I was able to ride Remy for about 2 weeks in Liam’s saddle, and in that very short time I could see his muscles already building along the sides of his withers. Liam’s saddle is a Wintec Isabell with a medium-narrow gullet plate installed. Remy seemed comfortable, and I felt better on him, but I still was struggling to find an effortless balance, instead using muscular strength and effort to hold my position as we trotted around. The saddle was better, but still not right.
I scoured the internet, reading whatever I could find about saddle fit and rider balance, and browsing used saddles everywhere. I couldn’t decide what direction to go or what to try next. Then Tack of the Day featured Collegiate saddles, deeply discounted. The dressage saddle they were selling, the Levanto model, was one that I had looked at and liked, but the retail price was just a little more than I really wanted to spend. And there it was, the deal of the day!
I had a quick mental debate. So far, I had many fitting fails. But, I also now owned just about every available type of corrective pad. And, at the price the saddle was offered, if I really couldn’t get it to work I could just resell it. I bit my lip and rolled the dice. I had to wait an entire week waiting for the new saddle to arrive, but every day that I struggled to ride in the Isabell, I was more confident that I needed to at least try something else.
Finally the saddle arrived, smelling of new leather. It was soft and had a nice grip to it, even before being conditioned. The seat has memory foam in it, and doesn’t need any breaking in. When I sat it on Remy, first without a saddle pad to evaluate the fit, I wasn’t sure. It didn’t look bad… but it didn’t look perfect either. But being a new saddle, it was stiff, and every time I wiggled it, it seemed to sit differently. I couldn’t decide, so I added a saddle pad and girth and climbed aboard for the moment of truth.
All I can say is…. WOW! As soon as I sat down, I felt like the saddle had been custom-made for my seat. I settled right into the sweet spot, and just felt balanced and at ease. I found it effortless to sit up straight, and effort was required to lean forward or back any. My leg hung under me just where I wanted it, and again without any effort on my part. I felt so secure in the saddle, at first I wondered if I’d even be able to get out of it to post! Instantly, my confidence climbed up a few notches, and it couldn’t have come on a better day. The big arena door was open for the first time this spring, and the wind was whipping through. In addition to that, a new load of sand for the arena had been delivered, and sat in a huge pile in the newly open door.
Remy, of course, has the best mind any 5 year old ottb could possibly have, and when I showed him the sand pile he only wanted to play in it. So as I rode him by, I wasn’t expecting any big dramatic reaction, but still enjoyed the new-found security I felt in the new saddle just in case his 5 year old brain decided to kick in. It didn’t.
After we walked around a few minutes, I asked him to trot. This would be the ultimate test, as previous saddles had failed because he refused to trot in them. He took a few hesitant steps, then I swear broke into a big smile as he gave the saddle two thumbs up and trotted out bigger than ever! Not only did he trot confidently forward, swinging freely over his back and reaching with his long, gangly legs… I sat up and posted, easily in balance, comfortably seated in the middle of the saddle and stable over my legs. It took only the effort that posting a big-mover trot takes. We trotted around, and I felt a whole new kind of forward thinking, forward moving horse under me. Soon I realized that he was actually puffing before I was! Finally, I could balance and HE could do the work!
Needless to say, I’m keeping the saddle. I know saddle fit is important, but it just blows me away how two saddles that both appear to fit reasonably well can ride so totally differently. Having a saddle the horse is comfortable in is part of the equation, as I felt by the improvement in Remy’s gait and willingness to go forward. But having a saddle that I feel balanced in is incredible, both in my comfort and effectiveness in the saddle, and in my confidence that I could stay centered over any unexpected movement he might pull.
After a delightful ride on Remy, I popped the new saddle on Liam, hoping it might work for both horses. It looked like it sat better on Liam than on Remy, but as soon as I sat in the saddle I felt a difference. It was not uncomfortable in any way, but I didn’t feel like I sat right down into the sweet spot in the saddle like I had on Remy. A short trot around, and I felt very “eh” about it. I think Liam keeps the Isabell. It was interesting that the same saddle could feel so different on two similar horses, but I guess the Isabell does too so it shouldn’t be so surprising.
Remy and I have had 3 great rides in the new saddle now, and lots of stuff is starting to fall into place finally. He is using his back better than ever, and I’m getting a much better connection into the bridle and a steadier contact. Our halt/walk/trot transitions are getting really good. 20 meter circles are going well, and I’ve started to mix in some 15 m circles as well. He can do a little leg yield and a little shoulder-in. The canter needs a lot of work still. I think he mostly needs to build the strength to carry it comfortably, so I’m not pushing it yet. He will pick it up, but he runs into it a bit still, and seems uncertain as he canters. He has the smoothest uphill canter I’ve ever felt on a green horse that hasn’t done much canter work, so I’m excited to work on it more, but for his sake I’m not rushing it. All in good time 🙂
Liam, unfortunately, as been very on and off lately. More off than on really. He had his ankle injected again, and he got some new shoes, but neither helped. The consensus is that the wildly changing spring weather is messing with the arthritis and pins in his ankle and that all I can do is give it time. Unfortunately, he’s now had 3 weeks pretty much off with just a few good days sprinkled in that we’ve done light rides. He had been doing so well I was really hoping to get the scores for my bronze medal this year, so my fingers are crossed that he is feeling better soon! Otherwise my entire show budget goes to Remy, and finally he is feeling up to the show ring challenge. Yep, spring is in the air, and show season is almost upon us… time to get excited!