Fitting Follow Up: More In the Saddle Saga Series

In case you’re new to the story, I’m dealing with a multitude of #saddefitissues and working to find a solution for myself and my horses. You can read the first two installments in the saddle fitting series here: Part 1 and Part 2.

After the saddle fitting, I realized a few very important things.

1. My horses all went somewhat to a lot better in the wool saddles than in my other saddles (air and foam).

2. Sky and Tyler both definitely need a chiropractic adjustment because Sky was willing to move forward finally, but still stiff. And Tyler still never had that a-ha moment with saddle fit, so we were back to the drawing board.

3. Even Duke was more responsive in the wool saddle, so I wanted to see how it would actually feel to ride in it for a hunter pace, galloping through fields and over varying terrain and jumps.

Thanks to Allison and the entire County Saddlery team, I had two saddles to use for the time being, and a third on the way. A narrow tree County Solution to use on Sky (and perhaps Tyler), and a medium tree County Solution for use on Duke and Max, and then my favorite, the medium tree County Solution in the H/J flatter seat. All were forward flaps that hopefully would fit my leg, even in the hunt field. But before I did any more riding, a chiropractic visit was in order.

County Saddlery demo saddle

OMG what’s in the box? Another saddle to try? It’s like Christmas!

Based on the recommendations of quite a few friends, I called Dr. Lean Van Blarcom, a certified equine, canine and even human chiropractor that would do a full analysis on my horses. We scheduled an appointment for the following day and focused on Sky and Tyler, my two biggest issues.

She started by looking at saddle fit on Sky on the cross ties, and felt the narrow was likely a better fit than the medium, which was in line with what Allison had said. So we tacked up with the narrow County Solution and we headed out to the ring. We did a little bit of walk, trot, canter, but she immediately pointed out that Sky was weaker in his right hind leg, stiff in left hip, and that basically his entire pelvis and lower back was locked up.

I hopped off, and we headed back to the barn to untack and work on the adjustment. She started with his poll and worked her way along his body down to the tip of his tail. The entire process with Sky took about an hour, as she was incredibly thorough. By the time she was done, she had us walk on the lead, and the difference was tremendous!

Next, we moved on to Tyler. Dr. Leah immediately felt that the narrow saddle was a big no and too tight on his shoulders, and suggested we try the medium. In putting that saddle on, he nearly bit me and was quite agitated, so we went back to the narrow. That also got the same results as soon as I tried to cinch up the girth, which was frustrating because I had just ridden him the other day for Allison.

Dr. Leah Equine Chiropractor

Dr. Leah works on adjusting Tyler

Off with the saddle, and Dr. Leah started to work on him to see if there was something else going on. Sure enough, he had ribs out towards the top/front that explained why it didn’t matter what was on his back — he was flat out in pain. She went on to adjust him and instead of watching him move under saddle, we just did a few walks on the lead to check in on the changes. After she was done, he was better, but still sore and she cautioned me that ribs can be sore for several days after so he may just need some time.

We agreed that riding right now probably wasn’t the best idea, and Tyler was relieved to go back out with his friends. Still no answer on what saddle works best for him, but Dr. Leah was leaning towards the medium tree or perhaps a medium-narrow (the one size we didn’t try with Allison) and suggested I revisit in several days to a week once he was less sore.

So that was all interesting — a week of rest of Tyler and still no clear answers on saddle fit, and a major adjustment for Sky and back to work in a few days. Now, on to the hunter pace!

County Saddlery at Windy Hollow Hunt hunter pace

Duke getting ready in the demo County Saddle for the final spring season hunter pace.

It was the last hunter pace of the season, and Duke was a rock star. The day was clear and sunny, and we met up with our friends to ride out together. We covered just under nine miles in northern New Jersey/Orange County, New York that day in the open hunt division with quite a few jumps, and Duke felt better than ever.

Interestingly, about two miles in as we started to really get into our groove and gallop some fences and fields, I realized my usual stirrup length was far too long. The trial saddle fit my horse so much better that I felt even more wrapped around him than in the past, which also meant my “regular” stirrup length felt too long. Cool!

I checked and he still had plenty of wither clearance, so I upped my stirrups by two holes, and I had better saddle clearance than ever before. YAY! Only now my leg was off the front of the saddle … not so yay. Well, we went for it anyway and finished out the pace, expecting to be fully sore from the stirrup length change. The results were that not only were my legs not sore because the stirrup length was where it should have been all along, but that it confirmed I really did need a high forward flap. Thank you, awkward leg.

action shot of saddle fit while hunter pacing

Action shot! Checking saddle fit while hunter pacing.

So still no answer on Tyler, and now to search for options that would work for me. On to the next phase … the #sisterhoodofthetravelingsaddles as the #saddlefitsaga continues! Next I’m heading down to visit friends in Virginia on my way to the Great Meadow International and Nations Cup with all three saddles in tow: the French foam saddle, the air panel saddle and one of the County Solutions — a medium tree forward flap H/J model.

I’ll be riding several friends’ horses that I’ve never ridden before to see how they all react and will follow up with you guys soon. And then hopefully when I am back, I can get in one final fitting with Allison to see what saddle really works best for Tyler after his short R&R break. Stay tuned for more!