Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The First Year

Well, I'm pleased to report that Panther Run Saddlery has finished its first year in pretty damn good trim.  In spite of a few nay-sayers, and a few who did their best to throw a monkey wrench into the gears (as Ma used to say), things have gone far more smoothly than I expected, and I have a viable business on my hands.  This is thanks to a huge amount of support from some pretty amazing people:  friends and family, colleagues and fellow fitters, my Constant Readers, saddle companies, and - especially - my customers.  You all have kept me focused and moving in the right direction, and you've proved that continuing to do business "The Edie Way" is the right path to follow.  "Thank you" seems inadequate, but it's all I can say.

So here's wishing you all the peace that this season is supposed to bring, joyful holidays (whatever you celebrate), and hoping your New Year is as good as 2013 was for me.  Looking forward to an even better and busier 2014. Onward and upward!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Having a Fit: Hoop Tree Vs. Standard Tree

As often happens in my life, things seem to come up in bunches.  The latest "bunch" has been Broad Horses and the Saddles That Fit Them (or Don't).  I've gotten several templates lately that look as though someone traced a propane tank.  My last fitting jaunt included 5 horses at 2 different barns who also fit the "propane tank" profile.  And just recently, I was asked by the The Arabian Sport Horse magazine to expand on an article I'd written for their April/May 2013 issue on the particular challenges of fitting the Arab sport horse. Since I was given free rein as far as subject matter, I latched onto hoop trees, since they seem (to my great surprise) to be little known and even less understood.  Since I'm WAY overdue for a new blog post, I thought I'd do a "warm-up" post to get ready to write the article.

If you've read my blog much, you're probably pretty familiar with the hoop (aka Freedom head, Dome, FWB) tree.  If you're not familiar with that type of tree, you can read this post to get the basics about them.  They're designed to "sit down" on a wide back and a lower, broad wither.  On horses with that conformation, a standard tree with an "A" shaped head will perch and be laterally unstable, even if it's the right width.  As a result of this low-profile fit, one of the comments I often hear about hoop trees from fitters who aren't familiar with them is, "It doesn't fit.  It sits too low in front - there's not enough clearance; I can only get one finger in under the pommel when the rider's up."

Here's a shot of a well-fitting standard tree (note that the angle of the tree point and the angle of the horse's back - both marked in yellow - are pretty much parallel):

And another:

There's a good amount of clearance between the underside of the pommel arch and the horse's withers - probably close to the "textbook" 3 fingers' width.

Now, let's look at a hoop tree:

And one with the rider up:

Quite a lot less clearance, right?  Note that the tree point angles are parallel to the horse's back, and note that the underside of the pommel arch is clearing the withers.  Hoop tree saddles are supposed to fit this way.  When fitting a hoop tree, we use the term "adequate" clearance - this means that the balance of the saddle is correct, and that at no time does the saddle come in contact with the withers/spine.

The fitting basics are still the same, no matter what tree type the horse requires.  You want The Heavy Seven (plus the billet configuration) to check out ... you just have a little less room under the pommel arch.

I know it may be unfamiliar to some folks, but it's ok.  Honest.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saddle Fitting Course - What We'll Cover

Thought you all might be interested to see a rough outline of what will be covered in the saddle fitting course April 11-13, 2014.  There will be "classroom" theory as well as hands-on work, so come prepared with horse-friendly clothes and shoes (and be prepared for mud ... or snow ... or hot, sunny weather ... or all at the same time; you never know what a Vermont April will bring).  If there's anything you'd like me to cover that isn't listed here, please let me know.

Basic overview: why saddle fitting is being noticed, why it’s important.  Two schools of thought:  UK/SMS vs. “Continental”/Forward Balance.  Why each works … or doesn’t.
1) What we try to accomplish when fitting a saddle.
2) Identify types and subtypes of English saddles:  cc (equitation, jump, xc), dressage, ap, trail/endurance
            Uses and focus of each
Fit for the rider; how seat depth, blocks, flap length/set affect fit and purpose.

3) Identify parts of the saddles

4) Identify types of panels

5) Identify types of trees (synthetic, spring, hoop/freedom head); purpose of the tree

6) Identify types of flocking, pros and cons of each.

7) Parts of the horse; identify major muscle groups 

8) Why correct fit is important. See #1.How conformation effects fit.  Different conformation challenges (big withers, croup-high, broad back, etc.) and which fitting options work best for each. 

9) Where the saddle should sit, why proper placement is important.  

10) Discuss how to check for back soreness; basics of how to evaluate movement.

11)    Checking static saddle fit – 7 Points including billet placement.  Cover finding rear edge of scapula and T18.

12)    Checking active fit
A)    Cantle pop
B)    Lateral roll
C)    Pad slip
D)    Watch horse and rider – ultimately, it’s up to them.

13)    Taking a template
14)    Taking a conformation photo 
15)    Gadgets:  Port Lewis impression pad, casts, correction pads, pressure pads, etc.

Q&A sessions at lunch and end of each day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

April 11-13: Saddle Fitting Course

Well, I've certainly been threatening long enough (since 2012, according to this), and it's finally come to fruition (WOOT!!).  April 11-13, 2014, I'll be teaching the long-promised saddle fitting course.  It will be held at the Pullman Farm (former location of the shop where I used to work), 969 Trumbull Hill Rd. in Shaftsbury, VT.  It will start with a meet-and-greet and course overview on Friday evening (times TBA), and will run from 9:30-4 (approximate) on Saturday and Sunday.  The course will cover all aspects of English saddle fitting including saddle types, foam vs. wool, tree types, panel modifications and the conformations they suit, equine anatomy and gait analysis as well as fit for the rider.  The course will NOT teach repairs and flocking adjustments.  Cost is $550.00, which includes lunch/snacks, tools for taking a template and all course materials.  The course is limited to 6 people, and there is a non-refundable deposit of $200 required by Jan 30, 2014 to hold your spot.  There will also be an "on deck" list in case someone drops out.  There are numerous affordable lodging and dining options within 10 miles of the farm.  If interested, please email me at pantherrunsaddlery@yahoo.com.  Looking forward to this!

Monday, September 2, 2013

All You Have to Do is Ask

One of the nicest perks of being a saddle fitter is helping horses and riders find the saddle that works for them.  Another great perk is having a network of other fitters and saddlers with whom to collaborate, exchange ideas and geek on about saddles for hours.  That sort of support and mutual respect is a rare and wonderful thing; I really enjoy being able to ask questions of Wiser Heads, and in return offer whatever info I can.

In the past, I've had other fitters ask to use info and photos from my blog in projects they were doing, and I've always been happy to share, and frankly pretty pumped that folks found my info share-worthy.  I had lots of great mentoring when I began my saddle fitting journey, and I still have great mentors - so I like the idea of being able to pay it back (or forward).  And besides, it's just the kind and right thing to do.

So when it's brought to my attention that people are lifting stuff (and sometimes lifting a LOT of stuff) from my blog without asking, I start leaning toward the bitey side of my personality.  Even if they give me credit, using stuff without permission really isn't legal, and it's also downright rude (which to my mind is the real offense).  Again, I'll mention the little tag (which I know no one ever reads) at the bottom of the blog that says, "All content copyright Kitt Hazelton / Panther Run. Use and reproduction by permission only." 

Perhaps I'm being very naive here.  I know that putting stuff up on the Internet is the equivalent of throwing your valuables on the front lawn and thinking everyone will be honorable and not take anything. But my luck's been pretty good so far, and I'd like to think that things can continue that way.  So if you want to use any of the content on this blog, just ask - that's all you have to do.  I won't growl or bite or refuse - as I said, I like knowing that people find my blog useful.  But lift stuff without permission?  You'll see this side of me:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Video Tutorial: How to Take a Template of Your Horse's Back

The "how to take a template" video is done and up for public viewing!  Huge freakin' kudos to:  1)  My husband Hasso for his professional guidance in piecing this project together, for shooting and editing it, and for his ability to psychically interpret my harum-scarum gesticulating, barking, hooting, and random input.  2)  To Jessica van Eyck of Northshire Farm and her horse Wanted for all their help, and for providing such a lovely location for shooting.  I cannot adequately express my thanks.  You folks freakin' rock.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bye-Bye, UDBB

Cruised by the Ultimate Dressage bulletin board, and saw this message:

"This site is being closed under current management. It has been a long run, and there where some good times, but my mind and heart are no longer in this effort. I have not found an easy exit strategy over the years, so it will just come to shutting down, un-announced.
"If you would like to inquire about purchasing the domain name and/or forums as they existed on 4/13/2013 please contact directly.
"Mark Susol, msusol@ultimatecreativemedia.com"

Wow.  I'm completely floored.  Information, misinformation and speculation about the why and wherefore behind this are rife and easily found all over the Internet, but whatever the cause, I just find it a sad passing.  The UDBB was one of the first ways in which I became known in my own right rather than just as the shop's fitter; it introduced me to some very fine fellow fitters and more than a few customers, and helped me get the news out about my own business.

It would be nice if someone purchased the domain name and forums and continued with them.  But Mark Susol really helped me out through the UDBB (though he probably didn't know), and I really appreciate it.  I hope things turn out well for him, and that someone can help him out the way he helped me.

LONG-OVERDUE UPDATE:  I'm thrilled to say that the UDBB was resurrected shortly after it was closed.  I don't know all the ins and outs, but to whomever stepped in and took over, THANK YOU.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Closing and Opening: Contact Info

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”  - Tom Bodett

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Whose Blog is it, Anyway?

In the hustle of trying to get Panther Run Saddlery organized, I haven't had time to add to (or even stop by and check on) this blog ... and I find I really miss it.  So I made some time today to check my stats, which I haven't done in weeks.  When I went to one of the referring sites, I found a very nice blog and a post extolling (and rightly so) the many virtues of Black Country saddles.  There was also a very nice bit about Trumbull Mtn. and "their" blog, Saddle Fitting: the Inside Journey.  

This isn't the first time I've encountered that misunderstanding, and in the past, I've usually let it slide.  But now that I'm no longer employed there or affiliated/associated with the shop in any way, "I want to make one thing perfectly clear:"  this is not their blog.  It's mine.  "All content copyright Kitt Hazelton / Panther Run."  It's right there in the footer (which I do know that few people ever read, but ...).  So I hope this will clarify things once and for all.  My blog.  Mineminemineminemine.

Ok, now that I'm done barking and peeing on trees and fence posts and scratching up the ground, let's talk about what's going on now.  I have replaced the bulk of my important saddle work tools (there are a few left to buy, but the meat-and-potatoes tools are here).  I have Albion saddles.  I have Duett saddles.  I have a couple Bliss of London saddles, and am their dealer for the northern New England area.  Loxley saddles are on order, and I'm expecting them sometime around Valentine's Day.  I'm accepting selected used saddles for consignment.  I have saddles in for repairs, and I have customers sending me templates (some of them are customers from my days at the shop, and I can't adequately express how much their loyalty and faith in me means).  I just had another article on saddle fitting published in TrailBlazer magazine, and I have to finish an article on saddle fitting for the Arabian sport horse for www.thearabiansporthorse.com.  I have the budding Panther Run Saddlery web site in the competent hands of my "web guy" (we had to move the hosting site and do some technical stuff that I'm just not confident about or capable of doing myself).  I'm busy, and things are moving ahead and looking pretty promising.  It's a crazy time, and not a particularly easy time ... but from what I understand, that's pretty much the norm for the situation.   Being a one-woman show is way different from the way I worked for 14 years, and sometimes I think I'm crazy to be doing this at my age ... but the thought of not doing it isn't something I can contemplate.  So onward and upward.