Thursday, September 10, 2009

Let Me Get my Crystal Ball ...

Multi-tasking is a way of life for those involved in horses, and I'm no exception. In addition to my saddle work and the care and feeding of this blog, I have several other responsibilities: I answer customers' e-mail queries, I create and Photoshop ads, I write informational articles, and I monitor the shop's presence on the Internet. As a result of the last task mentioned, I spend a fair bit of time cruising the larger bulletin boards to eyeball what people are saying - about new, must-have products, about fitting issues and concerns, and about us. Recently, on one of the larger bulletin boards, I came across a thread about saddle shopping. Quite a few people were making glowing recommendations for the shop, praising our customer service and the quality of our saddles, and I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside ... until I read a post from someone I will refer to as "Cranky Breeches". Cranky Breeches was bemoaning the fact that we ask "tons" of questions and make people "jump through hoops" by asking for a template of the horse's back and some photos before we make saddle recommendations. We were quite the unreasonable task masters, according to Cranky Breeches. TMI, TMI.

This threw a large bucket of cold water on my warm fuzziness, let me tell you. I went from injured pride to indignity to composing a scathing reply to CB all in a matter of about two minutes, but finally common sense kicked in. The recommendations we were getting outnumbered CB's complaint at least 10 to 1, and here I was getting my shorts in a bunch. I needed to get over myself and look at this at least somewhat objectively. (And besides, other posters on the bb came to our defense. Neener, neener.)

If you look at the list of info requested, I wouldn't say that we're asking the customer to "jump through hoops", but in fairness, we do ask for a lot of info.

Why? Because in order to make intelligent, comprehensive recommendations about saddles, we need as much info as we can get. Because we don't want our customers to spend the bulk of their saddle shopping budget shipping unsuitable saddles back and forth. Because we want to make this whole process as productive and painless as we can. And because occasionally, we get these sorts of inquiries (and I swear before the horse gods and goddesses, I'm not making these up - these are real inquiries, ver batim and in toto):

-"I'm riding my horse in a medium tree Pessoa, and it doesn't fit. What would you recommend?"

- "My mare's back was ouchy after our ride today. I think it's my saddle. What's wrong with the way it's fitting?"

- "My horse was on lay-up for the last two months, and gained a lot of weight. What tree width do I need?"

- "My horse goes funny to the right, and won't pick up the right lead canter. Does this mean my saddle doesn't fit?"

- A photo of a saddle sitting on a saddle buck, with the query, "Is this saddle the right size for me?"

- A photo of a horse's head (or in one memorable case, its rump), with the query, "This is my horse. What saddle would fit?"

- A piece of paper with two parallel lines drawn on it. One is labeled, "Back of my butt", and the other is labeled, "Front of my crotch"; below the two lines are the words, "Do I need a 16" or a 16.5" seat?"

Now, I'll admit that we have a pretty knowledgeable staff here - we all have the ability to make educated guesses and recommendations based on a good description of the horse or how the saddle's fitting (or not), but the inquiries listed above require "Let me lay hands upon my computer monitor and I will tap into the Divine Universal Saddle Fitter Consciousness and tell you what you need." And while we're pretty good, NO ONE is that good.

If you want to find a saddle that works for you and your horse, you need to do your homework, particularly if you're doing it long-distance. If we can't put our hands on the horse to assess the fit and watch the horse go in each saddle with you riding, we need your help - you need to be our eyes and ears (and hands). It's not necessarily easy or convenient, but for those customers who have no shops or fitters nearby, it may be the only way to find a saddle that works for you and your horse.


Melissa said...

Ah. You certainly can't please everyone, because there are surely some very...challenged...people out there. All you can do is what you already do - try to educate the best you can, but rest assured you are doing a fantastic job for the *reasonable* people you work with. Your attention to detail and willingness to examine tracings and photos (and descriptions...LONG e-mailed descriptions =) ) was the reason I found a saddle that fits my horse. (The first I'd EVER found, by the way, and I'd tried many) Just let the rest roll off your back - you're doing just fine!

saddlefitter said...

Thanks for the kind words, Melissa. We love our work at TMT - glad to hear we're doing a good job.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, CP is off base. I so appreciate your questions. Not only do they help you help me and my horse, I also learn about the basics of saddle fit.
Trullbull Mtn does a first rate job with internet and long distance clients.

Andrew Campbell said...

Kitt: that just made me feel a whole lot better about work... sorry it has to happen to you.

I just started riding again the last year or so, virtually all gaited horses, and primarily for handling dogs in field trials. I don't know much about horses, and less about leather work, but I love your blog.


saddlefitter said...

Val, Andrew, thanks. I must admit that the questions I cited are few and far between. Most of our customers want to do whatever it takes to find the right saddle, but when we do get queries such as the ones I mentioned, it's always good for a chuckle - and in most cases, we're able to educate the customer, too.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. And your approach. Long live the hoops master!

Anonymous said...

*wiping tears of laughter from eyes*
oh my. There are times it must be quite difficult to answer earnestly and nicely.

As for hoops, um, yeah, I would happily jump through a billion hoops to get the right fit...that's just nuts, the saddle fitter wants TOO MUCH information???

I would feel like a fitter asking for precisely detailed information was extremely caring and competent, and invested in doing an excellent job for *my* needs. CB is missing out big time.

Kate said...

One of the reasons I'm so very impressed with you and TMT is the amount of information you ask for when making a recommendation! It gives me far more confidence in your advice than I have with company specific reps who seem to want to sell me whatever saddle they have on hand with the least time and effort possible.

When it comes to data in scientific research we have a saying, "Garbage in = Garbage out."