People often ask the same questions—questions you might have too! The following are the questions most often asked and some basic answers. For information more specific to your horse and situation, please contact us for a consultation.
Q: What is the best type of saddle pad to use?
A: Typically, less is more when it comes to saddle pads, but I believe in a logical & sensible use of pads. I’ve seen all sorts of pads that have special fibers & fillers, materials & price tags. Do you need these pads and will they really help? Maybe so, maybe not. But as long as they’re thin enough you’re not going to hurt anything.
Under normal circumstances a regular cotton square pad is fine. Some riders like to use different pads for different reasons, and generally as long as there is enough room under the saddle then that’s fine. *it is very important to note that if you use more than a standard cotton pad you NEED to tell your saddle fitter this*
However I’m generally not a fan of stacking saddle pads; this can invite friction and instability. With this in mind when it comes to sheepskin pads, they really should be placed directly on the horses back, and this also means you need more than a standard half pad.
I am an advocate for sheepskin pads, when used properly. They can be very therapeutic for horse’s backs.
Q: What is a typical fitting appointment like?
A: Normally we’ll start off with me saying hello to you and your horse. When your horse is comfortable and settled I’ll gently start palpating their back, from the withers into the sacrum. I’m looking for involuntary muscle reaction and also behavior signals from your horse.
What I find in my initial palpation I might palpate further or end it there. I’ll usually ask some questions as I’m doing this, such as:
- Any behaviors or problems in particular you’re concerned about?
- How are the transitions?
- Any resistance?
- Is your trainer always telling you to sit back or get your leg back? (In fact, a trainer’s input can be very helpful.)
Next we’ll move to placing the saddle on your horse’s bare back and I’ll evaluate the balance and panel contact. Is it bridging? Rocking?
It’s important to note billet placement and configuration as part of the fit evaluation, as well as panel design and shape in relation to the horse’s back and confirmation. There are also many different kinds of trees on the market today—freedom and hoop trees, cutback to standard or shoulder freedom trees. They can also be made of wood, leather, or various plastic composites. Trees made with different materials perform and behave differently. There are rigid trees and spring trees, and in the family of spring trees some are more flexible than others. These factors are all taken into consideration.
Based on what I’ve found to be out of sorts with your saddle, typically I’ll start reflocking it, which means I’ll use my flocking irons inside the panels to move the wool around to better match the contours of your horses back. Sometimes I’ll add wool and sometimes I’ll remove wool. It really is particular to each individual scenario.
This is known as “static” fitting. When statically fitting a saddle it’s imperative to take into consideration how much movement and flexibility a horse is capable of. This is where my experience and muscle background are invaluable.
I do not require that you ride in the saddle as part of my evaluation. However if you want to ride in the saddle before I leave that is absolutely fine.
Occasionally I may over- or under-estimate a horse’s movement. If that’s the case, a simple phone call to talk with me will lead to a follow up and a fix.
If the saddle happens to be foam flocked, not wool, we can still evaluate the fit and figure out a way to improve it if it is unsatisfactory. Sometimes removing the foam and replacing it with wool is a viable option, other times even that won’t work.
Sometimes, regardless of the type of flocking, the saddle will not fit your horse no matter what we do. I promise to always give my honest opinion and offer you options.
We’ll end the appointment with me double-checking the saddle on your horse to ensure the changes I wanted to make are executed properly, and a friendly scratch for your horse for being so patient and willing.