Murray and I had our second saddle fit appointment this weekend. After a couple of emails back and forth with Robyn, wherein she asked a bit about my budget and purchase timeline desires (free/asap ideal, but less than $1200/this month will do), she shoved* a bunch of saddles for us into the car and met me first on a day full of appointments in the area.
* Honestly she probably placed them with care and attention. But what do I know.
Murray got a brief topline exam again while naked, and Robyn said he looked less sore and sensitive than at our last appointment (because I stopped riding! hah! take that, soreness). She asked what I had been doing (not quite the prescribed lunging over poles, but lots of turnout and only riding and lunging in wider/better fitting saddles), and seemed to think the break had helped rather than hurt, which was good news. Then it was on to fitting some of the saddles Robyn was proposing for us.
Murray, of course, had other ideas. Idea number one was to not let a single saddle touch him, no way, no how. When I tried to hold him and put the first saddle up he actually ran away fast enough to dump the saddle in the arena sand. I managed to save it from hitting the ground full force or skidding, but it did hit the ground. Robyn, shockingly, did not fire me on the spot. (I ran to get our barn manager and she held Murray for a few minutes, then whispered “DON’T make me come back out here,” in his ear, and he was relatively well behaved for the rest of the appointment).
Robyn tried four saddles on Murray without telling me a whole lot about them. Then she padded up an English saddle stand for me to sit in each saddle. She asked me how the first saddle felt and if I thought I would hit the pommel sitting in it, and I honestly couldn’t tell. But when I sat on saddle two, it was clear that I liked this much more than saddle one. Saddle three felt immediately a bit funny, like I couldn’t get my seat bones firmly on one side or the other of the seams on the seat. I told Robyn this and she had me get off immediately, as if my seatbones were sitting right on the seams there was no way I would ever feel balanced in the saddle (who knew?!). Saddle four was okay, but the pommel was high and we thought it might interfere while I was riding.
So on I got. Fortunately, the saddle I liked most was also the one that seemed to fit Murray best. We girthed up slowly (Robyn: You just walk around and take all the time to tighten the girth that you need. Me: Oh, I think it’s tight enough now. Robyn: Doesn’t look tight enough to me… Me: Trust me, you can get away with a much looser girth than most people think.), Murray was fairly reasonable. But who knows what his tacking up behavior means from day to day or saddle to saddle — certainly not I. I rode in saddles two and four, and Murray was fairly compliant and starting to stretch down and forward a little in both saddles. Robyn said she could see a little more tension in Murray’s neck while I rode in saddle four, but I couldn’t feel it.
In the end, I decided to take saddle two on trial. (In fact, Robyn insisted that I take any saddle I was really interested in on a week trial.) It was a little more comfortable right off the bat for me, and Robyn liked how it fit Murray. It’s an ANKY brand saddle (perhaps the Salinero model, but I’m not sure), used, and in good shape. It feels different than any of the saddles I’ve ridden Murray in, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it. I’m trying not to swing too hard to either side — no OMG I LOVE IT IT CAN NEVER LEAVE but also no OMG MURRAY DIDN’T BECOME A GRAND PRIX HORSE SEND IT BACK.
So that’s that for the dressage saddle. I’ll know by Sunday if I’m keeping it or not!
The jump saddle situation is a little more complicated. Robyn didn’t have any on consignment that would work for us, but she showed me what to look for. Briefly: a medium wide saddle with a high-ish pommel, generous gullet (especially at the pommel, hard to describe) and panels (no narrow gullet and thin panels like some saddles, including my current one), plus rear and (if possible) front gussets. It’s helped me narrow my search a lot, and Robyn has been super helpful looking at pictures to help me decide.
We’ll see how it goes with the Anky this week (spoiler alert: Murray broke his halter in three places and somehow shoved a shoe halfway back on his foot so that was nice), and if it looks good, it will stay. Altogether a shockingly pleasant saddle shopping experience compared to the past! I was pleasantly surprised.