March 11, 2012

Dressage saddle fitting for Kasane

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Day started early. I was at up at 7:45, tried to go back to sleep, dozed until 8:15. At the barn to meet the farrier by 9:30. Groomed Kasane and Prize and then had their feet trimmed. The farrier said that both of them had great feet, so that is always good news. No thrush (foot disease), no strange cracks, no blemishes. Just good strong feet.

We had a full house today with two students at the barn for lessons at the same time I was ready to work Kasane. I free lunged Kasane in the small ring behind the barn. Initially she was very good but then got a wild hair and took off at a canter, bucked my way a few times, stopped in the corners, took off when I approached, and then bucked some more… She was obviously feeling good. When she does things like that, I will work with her to try and get her to cooperate. Some times she calms down, other times she gets too excited. Today was one of those days, so I put her on the lunge line and we went did walk, trot, canter on the line. She was very good (except for one little bit when she pulled on the lunge line). I took the line off and asked her to go around again, and she did. No more stopping in the corners. Poor little girl was breathing pretty hard by the time we had finished lunging.

I put the dressage saddle on then and we just walked around the small ring. We trotted a few times around but mostly focused on walking and bending. After a little while, I went into the big ring with one of the other students and rode around at a walk and a little bit at a trot. Kasane seemed reluctant to back when asked — not like her. Normally when you ask her to back up, she slides back evenly. This time she was braced / tight in her movement. I asked her to pivot on her forehand, which she did, and then we stopped (ending on a good note). I rode for about 30 minutes, the longest ride we’ve had since she’s been healing.

At that point it was time to load up and go to the saddle fitting appointment at tack shop. The barn owner and I took Kasane and Missy for a fitting. They behaved very well — surprising, considering there were cows in the field near the ring where I turned Kasane out. She had never seen cows before up close. She looked at them, snorted. And went back to grazing. Definitely not phased. Maybe I have a future cow horse. Who knows?

Kasane had never had the dressage saddle fitted to her. I had thought the Courbette Magic dressage saddle fit Kasane well, but the saddle fitter, Dennis, discovered otherwise. He did tracings of her withers, measurements, etc. When he placed my saddle on Kasane, he noted that it wasn’t balanced very well for her. It tipped back. The billets where the girth attach are too far back and therefore don’t let the saddle sit properly when the girth is attached. This can cause the saddle to move and shift.

Sure enough, when Dennis felt around Kasane’s back, her right scapula was sore and her back on the right side and left side where the end of the saddle sits were also sore. She flinched away from his finger pressure. Poor girl.

This was all a huge surprise. I really thought my saddle had fit her pretty well. Normally, saddles can be customized to fit a horse by reflocking the wool underneath a saddle in the panels — if the saddle is flocked with wool. My Courbette dressage saddle has foam so nothing can be done. The billets could be readjusted but it would be very expensive. the saddle would still have to be padded to fill in areas with shims in a saddle pad. These aren’t good options for the long term comfort of her back. The panel length under the saddle is too long (20 inches). Kasane is short backed and should have a saddle that is 18-19 inches in panel length that are not gusseted.

Basically right now I don’t have a saddle that fits her. My all purpose saddle has the same tree as the dressage saddle. However, it’s flocked with wool, so something can be done with the tree. (The billets are different in the saddle so that should help.) I left my all purpose with Dennis. He’s going to call me with an estimate for reflocking the saddle (which involves removing all of the padding on the saddle panels, refilling them to customize them to Kasane’s back shape).

We tried some of the saddles in the shop on Kasane, used and new. The two saddles that fit my but and had short enough panels were the Prestige Venus K Monoflap (drool) and Prestige Gallileo. I sat in a lot of saddles and the only ones that fit my seat were the two Prestige. I definitely preferred the monoflap.

Saddles are very expensive. A “cheap” dressage saddle is $1,000. When you buy a saddle for a horse and have it custom fit to the horse, then you are making an investment in the both the soundness of your horse and in the saddle itself. A well made saddle lasts decades with proper care. My Zaldi all purpose is over 20 years old, and barely looks used. My Ashely and Clarke saddle that Mom has was given to me when I was 13 and still looks great. I take good care of my saddles and tack.

With saddles, in general, you get what you pay for. Besides the cost of the horse, the saddle is the next biggest cost. I’ve been very lucky with the saddles I found for Isis. Right now, I have to go to the various tack shops and sit in all fo the saddles. Find the models that fit me and will fit Kasane. Then I start looking for used saddles that are more reasonably priced.

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