Friday, May 28, 2010

Smoke and Mirrors (The Saddle Shopper's Oath)

"Basic rule of saddle fit:  it's not rocket science."  -  Edie Tschorn

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking It on the Road - Saddle Fitting Clinic at Clover Hill in Williamstown, MA

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!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Play NICE, People!

As most of you probably know, I moderate the comments on this blog.  I do it mostly to stymie the spammers - I do not need money wired to me from Nigeria, I do not want to pimp the latest computer software, and I do not wish to view "HOTEST Russian womens".  I also want to make sure that a certain level of politeness is maintained.  While I'm all for First Amendment rights and will allow pretty much any comment that isn't libelous, blatantly offensive or an out-and-out lie, I do insist that opinions be expressed in a civil manner.

I've received several comments lately from people who are seriously cheesed off at certain reps and/or saddle companies, and have chosen to use (or try to use) my blog as a venue to air their grievances.  I've chosen not to publish these comments because of both content and tone:  "DON'T EVER DEAL WITH MANLY BARECHEST OF DEAD GOAT SADDLERY - HIS SADDLES ARE PIECES OF S**T AND RUIN HORSES' BACKS, HE'S MEAN, RUDE AND HE SMELLS BAD, TOO."  (And the caps thing - I really, really dislike the all-caps thing.)  "BARBIE THE SNUGGLEBUTT SADDLERY FITTER FROM EAST BACKACHE IS AN IDIOT AND TOTALLY RUINED MY SADDLE.  SHE'S ABSOLUTELY INCOMPETENT."   

Here's the bottom line:  comments like those will never, ever appear on my blog - end of story.  If you want to get your message across in that particular manner, you're welcome to start your own blog - there, you can vent your spleen until the cows come home, and you won't have some cranky old saddlefitting broad editing (and deleting) your commentary.  Or better yet, write it all down on a piece of paper - call 'em names, curse them roundly, cast aspersions on their parenthood and family tree, question their humanity, call down upon them all manner of misfortune - and then burn it. 

I'm not saying you shouldn't air your opinions (see this entry) - I'm just saying you should be careful about where and how you do it.  Tell the truth, air your views in a factual, non-libelous/-slanderous manner, and you many save someone else from going through the same bunch of crap that you did. You'll also probably feel better. However, you won't find inflammatory stuff in the comments here.  By not publishing comments like these, I've not only kept a lot of negativity out of my blog and my life, I've also protected the poster from possible litigation and attendent lawyer's fees.

You're welcome.