Believe it or not, this is one of my hardest questions. As a client, you have most likely identified a need or a problem with saddles, you have sought me out, and you have called. “Freckles” has had very little input in this decision or process.
Here is how I approach this conundrum: I come into each saddle fitting appointment hoping for the best. I hope to find that your horse is in good condition and that the saddle is appropriate for both the horse and rider. This is often the case and with a small adjustment to either the saddle or the padding, I can improve the rider’s balance or a minor problem with how the saddle distributes your weight on your horse’s back. Because I don’t sell saddles, I have no impetus to tell anyone that his or her saddle doesn’t work and that they should purchase a new one. I get paid the same if I think the saddle fits or doesn’t fit.
When I examine your horse and see warning signs that something is a little out of whack, I have to evaluate whether this is all saddle related, whether there is a problem with both the saddle and another body part (ie. lameness) or rider issue contributing, or whether there is an issue that is so severe that I really should not even pursue a saddle fitting at this time. A handful of times, a horse has been so compromised, from either saddle problems or unrelated problems, that the pain experienced by continuing the process would be 1) cruel and 2) not fruitful because we would be seeing the current pain show through any solution we try.
If I determine that a saddle does not fit, I am always aware of the ramifications. The client is faced with shelling out money for a new or used saddle, the process can take time for either ordering a new or finding an appropriate used saddle, a temporary saddle may be needed, and the current saddle may be so unsuited that I will strongly suggest not riding in it… period. There is a lot that goes into this decision for me. I consider how much the horse is ridden, whether it is a performance horse and if so, at what level of performance, what the basic shape of the tree is and how it works with the shape of the horse’s back, and finally, can the panel accommodate sufficient change or is there a padding solution that would work.
I always try to keep the client’s objective in mind if they do not want to change saddles but here is when I work for your horse. I will not compromise if I believe that a horse will be injured by continued use of a saddle. Does this make me popular? Only with the riders who understand and make the change. They are generally pretty darned happy when they change and feel the difference in the horse and often their own riding.
The clients who persist in using an unsuitable saddle do not seem to hear or believe that they will spend far more money by not changing the saddle than finding a well fitting saddle (especially considering the trade-in value of their current saddles!). I have watched some horses go through extensive bodywork, hock and stifle injections, and back injections because when a horse is experiencing discomfort it will contort its legs and back to escape pain. It will be subtle to see or feel but will be expensive to fix.
So I guess this is a long way of saying I work for you until what you want will not work for your horse, then Freckles is my client.