Saddle fitting has to be one of the most frustrating issues for any thoughtful equestrian. From endurance riders whose horses must carry them thousands of miles in a year, to dressage riders whose mounts must be comfortable enough to round over their backs, to casual riders who simply care about the comfort and behavior of their horses, we all face the same questions:
How, and how much, is a horse’s back likely to change over time? Do different body types change in different ways? Could we learn to predict changes within types? How much do bodyweight and level of fitness change a horse’s back over the course of a competative season? Over years? When is it safe to have a saddle fitted, or even custom-built, for an individual horse?
Right now, the answer is often: Nobody knows. Nobody has collected the data in a consistant format and documented their findings over time.
Jackie Fenaroli, owner of Stonewall Saddles, and I have decided to change that. Starting right here, at In the Night Farm, we’re going to collect data. We’ll use the card-fitting system I’ve introduced here before, and we’ll follow most of my Barbs as they grow, age, and compete. I’ll collect data monthly and create a chart to document our findings, and I’ll post periodic updates here at The Barb Wire.
NORTHWESTERNERS: If you attend the same rides I do and would like to volunteer your horse in exchange for his or her measurements, let me know. We’ll put your horse on a scaled-down version of the data collection program, measuring just a couple times annually, ideally at the beginning and end of the season. Measuring only takes about 15 minutes.
CALIFORNIANS: Stonewall Saddles will be at the Horse Expo in Pomona this weekend (Feb 2-4). They’ll be offering an Engineered Saddle Fit presentation each day, and will be giving away free Boomerangle kits to anyone who fills out a quick survey regarding saddle features for trail riders. I have one of these kits and it’s really handy for making quick assessments of whether a particular saddle is likely to fit a given horse.