I became interested in dressage about four years ago and I love it and want to go on doing it always. But I'm having a terrible problem finding a saddle to fit my Morgan gelding. Captain is almost 16 hands high and he is not really very wide in the ribcage, but he has very prominent sloping shoulders. They make him move really well (I think) but they make it really hard to find a saddle that fits him comfortably. It's so frustrating! Every saddle seems to pinch him behind the withers or get into his shoulders, and nothing fits him the way it should. I know you can't "prescribe" a saddle for me, but can you suggest something I could try? And I'll be happy with anything that makes Captain comfortable, but if you know of a saddle that could fit him and me, that would be incredibly great. I'm just under 5'5" and weigh 150 pounds. My legs aren't really long but my thighs are round, and the saddles that have come the closest to fitting Captain have been really uncomfortable for me because they made me feel as if I was doing sideways splits!
Thanks in advance for your advice and for everything you do to help us riders and keep us out of trouble with our horses. I've been on HORSE-SENSE for two years, and you've saved me from some really major bloopers!
Selene and Captain
The Courbette Charles de Kunffy Grand Prix is a dressage saddle that actually accommodates those big Morgan shoulders and the muscles behind them. In the last year, several of my clinic students have bought these saddles for their horses. One of these students breeds Morgan sport horses, and we were able to see exactly how the saddle fit all of the riding-age horses in her barn. I believe it fit all but one of them, and that one was a narrower animal that might have been quite happy in the same model saddle but with a narrow tree.
I can recommend this saddle very highly -- and not just for Morgans. ;-) I've also seen Arabians, Thoroughbreds, various Warmbloods, and a couple of Percheron crosses go well and comfortably in this model. It's not cheap, but my experience with Courbettes is that they are incredibly durable.
Whatever you end up trying, look for a few key points.
For your dressage Morgan, look for a saddle with a wide tree and a wide gullet (some saddles are wide in front but not in the back), large panels, and short tree-points. The larger the panels, the better your weight will be distributed. The shorter the points, the less likely it is that your horse's shoulders will be poked or prodded by them, even if the saddle works its way forward during a ride -- as saddles tend to do in the spring when horses are a little overweight and out of condition.
For yourself, look for a large enough saddle -- you should be able to put a hand between your backside and the end of the cantle, and another hand, or nearly, between your crotch and the pommel. I often see riders who are in too-small saddles, and who say "Look, it fits, I can put four fingers between me and the cantle!" -- but they have to jam themselves up against the pommel to do it. Nobody can ride like that, and nobody should try. It's painful for the rider and painful for the horse -- get a saddle that gives you plenty of room. Try various types of saddles, and notice how the different models feel. Depending on your personal pelvic structure, you may be happier in a saddle with a narrower or wider twist. I find that most women, especially women with round thighs, are most comfortable in narrow-twist saddles that allow their thighs to hang more naturally -- and that provide a sort of scooped-out area to accommodate the roundness.
I know that saddle-hunting is frustrating, but keep looking until you find the right one for you and your horse. Remember that this saddle may last you the rest of your riding life -- a good saddle, well-maintained, should last 50 years or more!
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