I think saddles have always been the bane of my life and currently that is most apparent (ok maybe I’m over exaggerating a bit).
I always seem to choose horses who are hard to fit or like changing shape which is most annoying I can tell you. My old horse was terrible, he had stupidly high withers and a flat back, we must have gone through at least 6 or 7 saddles but got there eventually… not long of course before he retired!
Now with Fleur I was fortunate to be in the position two years ago to buy a brand new sparkling saddle, she was 12 and therefore I thought she shouldn’t change shape much at that point, and having already been through 4 or 5 saddles since a 4yo, I was wrong! I got a lovely new jump saddle which we both loved and in fact at our first BE event in it under a week later we won with a low 20s dressage. No debating that she liked it!
All was going well the last two years but I think through the latter half of last season the tell tale signs started creeping in that maybe the saddle was no longer quite as ideal a fit as it should be, but with a short season and then dropping off work (and muscle) those signs disappeared. This spring though as Fleur has got fitter and fitter her muscle has built up, and yes you’ve guessed it her saddle clearly no longer fits 🙁
My normal saddler who travels a couple of hours to see me was jam packed with bookings for over a month (sign of a good saddler if ever there was one!) so I called out another who came highly recommended and unfortunately confirmed – yes the saddle was no longer a good fit and no amount of flocking would solve the issue, as not only was she no longer a medium wide she was actually verging on an extra wide! So yes my sleek eventer isn’t actually that sleek and is actually wider than half the cobs on the yard! To be fair she is actually fairly streamlined and there is no additional weight to be lost but her rib cage is a true barrel.
Over the last week I have been frantically saddle hunting and have discovered that second hand jump saddles which are Wide and 17-17.5″ in size are like proverbial hen’s teeth! Well, ones that would suit her are anyway. In addition to being wide she is also incredibly flat backed, so much so that after the wither you could probably put a spirit level on her back and find it to be level. I have been scouring tack shops across the south and checking every internet classfied site and facebook tack sale group religiously for something suitable. Of course there are plentiful bargains in a medium wide fitting and several in the right size etc but with a curved tree or more painfully those that ticked every box except for the price or location.
I have begged borrowed and stopped one step short of stealing saddles from everyone close I know who may have something that would fit even if just to discount a brand. Sunday she had no less than 4 saddles on her back, none of which fitted.
I have though taken the risk and purchased a very cheap old Barnsby off eBay and am crossing my fingers it will do the job, but I am continuing to search elsewhere until it arrives, just in case. My saddler is also sending me a saddle to trial from the selection she keeps in stock which she thinks may be suitable, so my fingers are firmly crossed that I have better luck with one of those two saddles than I have so far.
So for a good week now I have had no choice but to ride bareback, her being wide does have an advantage here as it makes her far more comfortable than if she was narrow ,but I think we are both growing a bit tired of it. I have been hacking and schooling bareback and even cantered approaching a mile out hacking, as if I have any hope of competing at Larkhill I still need to keep up her fitness levels. I will admit to being a bit mad and I wouldn’t advise doing as such to most, but I know my stickability levels and her normal reactions. A few errr iffy moments but I have stayed in the plate although my legs and core are complaining as they have both been working beyond normal levels to keep me onboard!
I think my fellow e-Venters and a few other friends are going a bit crazy with my numerous questions as to experiences with various saddle brands so I know they will be very thankful once I have something sorted.
I am hoping I will have something sorted by the middle of this week at the latest as other than a few very small XC fences on the farm I haven’t jumped a course (SJ or XC) since October which isn’t the ideal event preparation for us for Larkhill! I had hoped to have gone showjumping the other week at West Wilts but that went out the window with the lack of a saddle. If the worst comes to the worst a friend has kindly offered to lend me her GP saddle for Larkhill which we know sort of fits BUT I cannot ride in it for love nor money, I’ve told her if she does she needs to bring her video camera along as it will be a guaranteed entry for You’ve Been Framed during the jumping phases.