Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Tacky Post

I got my Tucker High Plains 260 Trail saddle on clearance when Sergeant's went out of business. What a learning experience I'm having with that saddle. Read how it started here. This post is about where we are now.

By eyeball, the saddle fits Poco well, but the three times we've ridden, he's been very uncomfortable, which was baffling to me.
In hindsight, I give him a lot of credit for not tossing me. This is a quality saddle with a wide tree — how could it possibly not fit him? I was hoping this was just another case of 'operator error.' My cheap little saddle (came with Poco) doesn't really have a tree, so much as a very minimal composite plastic support system. It's very flexible in terms of the size horse it will accommodate. I used it on both horses and neither was averse to it. I used the best thick wool pad I could find to soften the ride for us both, since there was less than .125" of padding. I could get away with sloppy saddle placement because the saddle was not rigid. Now that I have a saddle with an actual fiberglass tree, placement is critical — there's no forgiveness.

Heather and Nita came down, and the first thing Heather did was check his back. He was sore at the base of his withers down into his shoulders. We tacked him up, and headed out to the round pen, Heather grabbed a longe whip and started playing with Poco, who was exuberant. He was so obviously having a good time, and was full of himself. Heather said she'd never seen him so happy. He pranced and bucked and kept coming back for more. After a few minutes, she put the whip down and was just clapping her hands to encourage movement. Then I had him follow me as I walked and jogged around the round pen. It was a beautiful thing. But, I digress.

We adjusted placement of the saddle several times as we watched him move. Poco was understandably determined that no one was getting on his back, and I don't blame him. Anytime I was in a position where he thought I was going to mount, he'd back up, poor guy. So, although the saddle does fit his broad back, it sits higher than his low withers. It's basically sitting down hill, putting pressure at the base of his withers. And when he moves, the back of the saddle flops up and down. At first I thought that meant I needed a rear girth, but Heather suggested first trying a shim to bring up the front a little. Bringing up the front should also push the back down.

Even the mostly English Heather and Nita were oohing and aahing over my saddle.

Jennifer, a lovely sales person at
Smith Brothers in Denton, TX, concurred with our choice of the shim. And I credit her with providing my "something new every darn day" for last Sunday. I am never embarrassed or ashamed to admit when I don't know something, so I asked Jennifer what a breast collar was for, and she told me. I honestly had no idea, but I see a lot of people using them in the blogosphere. Sounds like a really excellent thing, since I tend to sit a little crooked and have trouble keeping the saddle in place on Poke's broad, flat back. As a ranch horse, I'm sure he's accustomed to one and probably a rear girth too, but I won't do that unless the shim doesn't take care of the problem. I bought a Tucker breast collar, which Jennifer said is the only one that fits Tucker saddle rigging. I don't know if that's true, but I'm sold on their quality, and it matches my saddle, so it's all good.

I had meant to muster the ambition to bundle up Sunday afternoon to check out the fit, but I wussed out. I may have grown up in Pennsylvania, but I'm a Texan now, by the grace of God, and temps in the 40s with 30-35 mph winds is
pretty darn chilly for my sensibilities. I may see if I can get Heather to come back again this weekend to help me cement in my mind the "sweet spot" in placing that saddle. I do not want to hurt him! I'll also have to have a few sessions on the ground for Poco to see he can be tacked up without having it hurt. Shoot, a coupla cookies and he'll be saddling himself.

I've made no secret about not having much success at longeing. Heather's advice: lighten up, lose the agenda, and just play with him to encourage movement.


Mrs. Mom said...

Saddle fit seems to be a hot topic in spots too- it sure is here. Sonny Bunz has those huge Thoroughbred withers, and sucha wide QH back that fitting him is a PAIN!!

And THAT was some totally completely EXCELLENT ADVICE about lunging!! Have FUN with the guys in there!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

You know I have the same saddle. Usually, I buy Arabian trees for my Arabians, but the two Arabian tree saddles I had slipped forward past the withers and rode up the neck. Arabs have extra wide, shorter backs, but not necessarily the withers to hold back such a wide tree. I decided to go with a non-Arabian tree that was just wide as opposed to extra wide, but with a short skirt so that it wouldn't interfere with the hips. I was surprised that it worked out.

The Tucker saddle is the first level saddle I've had. The only thing that worries me is that even though I can fit 3 fingers in underneath the pommel without a pad, once I put that pad underneath, it looks and feels like their is just way too big of a gap in there. That should correct itself in time after more use, I'm told.

Anyway, I hope that extra padding in the front can correct your problem. I had a trainer who took one of those packaging sheets of foam and folded it up in my blanket pad.

Anonymous said...

Your friend Heather has given you some excellent advice! You're lucky to have her around. :P

Saddle fitting is a giant pain in the butt. I don't know about western saddles, but English saddles are often now made to be adjustable in the width by changing out the gullet. Gullet-changeable saddles can be a big back and money-saver if you are riding more than one horse.

Anonymous said...

When it come to saddles, I have little input to offer as anything here in Niger is better than the local saddles, so they're all super happy with what we've managed to get out!
We clap a lot of hands over at Isthar's ark, and the horses love it. It means that they're all invited to run around the house with us, and if someone's not up to it, they are welcome to stay behind (that would usually be Arwen).

Unknown said...

Good advice - I love the people at Smith Brothers!!

They have always been so good to me.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And I thought the breaststraps were for keeping the saddle from sliding backwards when riding steep hills or riding a horse during cutting of cattle and lots of movement.
I have one for my horse that matches my saddle, though I've yet to use it.

Sorry you're having problems with saddle fit, too. Poor Poco. He might even need an adjustment and some backwork, too. Would probably make him feel worlds better.

I'm glad you had some fun playing with your horses, too. It's fun to see our horses enjoying themselves while interacting with us, isn't it? :)


Laura said...

Saddle fit seems to be such a huge pain - good for you for taking the time to try and sort it out!

Leah Fry said...

Thanks for the support. I have been mulling over this for weeks. I wanted to ride him more than once to be sure he wasn't just having a bad day, or I had the saddle placed improperly — which I did. Heather's coming back this weekend so we can make sure this will work. I'll practice saddling him to cement in my mind where this saddle should fit. You wouldn't think it would be so hard. Ah well, for some things I'm a quick study, for others not so much.

Lisa, I was told the breast strap helps keep the saddle in place, period. I have always had a slippage problem with Poco because his back is so flat, and I'm a little crooked myself. I always end up a little wonky to one side. It can't hurt. And how handsome he'll look!

cdncowgirl said...

You'll have to let us know if this fix worked. Hope you get a chance soon to enjoy that gorgeous saddle!

Leah Fry said...

Nuz, I forgot to say that my saddle is wide, not extra wide. Poco is part Percheron, but he'd swim in an extra wide. When I brought the regular width one home and tried it on, I knew as soon as we started to move he didn't like it.

I also now remember that Pokey's former owner had a gorgeous Aussie trail saddle that he used on his QH. He said Poco didn't like it either and I'd bet the farm it's for this very same reason. His back is so flat you could have a picnic up there. I know what you mean about how high it sits in the front. It will be interesting to see how the fit of both our saddles changes as we use them more. We need to continue to share our experiences.

ezra_pandora said...

Yes, Heather gives you some great advice. There's no hard set rule unless you're going to be competing in lunge line, but not now.

Saddle fitting is so hard, isn't it? Our two horses are sooo different. Our older girl, who we are all assuming is a QH, is super wide all over. My paint girl is also top line QH, but she is SUPER thin and narrow all over. It's crazy. It's almost worth it to have someone come out and measure and just make you a flippin custom saddle!! So did the shim work?

Chelsi said...

Eh! Saddle fitting!! Yuck! It is yet another thing that you are bound to get 10 different answers for (if you ask 10 different horse people the same question.) Good luck and just keep trying until Poco gives you the thumbs up!

Re lunging...

I used to have a hard time lunging but since figured out that my problem is that I didnt have any shoulder control. The key to lunging is first, obviously, being able to get forward motion, and secondly is to be able to push out the shoulder. Very often we try to push the hip (in order to get the horse to go forward) but by putting presure on the hip we push it outwards...which draws the head inwards (so the horse is facing you and cutting through the center of your circle.) IMHO, it is important to teach your horse to move his shoulder away form you (when standing next to him by either tapping him with a stick or crop or pinching his shoulder.) If you can get your horse light to moving away (and off) the presure on the shoulder, you can send him out into a circle on the lunge line.

Did that make any sense at all? Or should I just shut up? LOL Had to give my two bits because I just watched someone have this exact problem not a week ago.

Leah Fry said...

Chelsi, that's exactly my problem. Heather and Nita should be here today and if they have time, they can help me with my body dynamics.

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