Fitting a saddle to an old back

Fitting a saddle to an old back

Like all of us, we want the best for our horses. Bodie has the vet on Tuesday and I completely understand the value of professional opinion and diagnosis, so although I have asked my friends for advice, for my own peace of mind I just want to make sure I have done everything before I start upping the demands.

I popped a message in the Ashtree group page to see if anyone could recommend a saddle fitter. I was really fortunate that one was coming out this Saturday and Rach kindly gave up her space for us to go in. I felt really guilty because I have actually already had a saddle fitter out in July. The saddle fitter that I had commented on her withers being so thin due to topline muscle wastage. It doesn't matter how much I do or what I do that topline is unlikely to ever return. Old age, is old age and you can't reverse the effects.

Sophie Sperling came out to see Bodie on Saturday (10th October). I explained that she had a buck and a bronk when I asked for canter, I also explained that she is a really resilient horse and despite pain she will do her best to continue what is asked of her. Sophie immediately said 'I think I already know what it is' (this was without even looking at her saddle). Sophie took all her measurements and showed the diagram of what Bodie looked like. Yes, Bodie is thin at the top due to muscle wastage, but she also explained that although she has muscle wastage, she isn't actually a thin horse.

When Sophie opened up my saddle she was disappointed to see that there was a yellow (the narrowest bar) in her saddle. She took the bar out and placed it on Bodie, she explained how due to the bar being short and so narrow it was actually impinging on Bodie's movement because it was pressing down into her. Bodie was in a yellow bar with a prolite (borrowed, thank you Ness!) and this was of no benefit to Bodie, logic might dictate that Bodie has a thin back where she has lost top line and therefore to make the saddle fit that area, but actually it doesn't fit from the top of her rib cage downwards. Sophie put Bodie back into a 'wide' bar (TWO bars up!), this is the bar that Bodie first had when I originally bought the saddle. Sophie also put shimmies in the saddle to 'fillet' it out a bit, threw the prolite away, rearranged my saddle straps and even my knee blocks when I was riding. Sophie was really empathetic and explained everything to a degree that even I could understand. In my head the saddle seemed a much more natural fit, I guess I felt a bit perched previously and when I rode (for all of about 5 minutes because I then chickened out) I felt I was sitting much deeper, we even had a little canter.

When the previous saddle fitter came out, the bar she was putting in was getting narrower and narrower, I am so clueless I guess I just took what she was saying as gold. There were a few remarks made such as 'oh it's a synthetic saddle' and 'when are you going to retire her?' it got my back up slightly, but she had years of experience and felt I could trust her. I think deep down inside part of me questioned it, which is why I wanted to get another saddle check. It might not have been the reason for the bucking/bronking but I can't imagine it helped, my saddle has had some hefty alterations on this occasion, there was no judgement passed about my synthetic saddle, my fetal position riding or questioning why I am riding an aged horse over jumps.

Next step, the vet.

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