Saddle fitting

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After the riding lesson on Tuesday, I scheduled an extra lesson to fit the dressage saddles I’d located. I want to make sure whichever saddle I choose fits not only me, but also Isis. A new (or used) saddle is a big investment (“cheap” means under $500).

Arabians are notoriously hard to fit in saddles because they tend to have broad shoulders and round backs. Isis’ hunt saddle (made by Zaldi) is a wide saddle with a 32 cm tree. I found three saddles to try: an Albion Comfort (owned by one of the ladies at the barn), a Collegiate Jessica Dressage (brand new, at an excellent price), and a Courbette Magic Dressage. Of these, the Albion is probably the highest quality saddle. It’s beautifully made and comfortable to sit in on the saddle rack. The saddle has a wide twist, which I’m not crazy about (feels like you’re sitting on a log).

The Jessica is a brand new saddle that was on clearance at a local tack shop for a great price. Collegiate saddles are reasonable starter saddles. Reasonable workmanship and quality that will last if you take care of it. The saddle tag said “wide” so I brought it to the barn. I later discovered that the stirrup bar had a handwritten note that said “XW” — extra wide.

The Courbette Magic saddle arrived on Tuesday evening. It was waiting for me when I got home from my lesson. It’s a nice quality saddle. I’m pleased with how it looks. The workmanship seems good. The underside panels on the saddle have foam instead of wool flocking. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It means you can’t restuff or adjust the saddle to the shape of a horse’s back.

My instructor and I sat in all of the saddles on Isis. We have one that is a definite contender.

I went to Rockin’ B before the lesson so I could try their saddles. Boy do they have a great selection! I found a Collegiate Jessica Dressage that I brought back to try. The saddle said that it was wide — when I got back I disocvered that it was extra wide (marked on the stirrup bars). When we put the Jessica on Isis, it was too wide and rocked me forward in the saddle. Isis also wasn’t happy in the saddle.

The Albion saddle was also too wide both for me and for Isis. The saddle (with the wide twist especially) didn’t feel like I was sitting next to the horse. It’s too bad, really, because it’s a nice saddle.

DSCN0868.JPGThe Courbette Magic actually fit the best. It fit a little high on the front. Once the girth was on and I was mounted, the saddle felt perfectly. My instructor mentioned that we’ll need to watch the saddle’s fit as Isis’ weight shifts. If she regains all of her old weight it might not fit as well. (If the tree adjust like it is supposed to, then that might not matter.) The saddle was very comfortable on Isis and it felt like it positioned me the best. My instructor rode in it and really liked it too.

We did talk about the foam panels. It’s the one thing about the saddle I’m not crazy about. However, it’s also not exactly an expensive saddle. If it lasts me a few years without trouble with the foam, then it’s worth while.

I’m going to get a saddle pad for the Courbette. I’ve already transferred my irons from the cross country saddle. I’ll ride in the saddle this weekend and see how Isis and I do in it.

I have to make a final decision on the Courbette by Tuesday.

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