June 16, 2021

So I Bought a Dressage Saddle...

Hahaha- no joke! Two saddles in one week, eh? Stacie didn't know how right she was in the comments yesterday.

 

Just 48 hours ago, even I had no idea I'd be buying a Dressage saddle this week. And the dramatic way it went down ended up being a fitting conclusion to my TWENTY-FIVE MONTH  LONG Dressage saddle search.

This does make me giggle, I'll be honest

See, I've been saddle searching for longer than I've been riding with CGP, so she didn't know about my...saga. On Saturday after my lesson, I told her the whole story and about my working theory that Connor prefers the short tree points and flexible front panels of the CWD. "Can I look at it?" she asked. She never had taken it off his back and handled it before.

 

After inspecting it she said "Oh my gosh, I've never seen a saddle with these features before. This is brilliant, I think your theory is exactly right, and I think Kate [the Society of Master Saddlers' fitter I worked with two years ago and absolutely adored] can do this and all of your other requests. Patrick Saddlery can build anything custom." She ended up taking a 5 minute video demonstrating everything and sent it to her.

On Sunday, I got a text. "Hey, Kate can do everything on your list, and she just happens to be driving through here tomorrow. Can you get back here by 8am Tuesday?" Kate lives many states away and is normally only in our area in spring and fall, so it was a dang miracle that she just happened to be passing through two days after I talked to CGP.

This place again??

So I took Tuesday morning off, we drove over Monday night after work, I crashed with my friend Nicole for the second time in 3 days, and at 8am sharp on Tuesday, we met with Kate.

The first saddle I rode in was Patrick's brand new monoflap with Velcro blocks, which was one of my wish list items. No, scratch that: that was a must-have. I have commitment issues with fixed blocks on *mumblemumble* thousand dollar saddles. Velcro AND monoflap or bust.

It has like a pocket on the front of the saddle for the block, but the rest of the flap is a mono

But this saddle had long tree points, and while Connor did everything I asked in it, I recognized that feeling I know well by now, where he'll begrudgingly do what I ask, but it's not as effortless to ask for or for him to perform as a given movement is when I ask for it bareback or in the CWD.

It was especially obvious in the reinback and ToH. The Jen of a year ago, less skilled and less certain in my convictions of what "right" feels like, might have settled for it. After all, he was Doing The Thing, right? But I stayed firm on my working theory: I knew he was capable of Doing The Thing more easily, more freely, and better. I pushed Kate to let me try something with more shoulder freedom.

She came back with a saddle that had short points and long gussets, and it took less than a minute. I walked, trotted and did a single reinback, and Kate said  "Wow, I see it! I just got goosebumps, that reinback! I know exactly what you're talking about now, you're exactly right about the short points and shoulder freedom." 

She didn't have many saddles with her because this wasn't an actual saddle fitting trip, but she knew one of my teammates had a saddle with short points and short gussets, and she ran out to ask if she could borrow it.

Teammate just happens to be 5'2 and maybe 120lbs so it wasn't an awful fit for me

For the first time in this whole saddle search, the angels actually sang, for both of us, when I rode in my teammate's saddle. Every single movement I asked for was effortless. His breastplate stayed up with almost no effort. Kate was practically cheering. "This is why I make such a point to really listen to the rider, you know your horse better than anyone," she said. "I live for these moments."

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

Afterward, I told her Mary's parting words to me which were "Don't let that fitter sell you a saddle with long tree points," and Kate said "She was right. I normally cringe when I see French saddles because they're often fitted poorly, but Mary knows what she's doing, the fit of your jump saddle is brilliant. If she ever wants to get back into saddle fitting, I would give her a job and train her. She's good." 

Side note, I was low-key anxious Kate was going to tell me the CWD didn't fit and I would have, I dunno, thrown myself off a building if she had. So the fact that she approved of its fit so thoroughly felt AMAZING. I can continue joking I would sell this horse before I sold this saddle.

Hearing all that from one of the best fitters in the country (objectively - she's certified in the UK through a many year process on saddle fitting that we don't have an equivalent for in the US) felt so, so, SO good - that Mary's brilliance was recognized by an accomplished pro, that Mary and I were both right, and that I wasn't crazy for sticking with #dressageinajumpsaddle this long and standing up for my horse.

"Short gusset" refers to the pillowy looking thing on the front of the saddle not going down as far as it could.

So in the end, what did Connor need?

  • Short tree points, to give the big meaty part of his shoulder as much room as possible to push back as each foreleg swings back toward the tail
  • Short front gusset, for less bulk behind the shoulder
  • No point billet. His billets need to come off of the waist of the saddle straight down to an anatomic girth because of where his girth groove is and how much he hates his shoulder being restricted. We only did up the point billets in the demo saddles enough to keep them from getting in the way of my feet, the only tight billet was the rear one.
  • Short-ish seat. I joke he's a dachshund, but he's still a pony with a relatively short back.
  • Serge panels, to allow for maximum give again for his shoulders, among other benefits

An example of a serge panel, which is entirely wool on the underneath of the panels. They are warmer in the winter, don't get damaged by sweat like leather panels, conform better to the horse's back and most interestingly, they can be directly adjusted through the panel using tools, which I thought was cool.

 

And in the end, what did I need?

  • Velcro blocks on a monoflap - non-negotiable. See previous statement re: commitment issues and also my barrel-shaped horse and my short little legs.
  • A stupid short flap. I don't know what the actual length will end up being, but she's taking a ton off the bottom and front of the flap as shown on my teammate's saddle above. I think my exact words were "What's the shortest we can go without causing problems anywhere?"
  • A well-balanced saddle and a good fitter that understands biomechanics and Dressage riders and will come to this farm twice a year to adjust it

That's it. That's all I needed.

 

My saddle is going to have a lot less of that useless extra bit of flap sticking out down there, since I have shorter femurs than this teammate, and I also have a pony instead of the imported 16hh+ WB this saddle was made for.

I spent the rest of Tuesday designing it (since it's custom, there's one flat fee and no upcharges on anything you can dream of - this is harder than it sounds!), plunked down a deposit, and now we wait approximately 8-10 weeks, COVID-willing.

I have more thoughts on this, but this post is long enough! I am SO EXCITEDS!!!

38 comments:

  1. OMG! This is so exciting! I think I would seriously struggle with unlimited options for design. Can't wait to see what you decided!!

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    1. It's hard! My brain was at first like "OMG GLITTER" but I think I'm restraining myself, lol.

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  2. How awesome!!!! Can't wait to see the finished product!!

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    1. Me too! I am not sure how I'll get through the next two months, haha.

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  3. So exciting! Looking forward to seeing what you design.

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    1. Thanks! I wish they had a configurator so I could show you, but it'll just have to wait.

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  4. I can't believe your dressage saddle journey is finally over! Well not over-over, since it's not here yet, but YOU FOUND IT 🥳

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  5. That's so interesting! Turns out Bast needs a lot of similar things. We found it in a CWD made for a sport pony, lol. Just need to fix the point billet into a regular to make it perfect, but the short points make a big difference!

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    1. Haha! I'm so happy for you! You know CWD still has my heart even after all that with the Dressage saddle. I do wonder if more horses than we realize have an issue with long points and most riders just aren't as thorough enough (read: stupid enough) to try enough saddles to realize there's a difference. I also realize it's very much a horse anatomy thing, something with straight shoulders might not care as much. But it's an interesting thought. Mary will RAIL about how stupid Dressage saddle design is, lol. Even this one, her exact words were "grumble grumble still a Dressage saddle but the best fit I've ever seen on him anyway..."

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  6. So glad that two saddles magically appeared and things are going so well for you! Connor is looking really good and your dressage progress has been so great to read about. I have to admit, though, your blog posts sound really busy - I mean, when do you and Connor sleep?? :)

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    1. Haha, an astute observation! I keep asking myself if this year feels wild because last year we did literally nothing or if it's because this year really is wild. The pandemic showed me there is no guaranteed tomorrow, and with Connor being 15, I am really hitting the YOLO thing hard. But that said, I'm being as fair to him as I can be also, and he's happier and healthier than ever. I am missing out on some sleep though...

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  7. Woot! Finding the right saddle is an awesome feeling !

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  8. What an awesome conclusion to your search! I'm dying for Mary to look at my saddles now...

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    1. She would - no lie - look at your saddles in exchange for you letting her jump Archie.

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  9. Man. I'm with you on the saddle fitter thing in the US! I'm beyond excited for you, though! What a RELIEF to find "the one'!!!

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    1. Yeahhhhhh you may remember my "Thoughts on Saddle Fitting" post from a year and a half ago when I was at the height of my fitting extravaganza. Fitting in the US is brokeeeeeeeeee. More on that later!

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  10. This is awesome. Almost like it's meant to be.

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    1. It does finally feel that way, and it never felt like that for any of the other saddles I tried. As nebulous of a concept as that is, it does still give me the confidence to pull the trigger.

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  11. Way to stick to your guns! My wide Connemara clearly preferred the synthetic passier tree to the regular one. I didn't really get why flexible tree material would make her happier, but now I see the points are also shorter - that makes more sense! I do wonder about the point billet pulling it forward, so it's good to hear that repeated. Thanks for sharing your journey! Congratulations on a saddle that is uncompromisingly what you want AND need!!

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    1. Yeah, it can be so hard to isolate exactly what they like and don't like. Honestly, it was the Bua that gave me the confidence to finally say "I know this short tree point thing is it". Even though I hated that saddle for myself, the fact that it had no points and the fact that he went as well as the CWD and bareback pad in it made it very clear that it was nothing to do with the tree (since the Bua is nowhere near a normal tree!) and everything to do with the points. Uncompromising is the right word!

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  12. Ahhhh!!!! YAY!!!! Finally! So happy for you! I can't wait to see all the fun options you choose! Side note, the custom saddlery rep near me is also a certified master saddle fitter, and she's amazing. So nice to have access to people who really do know what they're doing!

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  13. Congrats! I know the relief is great. Flaps for short legs is a game changer. I could finally feel Roscoe with my new saddle. Can't wait to see it.

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  14. OMG, this is AMAZING news!!! Can't wait to see it!

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  15. Wonderful! I feel like our wish lists are identical and our ponies want the same thing. Interestingly, when I had our semi local SMS fitter out a couple of years ago, she said exactly the same things re: the tree points, the point billets, and the length of the saddle. Unfortunately, she didn’t know of any brands that would do all of that for me and she ended up modifying the billet location on my existing saddle as a compromise. I’m going to forward her your post!

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  16. OMIGOSHES! I am practically jumping up and down squealing in excitement for you and Connor and your new PRECIOUS!!! So awesome. Cannot wait to see how well y'all work with the new unicorn dressage saddle. Thanks for sharing the epic hunt for this saddle.

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  17. SO EXCITING!! Also I now want to meet this fitter bc she sounds amazing. I can't wait to see how you customized your new saddle!!

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  18. Can't wait to see it! Glad you finally found something that works for you guys.

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    1. Good to see blogspot still effin hates me - Amanda C

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  19. Congrats! I really hope this saddle finally works out for you. I'm glad you got to ride in saddles to make sure it was what you wanted, that is what always make me so nervous about custom when companies want you to order a model that you haven't gotten to actually see or ride in.

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  20. That is AWESOME! The horse I had before Lance was a prince and pea horse; he was SO HARD to fit. The saddle couldn't be too long or he didn't like where it put pressure on his back. NO point billets to pull the saddle down into his shoulder 'pockets.' Serge panels were a must. Etc. I needed the education he gave me; fortunately Lance wasn't as hard to fit and so far Stella isn't, either.

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  21. Awesome!! I can't wait to see you riding in it!

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  22. Way to stick to your guns on this one! I am so glad you found your unicorn saddle for your unicorn!!

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  23. Yay yay yay!!!! Well done all of you <3

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