Thursday, February 17, 2011
Just wanted to let everyone know that Patty Barnett of East Crow Saddlery, my friend and mentor, has her web site up and running: East Crow Saddlery. Take a look - it's a great resource!
Monday, February 7, 2011
In the English saddle world, there are basically four types of saddles: dressage, close contact (aka forward seat or jumping saddles), all-purpose and trail saddles. Which saddle you choose will depend on the discipline you'll be riding.
Since some people want a "do it all" saddle, and some aren't sure what discipline they want to pursue, all-purpose saddles are fairly popular, especially with beginners. Most a/p saddles should be ridden with a moderately bent leg (think of the front of your thigh lying parallel to the front of the flap), which will allow you to do a little jumping (small fences), a little dressage (lower level) and flat work; they're comfortable and secure enough for a trail ride. They often feature a deepish seat, a moderately forward flap, and a round cantle. Some, like this Black Country Summit, have a straighter (or VSD/dressage focus) flap:
And this is a Frank Baines Enduro LDR, which has a slightly more forward flap and deeper seat (and does show the dees):
These saddles also often have a crupper bar attachment in case a crupper is needed to help stabilize the saddle.
Some trail saddles have extended panels, which means that the panels extend (obviously) quite far to the rear. This does maximize the weight bearing area, but can be problematic on shorter-backed horses like Arabs (which, ironically, are the most popular breed for endurance and competitive trail).
Next, let's look at the close contact/jump/"hunt seat" saddle. It has a flatter seat, a square cantle and usually a more forward flap; you will ride in it with quite a lot of bend in your leg (again, imagine the parallel between the flap and your thigh), since the focus of these saddles is jumping and riding in your two-point rather than sitting.
And this is an older Stubben Tristan, probably German-made:
These old saddles didn't offer much in the way of luxury and cushiness; the leather was usually quite slick and the knee rolls/thigh blocks were usually tiny or totally non-existent. You weren't helped to stay aboard with big blocks or deep seats or soft, grippy leather ...
(As we fade to black, the old dinosaur saddle fitter is waxing nostalgic, remembering with fondness and a tear in her eye the longe-line lessons with which she tortured her students, and their feeble cries of protest when she made them drop their irons ...)
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Obviously, the topline tracing isn't level in this shot (unless maybe it's a tracing of a giraffe). Since there's nothing showing what's level, it might be this:
Again, a good wither with a bit of a dip. But again, "level" could be this:
This is a horse with a dippy back that looks croup-high ... but without the conformation shot, we can't really tell.
Conformation shots also tell us about the horse's overall build and balance, which plays a considerable part in saddle fitting. In addition to giving us real info on the topline, it will tell us if the saddle may tend to walk forward due to a short back and a big engine behind, or if it may want to slip back because of a big wither and an uphill build. It will also give us an idea of the horse's overall condition, and whether we may be facing a lot of back changes due to weight loss or muscle gain or just plain growing up.
Here are some good conformation shots. Each horse is very different, with unique fitting challenges, but these sorts of photos are the perfect complement to the templates. They show overall build and balance, and give us clues about how the horse might move and what fitting issues we might run into that the template either doesn't address or only hints at.
Now, here are some photos that do NOT qualify.
In this first shot, I can't tell anything about the fitting needs of either horse ... and I can't tell which horse I'm supposed to be evaluating (the notation with the photo was, "The light chestnut with the blaze next to the fence."
The following two photos show the back pretty clearly, but leave me guessing about the overall balance and build. Since I can't evaluate the whole horse, I can't assess how the conformation might effect saddle fit.
The next two photos are pleasant, but when the head's down that far, the topline is distorted; the back will often appear flatter and more developed than it really is. All I can really tell from these photos is that, according to the barrel, the horse seems to be spending a LOT of time in this position ...
As you can see from the examples of "good" conformation shots, you don't have to be a professional photographer to take a clear, informative photo. I don't even mind if the horse is unclipped or hasn't been groomed; I don't mind if your lawn's not mowed or the barn aisle hasn't been swept or if the cat (or dog, or child) is loitering in the background. Just make sure that your horse is on level ground against a fairly plain (or at least contrasting) background, with all four feet bearing weight and head in a relaxed position. That will give me the info that the template doesn't provide, and give me a clearer idea of the saddles that would be worth sending, so you don't blow a good portion of your saddle shopping budget on shipping.