Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cranio & saddle fitting: part 1

This is the post I was supposed to write on Thursday.  I had a really lovely Thursday morning with a local-ish saddlefitter & craniosacral lady.  I think she's excellent and well worth the cost, she doesn't rep a particular saddle, and she didn't try to talk me into anything.

For reference: a semi-square, sort-of straight conformation shot.  I think her back has dropped over the past few years; I don't know if that's an age thing, a topline thing, a saddle fitting thing, or a combination of all of the above.  She has more wither than she used to.  (But on comparison to a 2013 photo, not very much more, so I won't panic.)

We started off by looking at the Eurolight.  She acknowledged that she's not a Specialized fitter, I admitted I've never had an actual Specialized fitter come out to fit the saddle, and we carried on fiddling in various directions.  Previous shim/pad setup: no shims, 3/4" fitting pads, slight outward flare to pads in front.  Sweat patterns have been good.  Saddle moves 1-2" forward AND 1-2" backward during any ride with substantial hill - so at the bottom of a downhill, I can fit my whole hand in the sweatmark behind the saddle.  Not ideal.

I was actually quite impressed by the difference shifting the pads up a half-inch, back, or forwards made.  No shims, just the same pads.  Moving them alllll the way up top (essentially narrowing the gullet) led to excellent shoulder clearance

I feel like the front-to-back balance isn't entirely correct here.  I know I felt like I was sitting WAY back - while it looked to be a good fit for the horse, it was not so much a good fit for me with the way the pads were.  This might be fixable with thicker or thinner fitting pads, but the conclusion we pretty much came to was that I should readjust it back to how it's been.

Unfortunately, she also had me try to point me knees and toes forward in a proper neutral seat rather than the outward-pointing I default to in the Eurolight.  My knee hits the front D-rings.  It really is too small for me. This is not good news. 
In a sense, though, it is good news.  I've been fighting to canter correctly in this saddle all year.  Even just sitting, my knees rotate out and my toes correspondingly rotate out. I'm not physically capable of getting my thighs onto the saddle.  My lower leg ends up unstable and unable to easily support me in a balanced canter.  The trot is fine, but I'm sure it's not doing me any favors long-term, and it might come back to bite me over a longer distance.  It's not me.  It's not something I'm doing.  I'm fighting the saddle, and I cannot win.

So.  Anyone have a 16" Eurolight - heck, I might even go for an International if I had to - that they want to trade for a 15" Eurolight?  I love this saddle except for the part where it doesn't fit me.

I will admit I disagree slightly with the fitter on this next one.  (EDIT: after posting, shifted a few things, no longer disagree with fitter! Another post coming.) She felt the saddle was, if anything, a hair too wide, and fit quite nicely with the Woolback.  Good: I'd always hoped to add the Woolback if doing serious trails with it.  I think it does fit the horse pretty well, but I think with the addition of the pad, it feels pommel-high.  I'm going to switch out the gullet plate for one size wider to see if that makes it a more comfortable ride, and if so, will evaluate sweat patterns with a proper trail ride.  Fitter also said I should drop my stirrups, and was spot-on with that assessment.
As I keep going back through this and re-writing, I'm now wondering if perhaps the saddle iss too far forwards?  I didn't think it was, but I'm barely seeing the third braid from the front of the pad, so maybe I was wrong.  (Third braid is reversed and runs up her neck to the top of the withers where the neck starts to move; the braid itself tends to fall about mid-shoulder.)  If the saddle was really too far forward, that might explain why it felt pommel-high, and the entire issue may simply be me not remembering to shift it back far enough for re-photographs and a first ride.  Hm.

Which brings me to.. point billets.  Maybe I switch back to using the point (or sort-of point-like) billet on this saddle and see if that helps keep it in place - and help remind me to put it far enough back??  It's a Y-girthing option in back, can use the point billet or regular billet for the front. 

Jen wrote an excellent post about girths that I found quite enlightening about girth placement for dressage saddles, and pretty well convinced me I don't need to buy a TSF girth for Fetti.  (Yet.)  But that, too, tells me that my photos show a saddle that's too far forwards over the shoulder.

In my frantic crowd-sourcing of information, Mel stated that she aims for her saddle to move very little with a snug breastcollar and crupper.  Dressage saddle crupper is out of commission for the moment (see: prior incident where crupper T attachment tore some staples and stitches from the panels), but the breastcollar's been pretty awfully light.  I tightened that up a zillion holes.  I may need to loosen it one or two holes if I shift the saddle back a few inches, but that's okay.  The breastcollar needs to be tighter than it has been.

Next post: craniosacral work & movement evaluation


  1. bummer that the Eurolight is too small!! re: the dressage saddle sitting too far forward, i find myself putting the saddle more and more forward over time - and then am surprised with how far back the fitter wants it. tricksy horses haha.

  2. I'm hapless with saddle fitting, since I managed to get super lucky with the first saddle I found and bought. Interesting comment on breastcollar sizing though, I heard rule of thumb is a fist width- is that what you meant?