Remember to Smile: Finding a Saddle

Now that Mr. Forrest is comfortably longeing in all three gaits and working honestly into the connection with only the occasional cartwheel, it’s time for me to find a saddle for him. This could be challenging, as Forrest (handsome and close-coupled as he is) does rather resemble a dolphin: that wither of his seems to go right into the middle of his back like a fin.

Credit: Erik Olsen

Realizing our “Cinderfella” project is all about buying and training on the cheap, I pray, unrealistically, that the saddles I already have in my tack room might just fit. Nope. Even though Forrest is certainly not weedy, the Schleese is so wide it flattens atop his withers. Well, poop. And so does the County. Double poop. So off I drive to The Farm House, nearby, with the dilemma: I can’t be writing a check for triple what the horse cost … that defeats the whole point of our project. So, sorry, you gorgeous Prestige, and good, old, reliable, Niedersuss, that greet me as I enter the tack shop … I can’t swing it.

But there, in the consignment aisle, is a really gorgeous and lightly used Albion, with a medium tree. I love these saddles and the price tag tells me it’s available for $1,500. Now, dickering on the price in a tack shop is below me, but I’m not above it, so, thinking a good offer would be $1,200 (still more expensive than Forrest), I hustle home with my trophy, already visualizing a perfect fit and myself sinking into its supple seat.

Well, poop squared.While it appeared a lovely fit through the wither and shoulders when I placed it on Forrest’s back, as soon as I fastened the girth, it proved itself also to be too wide, and I couldn’t even fit a finger of clearance beneath the pommel.

Rats! How disappointing. Driving the 10 minutes back to the shop (I’m extremely lucky to live so close as my truck averages about two blocks to the gallon), I despondently returned the saddle to the rack and thought about browsing ebay. But this is not going to be an easy horse to fit and, really, I do like to support my local brick-and-mortar stores.

“How about a Wintec?” asked Vicky, one of the clerks who also happens to be a saddle fitter. “We’ve got a new Isabell, right here.”

A Wintec?” I echoed, and stopped a moment … a Wintec? I mean, a couple of my students have had those and, really, they’re quite comfortable. But a synthetic saddle? When every other trainer rides in something that costs the same as their property taxes? I felt my inner Dressage Queen begin to rise up within me and had to forcibly push her moussed head back down.

“You know,” I mused, thinking, for once, of my horse instead of my ego, “for a racehorse who, until now, has only felt the weight of a racing saddle on his back, this could be a really nice, lightweight transitional saddle for him.” And then, throwing the saddle over the fiberglass horse to test it, I alighted upon it. OK, so not very supple, but it did feel relatively balanced and that synthetic covering does give one the same sort of feeling as if riding in chaps … not a bad thing on a nervous youngster. And if Isabell Werth trained and showed in the saddle she designed, then a lowly nobody like me shouldn’t have much difficulty. But the pommel appeared lower than the Albion. How could it possibly fit?

“OK,” I said, lifting the thing in my arms, “I’ll give it a try, but do me a favor and keep looking.”

Returning home, I brought Forrest out of his stall, once again, for a fitting. I must say, he was getting quite bored. 

But! Not only did the pommel give ample wither clearance, even when girthed, but it fit his shoulders better than the Albion. There was adequate room in the gullet and the overall impression was one of good balance.

“It’s great!” I cried, phoning Vicky, “And in my price range, too. What do these cost? Around $1,200?”

“Nope,” Vicky replied and my heart dropped. “That is a brand new saddle, but it’s over a year old and on sale for $895.”

You see, gentle reader, it just goes to show that if you remain patient (which I rarely do) there are deals to be found!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!






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