Out team always rise to a fitting challenge. Working with a horse with unconventional conformation or a rider with a disability requires a careful approach and expertise. In this case study, our uber talented saddle fitter, Helen shares a recent case study with Archie.
A Childéric Promise
Above is Archie who is 16 years old, his rider has owned him since a three-year-old and has always had problems with the saddle slipping backwards. After several made to measure saddles, his owner decided to have a Childéric dressage saddle fitted. We made a promise that we would make a saddle for Archie that she liked and didn't move backwards. His rider had always made a compromise in her comfort, so the saddle sat relatively still on him.
As you can see from the images above he has a unique shape with an incredible "dip" to his back, he has extremely high and long withers combined with a huge shoulder. Towards the rear of him, he comes up extremely quickly just where the back of the saddle would sit. If you look just behind the elbow, you can see he also has incredibly long pectorals too.
All In The Details
This image shows one of the demo dressage saddles (Model 17" DGP). We know precisely what is in this panel as all of our demo saddles have a standard panel which we work from to get the fit exactly right.
We can see that the balance of the saddle looks good, however, when we felt underneath for an even contact all the way along the panel, we had no contact through the middle what so ever. I could fit my entire hand through the gap - it was bridging by 2-3cm.
The angle of the billets look correct here however we would need to see Archie ridden to find out if the saddle is going to move backwards and remain in balance.
A Tight Fit
From this angle, there is very little clearance around and above the wither. When I put my hand under the pommel, there was contact almost immediately on either side of the wither. If it is this tight now with no rider on imagine how it would feel with a rider on board.
Mind The Gap
In order for us to see Archie ridden, we must make sure he is comfortable first. So, we filled any gaps where the saddle doesn't have contact. Here you can see we have put pads to lift the saddle to gain the clearance of the wither while keeping the saddle balanced. We have put extra pads through the middle to fill the gap where the saddle was bridging.
We then saw Archie on the move, and after he had been worked, the saddle had moved back slightly. This meant that we need to adjust the angle of the back billet to help keep the saddle in the correct place. When the saddle moved back, it altered the balance of the saddle meaning that the rider then felt tipped forwards and it changed the angle of the blocks so that they are starting to angle towards the knee. This means that the rider is blocked - this then made them feel unstable and ineffective.
From this trial, we know exactly what we needed to do to the saddle in terms of the panel and girthing to make it bespoke for Archie, as well as the blocks and seat to make it bespoke for his rider.
Striving For Perfection
The first time we received the new saddle, we both weren't happy with the balance of the saddle, it was tipping back slightly. So, we sent the saddle back, and after a 48hr turn around at the factory in France, the saddle was on its way back to us.
We then tried the saddle after the alteration, and we had achieved the perfect balance; however now, unbelievably, the saddle was moving forwards slightly. At this point, we had two billets coming from the same point on the saddle (you can see from the picture above). We then sent the saddle back to have a front billet put on, but we kept the same angle and placement with the back billet.
Getting The Balance Right
We created a panel that has an even contact all the way along from front to back. There are no gaps. We also gave special instructions for around the wither area of the panel to provide him with a good clearance above and around it meaning we weren't trapping of pinching the trapezius muscle. We also freed out the area around the shoulder, allowing the scapular to rotate without knocking into the panel and helping the saddle to move backwards. I was delighted that we managed to achieve this while keeping the saddle beautifully balanced.
We moved the angle of the back billet at the top further back but still kept the same position as normal at the bottom of the flap where the billet comes out underneath. By positioning the billets further back at the top, it helps keep the saddle forwards and still. From the picture you can see that we kept the front billet two holes looser - we have done this so there is an extra point of stability without putting any added pressure down the front of the saddle which means the trapezius muscle can expand without being trapped - this its often a contributing factor to saddles moving backwards.
Admittedly I had to send the saddle back for two minor adjustments to the panels and the girthing - but as we made a promise that we would make a saddle to fit Archie nothing other than perfect would be good enough. After these two minor adjustments, we had a bespoke saddle that fitted Archie and didn't move backwards as well as a happy, comfortable, balanced and effective rider.
And so, the process began again to make a jump saddle for Archie.
On The Move
This image shows one of our demo jump saddles (model 175 CFSC) We know exactly what is in this panel as all of our demo saddles have a standard panel which we work from to get the fit exactly right.
We can see that the balance of the saddle looks slightly down at the front and again there was little contact through the middle of the panel. The angle of the billets look a little too straight here, and of course, we would need to see Archie on the move to see if the saddle is going to move backwards.
The pommel was virtually touching the wither, and it was incredibly tight.
So we went through exactly the same process with the pads.
Back & Forth
Below are the images of Archie's bespoke jump saddle - Just as we did for the dressage saddle, we created a panel that has an even contact all the way along from front to back. There are no gaps. We also gave special instructions for around the wither area of the panel to give him a good clearance above and around it meaning we weren't trapping of pinching the trapezius muscle. We also freed out the area around the shoulder, allowing the scapular to rotate without knocking into the panel and helping the saddle to move backwards. I was delighted that we managed to achieve this while keeping the saddle beautifully balanced.
In terms of the girthing, I set the billets back 3cm at the top but kept the same positioning as normal at the bottom of the flap. As we had to add a front billet on the dressage saddle I left a pocket under the flap just in case we needed to change the billets to the same system as the dressage saddle - however, we didn't need to, but at least it is always there should we need it at a later date.
What Archie's Rider Had To Say
"After years of trying to get a saddle to fit my horse and several made to measure saddles later, I finally decided to buy a Childéric after they guaranteed me they would make my saddle fit! I know my horse isn't easy to fit, and this was my last resort.
My dressage saddle arrived, and Helen came out to check it. Admittedly, I am a perfectionist, so I probably gave Helen a hard time! However, she worked with me and listened to my opinion. Yes, the saddle had to go back a couple of times for alterations, but we knew it wasn't going to be the perfect first time and it was all done without any hassle and all part of the service. After several visits from Helen, I finally had a dressage saddle that fitted both me and my horse for which I cannot thank Childeric enough. They made a promise, and they delivered!
So much so that I have since purchased a Childéric jump saddle after having years of the same problems as my dressage saddles. Helen knew my horse by this time, which meant the saddle fit first time.
The most amazing thing about my jump saddle is that after years of using a breastplate to stop my saddle sliding back I now have just my saddle and bridle and whether hacking or jumping my saddle never moves! Fantastic products and excellent customer service!"
The process with fitting Archie's jump saddle was a lot easier as we had already gone through the fitting with the dressage saddle and so I knew Archie a lot better as I'd been working with him for over 18 months.
Another success story for both horse and rider who had been struggling for years to get a saddle that worked perfectly for them and a very happy Childéric Saddle Fitter!
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