Zelda and the three saddles

Ainsley Chester
I started with three saddles and figured one of them would fit Zelda. And the winner is . . . the Ainsley Chester, the saddle that I thought was the least likely.  This is marked as a Medium tree but is too wide for Freedom.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Zelda sometimes bucks. While some of it is probably testing boundaries, I also worried that it could be related to saddle fit. I haven’t had a horse the size and width of Zelda ever, and while I have a “library” of saddles, I wasn’t sure which one was the best for her.

If you’ve been saddle shopping you know that it’s not as simple as saying your horse takes a “medium” or a “wide” tree. Saddles are like designer clothes — everyone’s sizing is different. Even saddles with centimeter measurements (for example, a 30 or a 32) can measure from different points, making comparisons meaningless.

Freedom is most comfortable in a generous medium tree. Not medium and not quite medium wide. So, looking at Zelda, you’d think that she would probably take a Wide tree.

Looking at my assortment of saddles I had three that I thought might work for her.

County Extreme
I thought the County would be the best fit for her. It’s an okay fit and we could have made it work but it wasn’t perfect and

County Xtreme – This is one of my favorite saddles. I used it on Kroni and it was so balanced and comfortable. It is too wide for Freedom and I’ve considered having the tree narrowed. The saddle is marked as a Medium (3) but it appears to have been professionally widened before I bought it.

Wintec Matt Ryan (Pro XC) – This is a very forward cut Wintec saddle that is great for jumping, especially if you have very long legs. This saddle came to me with a wide gullet installed. Unlike most Wintecs, this saddle requires a saddle fitter to swap out the gullet.

Ainsley Chester – Another saddle for long-legged riders, I had one of these for a horse I owned several years ago.

Wintec Matt Ryan
The Wintec Matt Ryan has a wide gullet but you can see from looking at it that it’s a bit too narrow. It’s sitting on her back pommel high.

I always regretted selling the first one so I bought another last year. The forward flap fits my leg very well and it’s a comfortable saddle. This one has a Medium tree but only fit Freedom with a shimmed pad.

My best guess was that the County would work. And it could have worked, with some reflocking.

The Wintec was immediately discarded as being too narrow and, even more importantly, the angle of the tree and the panel just didn’t work with her shoulder.

But the real surprise was the Chester. Not only was the tree wide enough but the angle of the tree fit her shoulder really well — better than the County.

Take a look at the three saddles from the front.

Tree angle Wintec
You can see that the Wintec does not follow the shape of her shoulder well.

First, here’s the Wintec. You can see right away that it’s not a good match for her shape and will pinch her shoulder. In fact, during the saddle fitting process it became obvious that Zelda is a bit of a princess and the pea. She is a horse that is bothered by even minor fit issues so this saddle is a real non-starter.

The County is an okay fit.
The County is an okay fit.

The County is an okay fit, But still not ideal. However, since the County had other issues (which I will address in another post) we decided not to work on it.

Once again the surprise winner was the Ainsley. This saddle fits her shoulder beautifully.

Now, it still needed some work —

Like Goldilocks and the three bears, we finally found a saddle that fit “just right”.

the saddle had never been reflocked (it was probably 30+ years old) and Zelda likes a more cushiony fit. Stay tuned tomorrow for a review of the reflocking process.

Listen to your horse

Not all horses are picky about saddle fit. On one end of the spectrum Freedom is pretty stoic and puts up with minor discomfort. On the other end of the spectrum was a mare I used ot own — Dezzi – who would refuse to move if her saddle bothered her.

Zelda is somewhere in the more sensitive side of the spectrum. She made it very clear where here preferences lie and she gets the final vote.

5 thoughts on “Zelda and the three saddles

  1. Saddle fit fascinates me. When you mentioned Chester as a good fit I was surprised as on the photo it seems to be sitting off her back which I know some horses dislike highly due to back pain it can cause just behind the saddle. It also looks like it might promote forward leg position in relation to the centre of balance in the seat but I guess it depends on the discipline it will be used for. I will be very curious to see it how it sits after reflocking 🙂 I might of course be wrong and it’s a photo angle/distortion. Very interesting post.

    1. You are absolutely right on both points. The Chester has upswept panels in the back — however, if the saddle doesn’t rock (and it doesn’t) this shouldn’t cause any pain. It’s simply a different style. This saddle is also a bit too large for me in the seat so there is no weight toward the back

      The Chester is primarily a cross country saddle, which explains the very forward flap. A saddle that’s this forward can indeed put you in a chair seat. I like it because I’m almost six feet tall with very long thighs. This is a saddle that gives my leg somewhere to go. The knee rolls are pretty puffy and your leg snugs up toward the back of them. The Chester also has set back stirrup bars which allows you to stay more balanced.

      The Wintec is also a XC saddle. That saddle puts even me in a chair seat.

      The County has a forward cut panel but it is more traditionally balanced than the other two. I always liked that I felt balanced for both flat work and jumping in this saddle. I was bummed when I discovered it wasn’t comfortable on her (the twist is too wide on her, but I’m going to go into that in another post).

      Take a look at this post on All Purpose saddles. The first saddle shown there also has upswept panels. It’s one of the most horse-friendly saddles I’ve ever owned! Most horses go really well in it (sadly it’s an obscure Austrian saddle that I’ve never heard of but my saddle fitter thinks it’s modeled after a Roosli.)

      1. Thank you for taking the time to explain, so many details to each individual saddle fit, it is all very interesting. I’m writing from UK and I think the upswept panels are in bad books at the moment here. I see why you would like the cut to accommodate your legs though!
        I do like how the County sits on the back.

        Looking forward to more posts on saddle fit.

  2. Ever since I learned that saddles had to fit a horse ! I’ve been fascinated by it. I also felt very chagrined that I had used the same saddle for so many years on so many horses. The panel configuration on the Chester and on my A/P is certainly old school and I asked my fitter the same question.

    I’ve been lucky to work with Gary Severson for the past 15 years as he answers my endless questions with great patience.

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