and short, showing no remorse or empathy for the situation. When asked about my follow up appointment she advised I ring my saddler direct, so I did and he never answered or returned any of my calls or voicemails. I searched equine forums and various other online sources and found others in a similar situation to me.

I trusted the company one hundred percent to saddle my horse and I correctly, and admit I was and still am utterly heartbroken at all those things I went without for months while I saved, the loose change I put into a jar week after week went towards a high end piece of equipment that didn't do the job it should. Could the saddler have sold it to me knowing it wasn't right for my horse or me, we will never know? I work in customer service, and I believe as an ambassador to the public we have a duty of care and I really felt broken.

It took me a long time to gain enough confidence to contact a saddler to see if my saddle could be altered to fit, I thought they'd laugh and me...and once they'd finished laughing I couldn't help but wonder if they'd take advantage, all my trust had gone.

Thankfully through personal recommendations I booked an appointment with a fantastic saddler who didn't laugh...she empathised and had a superb eye, noticing our weaknesses as we walked from the stable to the ménage...she watched us ride, measured Oscar and I and came up with a cost to carry out some pretty serious work, not being able to promise whether it would be perfect or not but she would do everything she could.

After two weeks she returned with my renovated saddle for the fitting...I was so nervous - I had gone from feeling elation prior to saddle fittings to now only knowing dread, but as soon as I placed my bottom in the saddle I felt for the first time I was in the correct position and I felt Oscar's back lift in happiness...I am truly grateful for all she did but can't say my faith is restored quite yet. My next plan was to save for a dressage saddle but I will be doubtful for a long time yet about investing so much in saddlery companies...I feel they have a lot to prove to me and although I will not tar them all with the same brush, I will have the expectation that they need to earn my respect and I will not give it them on command due to the badge on their produce. 

I have only just been brave enough to write about my torrid experience but the more people I speak to, the more admit to lacking confidence with regards the fit of their saddle so the more I learn, the more I will share with you.

Thank you for reading- please note; the saddlery company concerned are not named and the above post is all personal opinions of my own and nobody else.


Jessica & Oscar xxxx