ARG!!!! So I had a local independent saddle fitter come out to try some new western saddles on Mac. We came up with three options for me to ride in. The first was too wide. The second I just didn't like. The third one I loved because I felt it put me close to Mac and didn't feel too different from riding in my dressage saddle. But. They didn't want to leave the saddle with me for a trial period because they needed it for other customers.
So I ordered the saddle from the saddle maker and it came promptly - right in time for a Bryan Neubert clinic that I was going to attend (which I'll blog about separately). I didn't even get to ride in it before I arrived at the clinic.
During the clinic, I realized the seat size was too big for me. The fit for Mac was okay, but not perfect. I was worried about the fit of the front of the tree - it is a bit too wide so that the top portion (near his withers) is tight and the bottom portion (near the elbow) is wider and doesn't make contact with his back. This means that more weight is distributed over a narrower portion of the bars. I didn't have a good pad with me, though, and was fussing around with various adjustments. The saddle also seemed to slip side to side more than I'd like.
I got photos of the sweat patterns, which weren't as I expected to see them - they showed a wider area of dryness - was that more pressure or no contact? You can see how on this side the rear sweat pattern from the saddle also seems like it is a bit off center - maybe because it rolls around too much on his back?
The saddle maker was kind enough to send me a saddle in a smaller seat size, which felt great for me, but I was still getting the same kind of pressure at the top near the withers than I'd like.
So I went to the local tack shop and they had a Martin Wade (Martin is the brand, Wade is the type of tree) that I took home on trial. I liked the saddle . . . mostly. Mac seemed to be more forward and free in his movements than with the other saddle, but the seat was too big for me so I wouldn't buy that one in particular. I set up the video camera to get a bit of video of me riding in it.
I thought I'd still keep looking so went to two different tack stores to pick up two more saddles. Nope. One was just way too narrow (which was too bad since the saddle was beautiful), and the other just wasn't comfortable for me once I started riding in it.
How hard can it be to find a western saddle? I don't feel like I'm totally shooting in the dark. I mean, there are certain things I'm looking for, so I can cross a couple of sub-categories of saddles off my list. It just takes a lot of trial and error and experimenting.
The saddle maker of the saddle I thought I liked has offered to do some custom shimming to the tree to make it a more appropriate fit. I've got to consider that, but think I'll probably decline his offer and keep looking.
Did I say ARGH yet???