On May 15, Edie Tschorn and I drove down to Carolyn Henderson's Clover Hill Farm in Williamstown, MA to do a saddle fitting clinic. This is something we've done a couple times before, but this was probably the best we've done to date.
We started the morning with a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of saddle fitting. It covers the purpose of a saddle, the different types of english saddles, basic saddle construction and fit for the horse and rider. It touches on what to look for when assessing fit, what sorts of behavior can manifest when there's a saddle fitting problem, and what can happen if the problem isn't addressed. We also spent some time discussing issues that can mimic saddle fitting problems, such as training problems, ulcers or Lyme disease - and how to tell the difference between the two. We also brought some bare trees and junker saddles to further illustrate some of the points we covered, and so people can get some hands-on study time. Edie and I have streamlined the presentation as much as possible, and it really does just cover the basics, but with some Q and A, it usually runs at least two hours.
After lunch, Edie had to head back to the shop, so I spent the afternoon doing a bunch of hands-on assessments of horses and existing saddles. It was a great chance to delve further into the Heavy Seven, and to learn about perfect fit vs. acceptable fit vs. unacceptable fit. (And I'd like to take a moment to say that I hugely appreciate how well-behaved the horses were. Doing a fitting while dodging hooves and teeth is difficult, but doing a fitting and dodging hooves and teeth while trying to teach people about saddle fit is a bit more than I prefer to handle all at once!)
I also showed everyone how to take a template, and discussed how to "read" the template to evaluate a horse's fitting needs. We had also brought a couple saddles to put on the demo horses. We had a stock model Black Country Eden, and another Eden with a dropped panel and wither gussets. Fortunately, we had a couple of leaner, withery horses, so people were really able to see the function of the panel modifications quite clearly, and how they improved upon the fit offered by the standard panel.
It was the sort of day I would love have far more often: a lovely, workmanlike facility, well-behaved horses and interested attendees. In fact, I'm gearing myself up for doing more of these clinics. I have some fresh perspective, some new ideas and am thinking about expanding the format somewhat ... so if you or anyone else is interested, just let me know!