November 27, 2019

Saddle Fit Conclusion: What I Thought I Wanted Isn't What I Wanted

The most interesting part of this whole saddle fitting process is that what I thought I wanted isn't what I wanted - but I'm not sure I would've figured that out if I didn't ride in 36 saddles over six weeks.

Before the fittings, I thought I wanted a narrow twist, flat seat, low cantle, minimal block.  Mostly, those were knee-jerk opposite reactions to my last saddle, which I know now was waaaaaaaay too small for me, but I didn't know that then.

I hate everything about me in this saddle looking back on it!  Funny how that works.  PC: Austen

I thought I wanted a flat seat, but it turns out I just want an open seat, and those two things aren't necessarily related.  I learned that I hate anything that cups my butt, where the rise of the cantle starts quickly behind me.  I began to see the surface of the saddle as a work surface: sometimes in Dressage you need to slightly change your position to get things done, and too small of a work surface limited my ability to do that - and I'm not talking about seat size here.

This felt appropriately flat and open.  Custom Wolfgang Omni (older version)

But that desire for a large work surface doesn't mean I want the saddle to encourage me to flop all over the place - I want the default balance of the saddle to put me in a good place, but give me options.  A closed seat does not equal more rider stability - some closed seat saddles put me far more out of balance than some open seat saddles.

I learned I really don't care how tall the cantle is, as long as, like I said above, the rise doesn't happen quickly.  Some saddles with very tall cantles felt very open, and some saddles with very short cantles made me feel trapped.

Short cantle, but I felt trapped in this
High cantle, but I don't even notice it

I learned I actually prefer a slightly wider twist.  I encourage anyone who has ever said the words "narrow twist" to keep an open mind where this is concerned, because I was saying it without truly understanding why and I don't think I'm alone in that.  I don't mean I want the twist so wide my hips hurt, but I learned that I don't like it when the saddle twist is more narrow than the width of my pubic bone.  I want the saddle to fill up the space between my legs (that's what she said?) and not make me feel like I have to contort myself to"snug" my thigh into the saddle, as MW would say.

WOW - wide(r) twist.  Liked it.

(And according to KB and Eq Saddle Science both, twist is a function of the horse's anatomy and not the rider's preference, so take that for what you will.)

Finally, blocks became fascinating to me.  I was wrong in thinking that big blocks always equal "seat belt saddles".  I rode in saddles with big blocks that you'd never notice, and with small blocks that felt like they were shouting at my knees "YOU SHALL NOT PASS".  I learned that I want the support of a good block, I just don't want to be pinned into place.

Both big and small blocks can be bad blocks

The difference between a good block and a bad block was not the height or length of the block - it was whether it asked or demanded a certain position from me.  A good block gently supported my leg in a good spot, and I didn't notice it.  A bad block said, "We're gonna put you HERE and you're NOT GOING TO MOVE, got it?" Even if it was the right leg position for me, if the block forced me to stay there, it was a bad block.

Good, big blocks.  And it should be noted that if I had bought the Patrick, we were going to custom shape these blocks, both by taking some foam off the upper right corner (as you're looking at them here) and by reducing the height of them by 1/2" because my thigh isn't that tall (in terms of how far it comes away from the saddle)

Also, interestingly, the difference between a good block and a bad block was so subtle - millimeters of foam that needed shaved off at the top or single degrees of angle.  The fact that there are some saddle makers that do not offer any customization of block position on their saddles is absolutely infuriating, and I will name and shame CWD and County for this because I think it's stupid that they ask you to drop many thousands of dollars on a saddle you can't really customize.  Custom, Patrick, Eq Saddle Science, Stubben and WOW all allow custom block shapes and positions with almost no limits.

And with that, that wraps up my saddle fitting series!  I hope you guys found this helpful.


  1. The odds of me needing a new saddle are slim to none, but I've found all of these fittings to be fascinating. Thanks for taking the time to write it all up :)

  2. Your saddle fitting saga has been much appreciated with its well thought out critiques and great questions of both rider priorities and Connor priorities. As a future post, let us know how the first week of riding in the chosen saddle goes. Anna

  3. I have enjoyed taking this journey with you. It's been fascinating.

  4. 👏👏👏 love this write up. So much food for thought here!

  5. I really found your saddle fitting search interesting and informative.

  6. I have loved following along with your saddle fitting journey. A dressage saddle is definitely something that is a few years down the road for me right now but this gave me some fascinating things to think about when I get around to getting a dressage saddle!

  7. I think it is soooooo weird that custom saddle companies don't actually make custom saddles most of the time, it's like they just make 6 different parts 6 different ways and they allow customization within that narrow area so it's really a configurable saddle rather than a custom one lol

    1. Exactly. It's like, if it works for you, great, but it's only going to work for such a narrow range of people. The difference between the Patrick block being perfect and terrible was a couple of degrees of block position change. I can't imagine dropping CWD money when the answer was "no" to so many of my customization requests.

  8. This has been so awesome and helpful to read! Thank you so much for blogging about the full experience and calling out the differences of the brands you work with

  9. I found all of your saddle posts to be really thoughtful and informative. I haven't even heard of some of the brands, but I loved learning about them and think you did such a great job of considering how each piece would work for you and your horse. As I've grown older in the horse world, I've realized a lot about what my horses and I *don't* like which actually has helped shape what we *do* like. I hope that makes sense, as it seemed you did a lot of that on your saddle fitting journey. Thanks for taking the time to write it all down and share it with us!

  10. This has been so fun! Thanks again for sharing all of this with us!