If The Saddle Fits…
When I first moved to Gallifrey I knew I was unhappy with the saddle I had purchased (and fitted) for William. It fit his back well, yes, but it fit me very poorly. It put me in such an awkward position that I was actually rubbing holes through the crotch of my underwear it put me in such an awkward position. I dealt with the pain because it fit my horse better than the previous saddle (which was a brand name off the rack Dressage saddle with air panels and a changeable gullet system). This caused several bad habits in my position in the saddle, however; I was slumping in my midsection, afraid to sit up straight and tall as it would bear my weight down on my crotch even more. I also developed a habit of “over tucking” my pelvis to lift the raw area off the saddle but this only took me off my seat bones and almost on to my lower back. The fitter even told me to deal with it if I could or simply ride better.
I had tried dozens of other saddles when I realized what this current one was doing to me and that it was not okay for me to just “deal with it”. There had to be a compromise out there: a saddle that fit William and also me. After about six months in the south, a few clients and I decided we wanted something new from our saddles. One had just recently ridden in a clinic that provided horses for lunging and she got to sit in a County. So, long story short we finally got the County Saddlery of Georgia rep, Cindy Adcock to the farm. As soon as I sat down in that Fusion I felt a huge difference not only in the horse but in me. There was room for my seat bones to actually sit on the saddle’s seat. No more weighting down a seat bone onto a painful seam, or worse nothing at all because the seat was narrower that my pelvis. I was able to put my pelvis back in a position that placed me on my seat bones like never before because my crotch was not jammed up against the pommel and my upper body for the first time in years was able to stretch up tall. Even my assistant commented on my shoulders; she couldn’t believe the difference. Neither could I. Was it really this much easier in a different saddle?
I tried the same saddle on William and if my position change didn’t make me a believer, the way my horse moved certainly did. There was balance without a struggle and sitting trot and canter without the back of my saddle flopping up and down (or “chatter” as my lovely fitter calls it). It was crazy how good he felt and that’s when I knew that this was the saddle for me. I still tried others that day just to make sure but nothing felt as good, for either of us, as that Fusion. I hemmed and hawed but with the push (and help) from a dear friend and valued client I placed my order.
Thus began the purge. I started by selling the three other leather air panel with exchangeable gullet saddles I had been using for other horses and training horses. I scoured the internet for quality used Countys to replace them in varying tree sizes to fit different horses as they come in or develop. Then right before William’s custom County Fusion hit U.S. soil I sold his very own saddle. It was a hit to the gut (and wallet) seeing this saddle I had paid a lot of money for go for much less but I knew it was the thing to do. No one wants to have that happen but when the good of your horse (and your riding) is at stake it is a needful experience.
It was amazing how in that first year how much William’s back began to change. I am sure I had Cindy out a dozen times, or we would meet at a clinic and make small adjustments to the flocking. This made me so thankful I went with my gut and got a wool flocked saddle. Foam panels cannot be changed to accommodate changing muscle on backs and shoulders and air bladders can be too hard, not flexible enough or even leak. It is what it is, pressure points, lack of elasticity and all. We started out with a medium tree and over time, his shoulder muscles and wither area practically doubled in size and his lower back got broader and stronger.
Two years later, this past January marked a big moment with our County Fusion. I was struggling with getting the saddle to stay balanced on his back. This had never really been an issue and if it was it meant it was time to reflock. This time though, something was different. Reflocking wasn’t making it work and my position was starting to struggle. When William doesn’t go well, I run through a list of things to check before true panic sets in. Along with Mikki’s eye for how his muscles are working and feeling with the body work it had to be the saddle fit. I talked to my fitter, Cindy and over a span of a few days we tried a few different things to try and diagnose the issue. We planned on meeting at the next clinic with Felicitas at the end of the month to figure out the issue. I settled down a bit, figuring soon it will be fixed.
The next morning I got a text from her. She wasn’t happy with that plan, she was up at night thinking about William and I and how it needs to be changed now. She came down from Atlanta and spent hours at Gallifrey. We talked about different solutions but before committing to one she said, “Humor me and let’s try a wide tree”. It was night and day. William’s back had expanded and changed so much in the year and a half I’ve had a County that he now is going in a wide tree. I couldn’t believe it. He had been in that other brand name saddle (which was a wide tree from start to finish) for three years and we never experienced a change like this.
Once again, my belief that I made the right choice back in May of 2014 was confirmed. I am so very lucky to have County on my side, as they are taking my lovely Fusion and switching the tree from Medium to Wide. They do not stretch or manipulate the current one as they believe (and so do I) that it will compromise the integrity of the tree itself. In the meantime, my gracious saddle fitter is loaning me one of her own Fusions so that we don’t miss a beat in our training and show season. With personal service such as this from a company that actually cares how our horses are moving, I am left wondering why anyone would buy a saddle off the rack. I’m not saying everyone needs to ride in Countys (though you need to at least try them!) but why don’t more riders invest in quality gear with a knowledge and certified fitter to work with them and their horse as they progress and change? If it makes that much of a difference in your horse, your seat and your performance, why overlook it?
I understand that budgets are something to be respected but the beauty for me was the ability to pay the saddle off while it was being handmade in England for us. I had a span of 3 months to sell my other saddles to cover the cost. There was no pressure to put it all on my credit card right then and there (or at all). Now they even offer financing! As I’ve said before, there is no magic bullet to make it all grand, but if something like this helps my horse in such a big way I will find a way to make it work. As they say, if the saddle fits - GET IT!