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You need to ride in a saddle to know if it fits
This is going to be a little long but I want to get the details in.

I got a reminder this week as to why you need to do some actual real life riding in a saddle before you can say it fits.

My barrel saddle is a tad wide for my gelding so I was looking for a normal full QH saddle to fit him. I picked up what seemed to be in the ball park based on a wither tracing. I did all of the on ground checking with and without a saddle pad, before and after cinching it up.

I rode him a few times in the arena with the new saddle. We did walk, trot and canter, both ways for about 45-60 mins. He did get upset the second time saddling up but I chalked it up to someone else saddling him that tighten the saddle way more and way faster then I do and the saddle seemed to be a little too far forward for him. I unsaddled and resaddled him and he was fine for that and fine for the ride. He was fine saddling the next few rides.

So we started trail riding with that saddle. The first time was about an hour and a half with a few hills. He was fine with mounting but was giving his rider a little bit of a hard time about shaking his head and we swapped horses so I could see if it was her being a little tight on the reins or just him being a goof about going on a trail ride that day. He was fine with the swap and back to his old self once I lightened up on the reins and reminded him that he can't shake his head and he can't play the "I don't want to stop and stand" game. This ride had a few hills but nothing huge.

Second trail ride fine for mounting but started out walking faster then normal. Not trying to trot just not his more whoa then go self. He didn't really want to stop or stand either. This was a longer ride, more hills, bigger hills and more trotting then the ride before. About half way through he was getting back down to a slower walk but when he knew we were close to home he was doing some head shaking and wanting to speed up his walk. The young dog we had with us took off so we had to stop and stand. He was shaking his head, I was thinking maybe the bit and I did check his mouth when we got back but nothing.

3rd trail ride. I wasn't planning on riding him but my mom's horse cut her leg so she rode my mare and I rode Aedan. He was a total brat. When I went to get on he spun out on me but luckily was towards me so I was just thrown onto the saddle and was able to ride it out. He was what I call "Up". He was tight through his body and had a lot of energy but not to the point that he was going to blow up on me. Aedan wanted to head right out but also acted like he didn't want to leave home. So I didn't push the mounting thing, figured I would work the energy out and then do it when I got back. He was shaking his head when I would ask him to stop or if he had to stand for a minute. My mom is a softy on the horses and was letting Jazz eat so we had to do a lot of stopping to wait. A truck passed us and Aedan was fine about that but spun out about stepping into a low ditch. Nothing he has had a problem with before but that time it was like it was going to kill him to step down into it. Jazz's treeless saddle wasn't agreeing with my mom's narrow older hips so we didn't even make it down the first hill. Very short ride and when we got back to the farm I rode him a couple minutes in the arena and then got on and off of him about 20 times, both sides and he was fine BUT I was using low mounting block and hadn't the first time I got on him that day.

Fourth trail ride. I rode Aedan and my sister was on my mare and my mom on her mare. Almost the same ride as the first trail ride. To rule out saddle fit I used my wide QH bar barrel saddle on Aedan. He was a total sweet heart the whole time. Stood great for mounting. Was his more whoa then go self for 99% of the ride. The only time he wasn't was going through a mud hole. Mud is my Superman Aedan's Kryptonite. He doesn't like to get his girly hooves dirty. He sat back and made a small leap into a canter in the middle of the mud hole and then didn't want to slow down right away but wasn't out of control or crazy. Never once shook his head. Was even being more his goofy self about wanting to drag sticks and logs home and check out signs and gates.

Does this mean that the first saddle doesn't fit? I'm not 100% sure but it seems like it doesn't fit the best. He slowly built up into being a brat with that saddle once he was out on the trails going up and down hills and riding for longer and that he was more like his normal self with the barrel saddle. The barrel saddle is too wide on him but that is better then too narrow so I think I'll stick to that one for now. Maybe try the first saddle again after a few trail rides with the barrel saddle to double check. If he keeps being good with the barrel and reacts to the other then I know that it doesn't fit even if all of the checking on the ground and the first 4 or 5 rides in the arena were fine.

So my lesson learned this week is that no matter my years of experience and skills in fitting saddles somethings just aren't as good a fit as they seem. Give even what seems like a good fit more then a couple of quick rides in the arena before you count it has good. Always listen for your horse's opinion. Even if you don't think what he is saying is about the saddle it might be.
I agree Stormy.

Reminds me of a saddle I used on Sugar, my barrel mare. I noticed in the fall one year that the tree had cracked near the horn and arranged with a local saddle maker to have it replaced with the identical tree.

Gradually as we rode the next summer Sugar would give a couple of bucky type kicks when we began any fast work. I initially put those down to "just feeling good" but they increased in frequency and intensity until one day she refused to run. She actually reared when I encouraged her to move forward. At that point my brain kicked in and I thought, something is terribly wrong here. The new tree was narrower than the old tree and was bridging on her back enough that she had developed a sore spot (bump) where the back of saddle rested on her spine. [Sad!] I felt pretty embarrassed as I apologized profusely to her. [:I]

After some searching I bought another saddle with more rock that fit her well and I had my willing Sugar back.

Tough lesson for me, but taught me to listen to my horse and to make sure that saddle fit would be one of the first things to check when your willing partner suddenly become not so willing.
Hook(ed)......on Horses

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. " Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

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