Friday, April 24, 2009

Trying Out Saddles in a Different Way

Call me crazy if you want to, but I do strange things when trying to solve a mystery. Lostine always tests me out every spring by crow-hopping and bucking as soon as I move her up into the lope. She's fresh from not being ridden consistently in the winter. However, some readers have brought up the idea that perhaps her new saddle is causing her pain. The saddle fits well and the vet has checked her out, so I was sure it was just her attitude being alpha mare and not wanting to be told what to do.

Yet the readers keep bringing this up and as a result, it has been nagging me. I've checked the fit on the horse and it's fine. What else could I do?

Hee hee. I decided to check the fit on ME. I laid the new Tucker High Plains saddle upside down on a pillow and laid in it. Ouch! I couldn't believe how that tree dug into my back on each sides of my spine. The underside is a thin felt-like wool, which doesn't allow for much cushioning. You definitely need a thick saddle pad for this saddle.

I intentionally bought a wide tree, as opposed to the standard Arabian extra-wide tree, for Lostine, because the extra-wide trees ride up past her withers, and before I know it, the saddle is on her neck rather than her back. However, the narrower tree definitely digs into an extra-wide back.

I had to compare the feel to my other western saddles. I pulled out my Circle Y and felt cocooned while lying in it. The underside was much thicker, more like what sheep wear, and the form of the tree was more rounded.

I then pulled out my old American Saddlery cheap Cordura saddle, and amazingly, it was the most comfortable of all. This one had even a thicker interior and more flexibility in the way it conformed to my back.

It was an interesting lesson. I don't know if the difference is simply in the way the linings were constructed, the way the trees were constructed, or the fact that the two comfortable saddles are Arabian saddles while the uncomfortable one is a trail saddle. My best guess is that the tree of the Tucker High Plains saddle is constructed at a sharper angle and the lining isn't thick enough to insulate the pressure from the tree. Anyway, my next test will be to ride Lostine at the lope in the two comfortable-for-me saddles and see if her bucking decreases or subsides all together. If it does turn out to be the new saddle that is bothering her, that will be ironic because that will mean my most expensive saddle is the most uncomfortable saddle.

19 comments:

fernvalley01 said...

interesting way to check your saddles, let us know what difference you see with Lostine

Kate said...

Very interesting idea! I've never thought to try that. Unfortunately, it's true that the most expensive saddles aren't always the best for your horse!

Laura said...

Good idea to test the saddles like that - I hope trying a different saddle helps her (and you!).

Saddle fitting has to be the most frustrating endeavour! I have a cheap saddle and it doesn't fit Rusty, so I'm hoping my new, more expensive one fits him ok!

smellshorsey said...

That's a hoot -- and a very interesting idea. While you probably can't tell much about the fit by trying it on your human body, you can tell about the comfort of the materials.

And it makes sense to go the next step and try out the different saddles on your horse to see if that makes a difference.

I look forward to hearing how this experiment works out. Good luck!

Shirley said...

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this. One thing you could do, if you live anywhere near a saddlemaker, is to take Lostine there and set different bare trees on her back- just the tree itself, with no leather on it yet. You'd be surprised at the differences in fit between the different trees.

Flying Lily said...

What a cute idea!! I had an American Saddlery cordura saddle and it was the most comfortable thing - I sold it because a few friends made critical comments about the quality. What a stupid decision.

HorseOfCourse said...

Hm. Interesting.
Looking forward to see if your experience of the saddles is corresponding to what response you get on Lostine...
And those neighbours of yours? They are really strange!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

What an interesting idea. I never would have thought of trying that.

Price is so relative. Megan outgrew her Sharon Camarillo barrel saddle and I was really struggling to find her something that both fit a horse and her. I looked and looked for a nice, used saddle. In the meantime she was riding MY barrel saddle and that couldn't go on. Finally, my mom told us to try a little saddle that my brother had bought for her. I had looked at this saddle before and thought it looked kind of "cheap". But lo and behold, it fits a horse beautifully and Megan sits down in it like she needs to. Another plus is that it is very light and Megan can easily saddle her own horses with it. So she got to over on mom's saddle, which mom said was fine, cause it was a bit too small for her.
It may not "look" as high quality as some other saddles, but it is definitely high quality in fit and function. I am going to take it to the repair guy and have him put D-rings on it so she can use a breast collar. Add the back cinch and she is all set. And I get MY barrel saddle back, yayyyy!

Paint Girl said...

Very interesting! My Arab also crowhops when I first get her into a lope but it is just her being uncomfortable with loping, she is still green loping. Once I get her going she is fine.
Can't wait to hear the results on the saddle test!

KD said...

At first I was picturing that you had them on your back and were walking on your hands and knees. :-) Good luck with your experiment !

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Interesting observations! You would expect the most expensive to be the best in all ways but it's not always the case, is it?

Katharine Swan said...

I think being able to think outside the box is a rule, not an exception, for people who are good with animals!

If it does turn out to be the new saddle that is bothering her, that will be ironic because that will mean my most expensive saddle is the most uncomfortable saddle.Just like how you can bring home a great new toy for your kid or your cat, and have them be more interested in the packaging than the toy. ;o)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yehaw! Saddle you up and away we go!
Let me try out my spurs and new crop, too. You won't mind right, NM? You better not buck on me, girlfriend!
lol!

Very clever of you. I can't wait to find out the results of your tests. :)

~Lisa

Cheryl Ann said...

Great idea!

allhorsestuff said...

It is a toughie with saddles..I relly like your ingenuity with this puzzle though.
I too am finding it amazing but true with the price of a sdalle not meaning too much for fit..but sometimes the lesser known ones wrok very well!
Kac
be looking in to see how it goes!

The Cowgirl's Typewriter said...

I found your blog on horsebloggers.com. This is a genius idea! I think I might have to try it with my saddles. I'm very curious now.

lytha said...

let me get this straight - you lay down on your saddles? to see how they feel? i've tried bridles on myself but never saddles..hm! (bridles go like this - headpiece over my head, bit in the space between my pinky fingers and my ring fingers.)

you have one original-thinkin' brain!

~lytha, wishing she had original ideas...

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha - I'm glad you mentioned that the bit went between your fingers, because I was picturing a previously slobbered on bit in your mouth. The trick with the saddles is to lay on them and put your weight on them, because the horse doesn't just feel the weight of the saddle, but the weight of the rider. I know it's not an exact science, especially since human backs aren't the same shape as horse backs, but it just wouldn't be the same if I put the saddle on my back and crawled around on all fours. LOL.

TexasWalkin'Horse said...

I am writing this in the most sensitive manner, but you laying in your saddles have NOTHING to do with fit! This is a hilarious method, but the Tucker has the real wool for a reason so it doesn't pack down. A saddle needs something of substance to support and distribute the rider's weight. I ride a Tucker and a Circle Y trail and love them-so does my TWH! Best of luck to you and your saddle fitting endeavors.