I was reading through the Chronicle of the Horse's 75th Anniversary issue (yes, I'm a month behind on my magazine reading, as usual) and came across a saddle ad. This ad is for a saddle that we used to sell back in the long-ago; the quality of the leather is lovely, the saddles are very pretty, and they're quite haute couture as far as saddles go. The ad reads: "Your horse can do amazing things when he is free to be himself." It goes on to list all the amazing things your horse can do ... until you're in the saddle. "You must be perfectly balanced so your horse is free to be his incredible, athletic horsey self." Advertised saddle, of course, will accomplish that task. "We start by finding the right seat for your center of balance. Then, just like our bridles, we finish it off with full grain leather that feels like butter, and extraordinary attention to detail."
And not one sentence - hell, not one word - about the horse. So I went to the web site, thinking I might find more info about fit for the horse there. Hmm. On the home page, it says, "Most saddle makers concern themselves with fitting the horse. We believe that's not enough!"
That led me to believe I might find more about fitting the horse somewhere on the site, Fitting the horse might not be "enough," but it's something ... right? So I went to the "saddles" section. And I found out that they offer different seat sizes/depths and flap lengths/sets ... and medium and wide trees. So I clicked on their "Saddle Fitting" chart, thinking that might have some info on fitting the horse ... and again, found lots of info on flaps and seats, and medium or wide trees. Finally, down at the bottom of that page, I found a link to "saddle purchase form". That must have something about fitting the horse ... right?
Wrong. It shows a silhouette of a person and where to take the measurements needed to fit the rider. You enter your height and weight, and you choose the model of saddle you want to purchase ... but it doesn't say jack-all about fitting the horse. Not even tree width. There is a little space at the bottom of the form for "Additional Comments", so I guess you could put something there.
Now, as I said, these saddles are lovely pieces of work, and do fit some horses very well. And yes, fit for the rider is of great importance ... but if tree width is all that's considered for the other half of the team, that's only part of the picture. I'm straining my middle-aged memory regarding any horse-fitting options that may have been offered on these saddles back when we carried them, and I can't recall any. They might have had some ... and they still might. But if so, wouldn't you think they'd say something about it in their ads, or at least on their web site? For all of their lovely leather and craftsmanship, these saddles are, to my mind, along the lines of the changeable-gullet and adjustable tree saddles: they only address one of the horse's fitting needs, and that just isn't enough.
I admit to not paying much attention to saddle ads, since I'm not in the market for a new saddle and any potential purchase would be based on the horse's fit, not my brand preference... But I do have a habit of examining the saddles I come across, and I have to say there is an alarming trend of buttery soft seats with unwieldy-looking trees and billets of cardboard. Where IS the horse? Heck, where is the SAFETY?
Looks like marketing won over fitting the animal. The people who sell the saddle are really zoning in on the making the person feel great. I hope their saddle fitting plan does address the horse at some point, for their clients' sake as much as the horse. Happy horse, happy owner.
Just noticed your book titles:
I am reading Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. Just saw the film dedicated to her on HBO with Claire Danes. Watch it, if you can. You won't be disappointed. :)
I've heard that there's a new trend among the saddle dealers.. since all of them have started to display the saddles on the saddle-stand in their stores, their sales volumes increased greatly, especially very expensive saddles.. as now customers are able to seat in and try a saddle before buying, it proves again that the first thing they are thinking of when buying a saddle, is their own feelings but not the horses's needs... that's sad
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