Thursday, November 22, 2007

Saddle Up - Part 10

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

My saddle woes were many. I had this beautiful custom saddle that I really loved, but my horse wasn't very keen on it. Also I really needed to sell my old saddle to be able to pay off this new custom saddle. Which I might also have to sell so that I could buy the saddle that my horse liked. Which is one that I hate. Everything was just ducky.

Fortunately the saddle gods smiled upon me and my Cobra sold as a consignment at the tack store. They shipped it out on a trial and the person bought it. Fantastic! That's one issue down. Unfortunately it was the simplest issue.

On the advice of the saddle company lady, I continued to ride Kaswyn in the SemiFlex. To my great relief, I found that she was right and that he got used to the saddle having less give. I'm sure the new saddle started breaking in and flexing more as well, which was helping. He started becoming less resistant and after about a month he was feeling as good in the SemiFlex as he did in that nasty UltraFlex. I know some people love those UltraFlex's, but I'm not one of them.

This saddle has had an impact on two very important things for me. The first is Kaswyn's back. When I first talked to the saddle company gal she told me that my horse's back would change in musculature after about 8 weeks in either the UltraFlex or the SemiFlex. I was thinking that she was full of it and was just trying to be a good saleswoman because I never thought it would happen. My horse was 16, and his back had looked pretty much the same since he was about 8 or so. I couldn't see how a new saddle would change that.

But IT DID. In a big way. After only 6 weeks in the UltraFlex I could see a difference in Kaswyn's back. It had more muscle in it, looked more filled out, and I could feel that he had more carrying power through his back. It was simply amazing. Over the last few months his entire outline has changed. Now I realize that we'd had a year and a half off of serious work and that we're building back up, but there is no doubt in my mind that he's getting broader in the shoulders and more up in the back. I'm certain that he's more comfortable working, because I can feel much more range of motion in his back and front end. He's more willing to work over his back and really carry himself. It's an awesome feeling.

This saddle has also changed my riding. I think I had been on a plateau for a long time, but now I'm on a steady upward climb. The amount of feel that I get with this saddle is eye-opening. I used to mostly concentrate on his frame first, then my seat, then my leg, and just kind of continually run through the checklist in my head. But now I can just feel what I need to do. And since this saddle puts my leg in a much better position and forces me to use my seat, it's so much easier to get the job done. I'm riding so much more with my seat, less with my legs and even less with my hands.

For example, when we used to go across the diagonal in a medium trot, I would ask for a downward transition back to the collected trot by taking a greater hold on the reins and holding my breath hoping that he'd take the half-halt that followed. One day about 2 months ago I had this epiphany that I'd just sit with my seat, ask for the half-halt, and not touch the reins. It was a perfect downward transition, with no tension and plenty of step and energy into the collected trot without Kaswyn shutting down or getting tight. It was like he was saying, "Yeah, honey. You don't need to grab my face for things like this anymore. I'm trained. I know what to do. Just use your seat, okay? We'll both be happier."

And it's been steady improvement since then as both my horse and I retrain our bodies to do this dressage thing the correct way. And it feels great.

If you haven't already gotten the point, I would highly recommend the Freedom Holistic SemiFlex dressage saddle (or UltraFlex if you happen to like it better). It's seriously the best thing I've done for my dressage career since I broke up with my first dressage trainer.

But that, gentle readers, is another story for another time.



Rising Rainbow said...

Wow, I'm really glad that the saddle worked out for you. I have a custom saddle that did not and it's been an ugly mess.

Getting the right fit for both of you is so important but few riders even give it a thought. Good for you for taking such care of your horse.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kaswyn's Mom,

I would very much like more info on your semiflex saddle and also the ultraflex which your horse liked but you did not. I'm looking for a treeless saddle with a gullet and adequate wither and spine clearance that looks like a conventional saddle. I live in Indiana. Is there any way I can contact you? Thanks for your help.


Dressage Mom said...

Hi Ann,

You can contact me at and I can answer any questions that I'm able to. You can also call The Paddock Saddlery at 1-800-253-7970. They are in the Cleveland area but said that they could send measurement kits to people who are out of the area. You follow the instructions, measure your horse, then send the kit back. They send the kit on to the saddler and he makes a custom saddle.

Let me know how I can help you. I think these saddles are the best thing for your horse and your riding.

Val said...

Amazing story and all too familiar. I struggled with an ill-fitting saddle for over a year. I finally started to realize that no correctional pad or amount of riding instruction was going to help when I rode my horse bareback. It was so much easier than riding in my saddle and that meant it had to go!

Marnie K said...

Sherri, your story resonated with me on SO many levels! I bought a new horse 3 months ago. I rode him for most of this time in my beloved Wintec dressage saddle. It was just like your situation, it was wonderfully comfortable for me but just was not right for my horse. I then tried a new Wintec all-purpose saddle with an adjustable gullet. That saddle was only slightly better for my horse and never comfortable for me. Needless to say both saddles are currently at the tack shop on consignment. I had a saddle fitter out and have a new hunt-seat saddle that fits my horse. After riding in a dressage saddle for most of the last 10 years it was tough to adjust to a hunt seat. A lot tougher than I imagined!! Thankfully after a few rides I think I'm starting to like it better every time I ride!

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