Yesterday the RP saddle fitter came to fit the test saddle on Cartman. I was too busy watching her and listening to instructions that I didn't take single picture (sorry).
It was an interesting process. She began by setting the saddle directly on Cartman's back without the panels on it. At this point it was evident that the tree shape is really good on him. Yeah! I really wish I'd gotten a photo of that so I could show you a comparison of how the shape on him compares to how the shape of my Specialized fits him. Maybe after I'm more comfortable with the panel placement I'll pull them off and do a side by side of just the trees.
Next she explained how the saddle would need to have some rock to it sitting like this. The discs attach at the front and back of the panels and without some room at front and back you could get bridging and the panels would not be able to do their job and have some flexibility.
Cartman's left side did not have a lot of room at the back of the tree but his left side had significantly more. This makes sense with the fact that his left side has become more developed than his right has. My saddle was slipping to the right and that was what was causing me to feel like my left stirrup was suddenly shorter.
She set up the panels with one slightly thicker disc on the right hind and three thinner discs on the other points. We went into the arena and walked Cartman away to see if the saddle would shift right. It did move over to the right further than to the left but stayed pretty close to centered.
I got on and took him for a little spin.
The Summit comes with a couple of removable blocks that go under the front of the flap. I wasn't too sure about the blocks but she suggested I give them a try. Wow, I was really surprised at how wide the saddle felt. But not in a bad way- just unfamiliar. I felt completely secure in the seat!
I had been a little concerned about going to an English style saddle but it was actually really nice.
We did a little walk- trot- lope and then she had me jump off and she evaluated how the panels were fitting. I noticed he was moving fine but a little stiff going to the left and not wanting to give me much bend in that direction.
Its kind of counter- intuitive but the panels were actually a little too tight fitting. The top of the panel was basically pushed up too close to the saddle as there wasn't quite enough room. So, this means we needed to try it with the thicker discs!
After the discs were changed out and the front two were moved a little back and up on one side, and back on the other side we gave it another go.
I totally did not expect to notice a difference but there was one. It was almost immediate that he started swinging freer in the shoulder and stepping through in the back. I could not believe it. Was I just feeling this because I wanted to??? I don't think so, because it took me by complete surprise.
Then he started stretching down. It was like he was exploring how the saddle felt! He really is an honest horse. It makes me feel bad that I didn't pick up on the saddle fit issue sooner. Hind sight and all.
All in all we spent almost three hours in this fitting process and I felt pretty confident at the end of that time that I'd be able to give the saddle a good test in the next two weeks. I am definitely glad that I went with having a fitter out and not trying to do it myself, even though I've read good reviews about the phone fittings.
Today I waited until it looked like there was no chance of rain and we headed out to ride the saddle outside.
I realized that there was no way to attach a breast collar to the girth so we'd have to go without one.
It still felt really wide when I got on but I think its something I may be able to get used to. The true test is whether I can ride it at the walk without getting that awful shoulder burn. Not to get too personal but if a saddle doesn't fit me right and comes up to much in front I will "curl" my pelvis away and it will result in my shoulders burning really bad.
We walked about a half mile and then picked up the trot. I really like the security that this saddle gives my leg. The design actually creates a channel for your leg- you can see that between the brown panels on the flaps. Before I knew it we had made it 2.5 miles at the trot and canter.
It had only been about 1/2 hour so I figured we better head up into the sand and get some up and down hills in- and some more walking. We climbed up with no problems, he stuck that long neck out and climbed right up, even in the sand. Then we spent about 15 minutes walking the sand trails and went up and down several dunes. Going down hill was like floating.
I dropped my stirrups quite a bit during this part of our ride and noticed that without stirrups I was becoming a little "aware" of the front of the saddle. Now for comparison let me explain, when I get on the reining saddle that has a lot of rise in front I can't get out of sight of the trailer without being miserable at the walk. This was nothing like that. On a scale of 1 to 10 for comfort of the shoulders blades at the walk the reining saddle gets a 1.5 (I mean I can't give it a 0- I'm sure there is something more uncomfortable out there!)
The Summit gets an 8.5 so far, for shoulder comfort. Otherwise I'd give it a 9-9.5 for over all comfort for me. I like it. It doesn't hurt that its a really pretty saddle, and is also really well made.
When I got back we'd done about 7.5 miles and spent an hour and a half. I kicked the stirrups free and leapt off, hoping not to torque the saddle so that I could get a good idea of how straight it stayed during the ride.
The dang saddle didn't look like it had moved! No breastcollar and it did not slip back at all. Wow. Well, I guess that IS how saddles are SUPPOSED to fit.... eeek, more feeling bad....
Then I pulled it off and saw this sweat pattern:
I am beyond thrilled with how it fits him! Now if I can just determine if it is going to work for me for really long rides. Unfortunately the weather doesn't look like its going to cooperate for me to do much real trail riding in the next week. There is no way I'm taking this saddle out if it looks like rain!
I love how balanced I feel in the saddle so I'll just have to keep riding it and see.
All around the RP gets a big thumbs up!!!