Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saddle Fits Horse... Hooray!

So the saddle arrived in excellent condition, and has been sitting on it's rack in the living room looking oh so inviting and sittable. I've been getting to know it and investigating things such as how much pressure it takes to raise the off side flap hinge (quite a bit), and how the stirrup release works. It came with a nice side saddle stirrup, but I put the safety stirrup I bought two years ago on it instead. Hey look! I now have side saddle "spare parts"!

It came with a balance strap, but no girth. I wanted to get it on the horse first before deciding what length girth to order. In fact, I think I will order two different lengths of string girths for everyday use and decide which length works best before investing in a three fold leather girth.

All week I have been dreaming at night that I was riding side saddle. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking the saddle won't fit the horse and I will have to go through reflocking hassles. You see, coming from a Saddle Seat background, I am not accustomed to all the saddle fit fuss. Saddle Seat saddles come in one tree. Flat. In fact, they pretty darn near come in one size. Adult. I've never had back problems with any horse using your standard Lane Fox saddle made by a good saddle company.

So all I've heard about side saddle fit and flocking has me pretty anxious. And since there are no saddlers around here, unless you count Amish harness makers, I'll have to send it out if I want an adjustment. And if I'm going to send it out, I may as well send it to Lillian since she reconditioned and repaired it and knows it well. And I'm not too keen on the idea of sending this saddle all the way back across the country now that I finally have it.

Today is one of those bleary, damp, snowy, blowy, greasy, yucky days. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole drive to the barn. I was finally going to put MY side saddle on MY horse. Oh the agony! When I got to the barn, I found my horse soaking wet from playing in the snow. It's 25 degrees outside! What is he doing soaking wet? It makes me cold just thinking about it. So I brought him in and toweled him until he was merely damp (and stinky).

I had already sorted out a non-elastic saddle seat girth, a girth extender, and a martingale loop to keep the balance strap in place. I saddled him up and was relieved to find that the saddle fits him pretty much the same as my hunt seat saddle. To my amateur saddle fitter's eye, the gullet looks fine, the tree is a good width, and the saddle is not bridging. Lillian has done a lovely job balancing it, and it sits level left to right. If anything, it sits a bit up hill, but it could be that I have it a touch too far forward.

Mr. William Pendleton is unimpressed with this new piece of equipment. It's uniqueness is lost on him.

"Woo Hoo. A saddle."

"Just Kidding"

I removed the stirrup, and put his bridle on for longeing. I want him to get used to the balance strap (which I've left loose) and I want to watch how the saddle behaves on his back. I longe him first one way, then stop to tighten the balance strap a notch or two. It seems much looser than I intended.

I reversed him and let him trot, then asked him to canter. He offers to buck and play as usual and I tell him not too. He feels the balance strap, but doesn't seem to mind much. I stop him and take it up two more notches. It is now snug but I can easily slip my fingers under.

After about 10 minutes I brought him back in and check the saddle from every angle. It hasn't moved one bit. I had the girth tight, and tightened it twice while longing him, but I did not have it REALLY tight as I might if I were going to ride. I'll do this again next weekend, to let us both get familiar with the saddle, and then we'll try actual riding.


  1. Just a few things about fit...
    I'm going to assume the tree size is correct. The saddle should not sit level from right to left, but should sit slightly higher on the left side than the right dismounted.
    You are correct that the saddle is riding uphill, and you shouldn't try riding in it with its present fit. You need to get that cantle level with some additional padding; try wool felt or firm closed cell but don't use foam or a lollipop pad. For some good illustrative photos see Leila's blog, sidesaddle@blogspot. Shims are a temporary measure only and not a substitute for correct flocking. What part of the country are you in? There are more sidesaddle resources around than you think!
    You've found a quality saddle but it's going to need some tweaking to make it truely ridable. I suspect that if you ride this saddle as it presently sits you will find yourself tipping to the near side as well as slumping forward to counteract the saddle fit. You may also find yourself leaning over to the off side.
    Best to get the saddle properly fitted sooner than later to avoid ingraining any bad posture habits.
    Very nice horse; get started correctly and you're in for a great time aside.

  2. Addendum: (having just seen that you are in NY)You should check out Side Saddle Heaven in MA. First of all, Sue Tobin is my goto gal for sidesaddle fit, and second, she is an ASB afficianado. I don't know how far you are from Mass, but it might be worth driving to meet her and/or Gail for fitting and instruction. Also look into New England Aside.

  3. Thank you for the contact idea. I'll be going slowly and working this out as I go. MA is a good day's drive to get to, but the postage would be cheaper!!!

  4. I'm so glad you got your saddle. I just went to a saddle fitting clinic sponsered by Ledgewood equine vet. Kate Wilson was the speaker and a certified saddle fitter. Her web site is She may be alot closer to you if you needed any tips. Rochester NY is where the clinic was, so i assume she's in the area.
    Happy ridding
    PS Love "the Grey Horse" He's very smart.