Saturday, May 31, 2014

Differences of Opinion (Fits With Shims)

"My saddle fits every horse I put it on!"

If there's a phrase that triggers my eye-roll reflex, it's this one.  Any guesses as to how many times I hear this?

Let's just say, "Lots."

And guess what?

It doesn't.

Ok, so maybe my definition of "fit" is a bit different than the average person's.  I want a saddle to fit correctly without having to use anything other than a thin cotton pad.  No shims, no sheepskins, no foam, no air, no foregirth - just a thin cotton quilt.  It can't slide forward or slip back, or wobble from side to side, and it  has to allow the horse and rider to do their jobs effortlessly.

The last time someone told me this, she put a thin cotton quilt on the horse, then added a thick sheepskin pad, then a foam pad, and finally a rear riser pad before placing said miracle saddle on top of it all.  She climbed aboard and perched up there, commenting, "I have to be really careful about maintaining my balance, but look how well it's fitting!"

Frankly, when you get that much padding between you and the horse, "saddle fit" becomes a moot point.   It's like a person who's a size 4 trying to make a pair of size 10 pants fit by wearing multiple pairs of long underwear, or someone with a size 8 foot trying to make a size 6 shoe fit by lopping off the toes.  While you may be able to make said clothing work, you really can't say it fits.  Throwing multiple pads under a saddle isn't making it fit, it's just putting more junk between your saddle and your horse.

Yes, there are saddles like the Balance and the Parelli that are supposed to be shimmed, and while I understand the theory, I'm still firmly of the opinion that a saddle that truly fits doesn't require the use of shim pads.  They talk about focusing on active fit rather than static fit, and I'm on board with that ... but I still think that can be achieved without shims or corrective pads.  They talk about the way a horse's back changes when they work, and how a saddle needs to allow for that.  Again, I'm all over that ... but it can be done without extra pads/shims.

Now, I understand that some people need to make a saddle work for more than one horse, and I understand that there are horses that, for various physical reasons, do require shims and/or pads as a band-aid.  I'm ok with that.  I use shim pads from time to time myself, when horses are in transition; it's a boat load cheaper than repeated flocking adjustments, it's far more convenient, and it can save the integrity of the flock.  It's also a good answer if you're trying to fit two similar horses with one saddle, and while it's a good fit for Horse A, it's just a tad too wide in the tree for Horse B.

Anyone who's read much of this blog will understand that if a saddle truly doesn't fit, there's no pad in the world that will make it fit.  That same anyone will also understand that it's my belief that there's no one saddle that can be adjusted to fit every horse perfectly throughout its lifetime.  (Even the WOW saddles, which are completely modular and can have the panels and even the tree changed out, fall into this category.  If you're switching out the tree and the panels, you're essentially building a completely new saddle, aren't you?)  And that Miracle Saddle that fits every horse perfectly only exists in Brigadoon, sitting in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with all the honest politicians.


Val said...

The last part gave me a chuckle.

I have a friend who wanted to buy some saddle with evolution in its name and the claim was that it can fit any horse. She didn't believe me when I told her that just isn't possible. Marketing is a powerful thing. That miracle saddle would be a great sell if it existed.

Claire said...

even Heather Moffett's vogues can need shimming, and don't fit/suit every horse....

but for treed? with you all the way....

saddlefitter said...

Treeless saddles need to be fitted, same as treed saddles. A popular misconception is that every treeless saddle will fit every horse ... and that's just not so.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Sometimes the irony is astounding, isn't it?

I had a person judging my pony, tell me that because he has no withers (and basically he didn't at the time) that "You will be hard pressed to ever find a saddle, or even the saddle of the harness to fit him." Should've seen the look on her face when I asked her "Isn't that why they make saddles with different width trees?"

I've never had a problem or issue fitting the harness saddle to him yet and he's worn 3 different ones so far in life.

Liz Goldsmith said...

Ironically, it was the Heather Moffett Pheonix that fit my horse the worst .. .

I have a Mattes pad with shims that I use when necessary -- i.e., when I have a new horse or my horse has changed shape and I'm waiting for my fitter to come out.

Most people who say their saddle fits all horses truly believe it. My friend announced with glee that her old saddle fit her new horse just fine . . . except that it rocked on his back so much that he came up sore.

I *do* have a lovely old A/P (looks like a Roosli, but was custom made for someone in Switzerland) that fits an amazing number of horses. But even that one doesn't fit all!

Claire said...

and thinking about it, i'd wish there'd been such things as shims 10 years ago when i was trying to fit my old, slightly asymmetrical mare that i'd bought from a (now ex) friend ......who'd been ridden for years in too narrow a saddle....