I may have finally found a saddle for Jewell. I am taking great care to ensure the saddle does fit her properly because: 1) She had some chiropractic issues when I got her 2 1/2 years ago; 2) She had been bucking people off (understandably); 3) She has not been in work for 3 years so her muscles and top line will change once she is in regular work undersaddle. So, I am investing in having a professional saddle fitter assess the saddle and will have it restuffed if necessary. Of course, as her shape changes with the work, I will have the saddle assessed again in a few months to see if any changes need to be made. It is so important to keep her back healthy – both for her sake and my butt.
Even though Jewell has been worked in a surcingle, she still had some concerns about having a saddle on her back. So, when I brought the saddle home on trial, I introduced it to her very compassionately. Since Jewell lives out with a herd and I have not worked her since the fall, I wanted to keep her stress level low. I brought her into a small enclosure beside her paddock so that she was still near her herd. I spent a while grooming her ensuring she was relaxed and trusting me. She was fine until I picked up the saddle. It was only then that she wanted to move away from me. I took the time to bring her into a calm shape – level neck and bending around me – and recognized her need to move by pushing her around me in a small circle while I carried the saddle on one arm (thank goodness it’s an English saddle!) It only took 3 or 4 attempts before she stood still while I raised the saddle up and gently placed it on her back. She showed some tension in her neck even though she was level and being respectful to my space. By lifting it on and off another 3 or 4 times always paying attention to her shape and recognizing how she was feeling, it didn’t take long for her to be okay, relaxed and comfortable with the saddle up there. Being a bit pressed for time, that was all we did the first day. But, I could at least see that the saddle appeared to fit.
The next day, she was not at all concerned about the saddle going on her back and let me girth it up without any stress. Again, I took my time & did not make any assumptions that she would be ok with this process. It was another short session, but the saddle was on & she walked around comfortably & relaxed.
Day three, because there were strong, cools winds blowing, I brought Jewell into the barn to groom and tack up. Cool as a cucumber she was! Lead her out to the sand ring (without getting blown away) and did a few minutes of lunging to assess how the saddle sits and where any pressure points might be. Her behaviour is a testament to this work (thank you Chris Irwin). Even with the bad weather, not having done any work since late last summer and being in the ring by herself, this previously highly anxious, untrusting mare was good as gold. Even if the saddle ends up not being the right one for Jewell, going through this process was worth it just to see how far she has come.
When was the last time you checked your horse’s saddle fit? Your horse’s shape will change depending on the quantity and type of work he does and his age. Investing in a visit from a good saddle fitter who can assess the saddle’s fit and do any repairs based on that assessment may save you the cost of chiropractic or massage therapy or from having an unhappy, unsound horse.
I have booked an appointment with an independent saddle fitter to give me an assessment of this particular saddle on Jewell and to get tracings of her back. Stay tuned for the next update on our progress.