Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can You Let It Out at the Shoulders a Bit?

It's a lovely saddle, really. Old, probably from the 40s or 50s according to a few different saddle tramps. Well made, too. I had Curt take a look at it to see if it was worth the proposed trade. "Whoever made this was a saddle maker," was his response after turning it around, looking it up one side and down the other. In Curt speak, that translates to a master craftsman.

The rigging is set far enough back that pressure isn't being pulled straight down from Sandy's shoulders and withers, which is a good deal. The gullet is high enough that it doesn't sit down on those same withers. The problem is the width of the gullet. Just 5", it pinches at the shoulders.


So in other words...as pretty as it is, the trade of my current saddle for this one is a no-go. Sigh...poor Sandy will be a pinto before I've found him a good fit, it would appear. He's roaning out over his back and his withers on both sides have huge white patches coming in from our ill fitting saddle.



I spent an hour with Curt the other morning in an attempt to better understand what Sandy and I needed. Because Sandy has big 'pockets' behind his shoulders where his back hollows out, saddles tend to slide back and put pressure further back on the shoulders. For instance, the photo above shows the shoulder spots, which are 2-3" behind where a 'normal' horse would have a saddle pinch. In addition, because he narrows out so much behind his shoulders, the saddle creates a bridge along his back, lifting up off his spine before coming to rest again above his loin.

Okay, so that much was easy to deduce on my own based on his white spots. However, how to best fit him has had me running blind. After tossing both the Billy Cook and the old Adams on his back, Curt had me put three different saddles that he'd custom made on top of Sandy's back. Two were no where close to the right fit. The third was as good as he said we would likely get. Rather than being narrow at the shoulders, which I'd misunderstood as something I needed to get lift off his withers, I needed wide. Wide and flared if I could find it. 7" minimum, but a little wider if it came along.

But wide alone isn't going to cut it for Sandy. No, he also needs high to accommodate his withers. Now, not only do I get to ask sellers if they can measure the width of the gullet of the saddle they've got listed, but I ask them to measure the height as well. Then I get emails saying "I have no clue what you're asking," as well as, "Who's your source? You can fix all problems with a good pad"...oye vey.

To help others help me, I took a couple of photos and have been sending them out to multiple ebay and craigslist sellers in an attempt to educate them and decide if their saddles will come even close to what I need.

The saddle below was measured at 7" wide, but it was measured from the outside of the leather. You need to measure from the inside, where the horse's shoulders are, in order to get an accurate measurement. When I got it home, it was too narrow. Note to self...always carry a tape measure when going to look at saddles!



So what's a Funky Backed Gelding to do? Well...Ideally I'd have the money to purchase the tree, have a saddle maker carve it out to fit Sandy's back, then send it back to have it wrapped in bullhide, then the saddle making process could begin. That's probably not going to happen.

Curt suggests we find some of that memory foam that will create good cushion and mold to Sandy's back until we can come up with what we need in a saddle.

I ask you...where would Sandy and I be without Curt?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh Tracy..... What is your budget... I MAY have the saddle you need, send me an email (Karyn 'KC' Cowdrey)

Mrs Mom said...

Tracey, I think your Sandy and my Sonny have a lot in common with their backs. Sandy however, is much more stoic than Sonny.

Thanks for posting about your saddle fitting journey here. I could not quite understand WHAT the problem was with my guy, and after reading your post, and taking a close look at Sandy;s back and Sonny's back, well, now I understand!

Thanks VERY much!!!!

Jeanette said...

Oh, boy...It's amazing what you learn when you have to tackle a problem like that. I don't know if it will help...K&S Saddlery in Spanaway (near Ft Lewis / Puyallup) has a real cool saddle fitting tool, The owner is a saddlemaker who seems to know his stuff and he may be able to help. When I was shopping I was able to find a quality used saddle in my budget that was PERFECT (even if information is all you gain, they've helped me tackle some saddling issues in the past). Also, I found this web site one day and saved it (like older quality saddles, they seemed to have quite a selection of them), Maybe they have some helpful information or a saddle that might work: http://www.paintedhillsranch.net/tack_shop.htm At the very least I bet they would understand the measurements you need. I truly hope you find the perfect fit...for Sandy and for you!!!

Linda Reznicek said...

I think he's corrrect. I've seen some great blankets that you can build up where you need the extra padding. I've heard the Wade tree design is supposed to fit almost any horse--it's the old cowboy fit. We bought a brand new Corriente saddle--wade tree, all leather, thick leather, easy to adjust stirrups, high back, bucking rolls--delivered to our door for $600 even. I have a friend who has a horse that sounds exactly like yours, and we took him to the biggest saddle shop in town here and nothing fit him. But with a decent saddle and built up pad, we did the best we could without doing what you said--custom fitting it.

Lea and her Mustangs said...

There is a saddle pad that has slots to put in shims. That is what I have to do with Dixie. She has high withers too. Keeps it up off her shoulders. Montana Saddlery carries them. I know thats not the best solition but I can't afford saddles for different horses and ours are all different. The horses.

Rising Rainbow said...

What about one of those parelli pads that fills with air after it's on the horse with the saddle on top. They're supposed to fill in the right places and even everything out. I have seen one in person, they look very amazing. I am thinking about getting one for Dandy, he is my saddle fitting challenge.

Tracey said...

Thank you for all the thoughts and suggestions. I've got a pad sent by Rick of Huckleberry Stables, the Timberline dealer, that has pockets with shims. Trouble is, they're not in quite the right place for Sandy or even Jet, for that matter. Pressure still builds up on the shoulder. I think along the back and only in the pockets is what we need to find.

In the meantime, my friend Debbie loaned me two saddles to try. One is a Crates which fits beautifully with one exception...it needs a 7" gullet. This one is just a wee narrow. She also loaned me a showman which has a nice wide gullet, but barely clears his withers. So far, however, it's the best fit we've tried.

froglander said...

Toklat makes a nice wool bad that is built up behind the shoulders with memory foam. Here is some information about it from their website: http://www.toklat.com/dyn_prod.php?p=40-6522G&k=87283 I like how this one shapes to the horses back better than the Pro Choice pad with the build up behind the shoulder. It's hard to fit horses with a build like that, often it needs to be a combination of saddle and pad to get things working right together. (I rode a mare once that preferred a saddle that was too wide-it sat down low in the front-but with a built up pad. She was happy in this, would go forward, do whatever you wanted, even though we had huge dry patches.)

Tracey said...

Thanks, Froglander. I've got that Toklat, but it doesn't do the trick for this particular horse, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that gaited horse saddles have roomier shoulders. I am no expert, and have no first hand knowledge, but it might be worth keeping an eye out for one. I'm not a saddle fitter, though; it's possible that roomier shoulders might just transfer the pressure to somewhere else if you don't get the rest of the saddle right. I'm sure it will end up being a saddle and pad issue.

photogchic said...

Having a hard to fit horse....flex-panel saddles are the only saddles that will work on my mare....there are lots of dealers in the area that will bring saddles out and let you see how they fit on the horse. My favorite is El Dorado. Ortho-flex, AmeraFlex...others all make a flex panel....not the same as flex tree. Good luck.

Shirley said...

A custom made saddle pad would be less expensive than a custom made saddle- just a thought... I also had a mare that had those hollows in the same area as Sandy. I had a saddle custom made for her by Brian's Saddle Shop (link on my blog) using a rawlide(fiberglass) tree. Mad all the difference, and fits many other horses too. We used a Bowman Roper tree.

Blackrock said...

I would definitely try a Parelli theraflex pad. Not only do they have the air system, but you can also put shims in (the front, middle or back, to adjust to your horse's needs). Nice pads, and really worth a try.