Friday, May 18, 2012

Specialized Saddle Fitting Findings... So Far..

Well it seems that this saddle fitting adjustment process for Maggie is proving no easier to fix than starting from the beginning of finding a saddle to fit in the first place.

This past week my local (3 hours distance drive)saddle rep  and I  have been exchanging lots of pictures and discussions via emails and texts to try to get this thing resolved. The issue is that Maggie is much thinner now and more fit than she was last summer/fall. My Specialized was set up at that time with just the ½ “ pads. During last year’s fitting process, we found that Maggie’s right shoulder is larger than her left and we attempted to shim things up for that but everything made it worse because of how wide she was, so the best fit we could come to was just leave the ½ “ pads with no shims. I rode her all last fall , this winter and now into spring with what seemed like no issues. My longer rides last week proved something was terribly wrong when she got very sore backed in the back part of the bars. They say hindsight is 20/20 and it seems now that I was missing the signs that Maggie was not getting a good fit. I will come back to that in a minute.

The spot on Maggie’s left side (where the back of the saddle bar would hit) had taken the worst of the issue. She had developed some scabby skin flaky funk stuff that is now coming off. It seems that it was created from a pressure point and too much heat. The hair did not come out, but I am wondering if she will develop a white spot there. I really hope not.

The saddle fit problem: (we think)

The Pads seems to be set too wide for Maggie ‘s back now that she had thinned up . In essence, the saddle is sinking down on her too much. So the saddle gullet needs to look more A shaped as opposed to an upside down wide U shape like it is now. Based on her soreness, the saddle is most likely bridging causing more pressure on the shoulders and seat areas of the bars. However, I can’t completely say this is a problem because the sweat patterns don’t indicate this. At this point, this is just an assumption based on where she is sore areas. Typically with high pressure spots, you most often see dry spots. Maggie has had uniform sweat patterns all along. No dry spots whatsoever. In addition, when you look down the gullet of the saddle, the saddle also appears to making good contact along the entire length of the bars. So, as you can see , there are some contradictions we are dealing with but we had a plan. You have to start somewhere, right?

This past Tuesday night, I gathered my phone (with pictures), my written instructions on how to place shims and pads, grabbed Maggie and went to work. I will try to break it out step by step and my observations of each.

The fix.

Step 1: Narrow up the saddle: this means bring the main ½ “ pads closer together , start with moving them toward the center or closer together by a ½” and check to see that they are making good contact along the bars the entire way.

What happened: The bars made very little contact. Tried moving pads only a ¼” closer together. This seemed a little better but now the center of the bars were not making what I would consider good contact.

Hoping that this would resolve itself with the shims, I continued with the instructions just to see where I would end up.Maybe something magical would come together...

Step 2:Place the larger wedge shims on each side in the back, halfway down the bar lengthwise.

Back wedge shims for placement view
 The result: I thought the purpose of this was going to be to help get the pressure off the back of the saddle and tip it more forward, however, once I got these on and placed the saddle on her back, it didn’t really make a lot of sense. From what I could see, it was making the pressure in the problem area more pronounced. I sat in the saddle at this point and while the saddle was sinking less, the pressure was still too much in the back of the saddle. She was reacting.

Step 3: Shim the left shoulder to help even out things for the right shoulder. (larger shoulder)

left shoulder shim for placement view

The result: seemed to help fill the gap on the space between the left shoulder and the pad but the right shoulder was still too tight when I sat in the saddle. Not really making much of a difference and the area behind her shoulders really didn't seem to be bothering her.

When all done, this is what my new padding/shim configuration looked like. For clarification, I wanted to show that the final product would not have the shims on top of the main pads  as pictured above, but will actually go underneath the main pads.

Final set up.
Sadly enough after all this, I still was not getting good results.  I reconfigured the shims and pads probably 10 different ways to Sunday after these first three steps to see if I could get a better fit. Here is what I ran into each time : (sorry no photos of the following)

-Move pads in to get saddle to sit higher on her back: Created lack of bar contact.

-If Pads moved to where good contact with bars was achieved, the saddle would sink and hit her in the sore spot again, which is too low. Back to original issue we are trying to fix.

-Shimmed the center of the bar to get pressure off the back of the saddle and get better bar contact throughout: This created to much rocker.

-Shimmed just the back of the saddle : Saddle still sinking too much and the pressure on the back was worse.

-Shimmed just the front,: same result of above but now with rocker added!!

After over an hour of velcroing, un-velcroing , shimming and unshimming, throwing the saddle on , pulling the saddle off… I finally realized that I was not going to fix this with what I had in place. The purpose of purchasing this saddle was to allow for easy adjustments as my horses back changed. It didn’t seem to be proving that way here.

Furstration ??? you could say so.
I emailed my saddle rep with my findings. At this point we have a new plan. She thinks I need to try the thicker pads, either ¾ inch or 1 inch. We will have to try both to see which is going to work better.

Only one problem. Since she lives over 3 hours away , arranging for a saddle consult isn’t easy or economical. She offered to come up this weekend, but it’s a bit of a charge by the time mileage is figured in. I am tempted to just spend the money and get it done because obviously what I am doing on my own isn’t getting it fixed and secondly, I am not really into delayed gratification. As it turns out, the husband is planning a trip to the town where the rep lives for one of the husbands archery competitions in June anyways, so I could coordinate to have it refitted at that time. I wasn’t initially planning to go or have Maggie hauled there, but I suppose it might be an option. The downside? It’s 3 weeks away. The upside? The fee would be considerably less and with a large hay purchase and travel plans to the City of Rocks ride in July, ( a 10-11 trailer ride) the budget doesn’t have much wiggle room for the summer.

…. And.. it’s not like I don’t have a back up saddle and have to stop riding Maggie for those three weeks. My Duett fits Maggie well and I completed her first 35 miler in that saddle 2 years ago with absolutely no issues. I have ridden Maggie in the Duett twice this week and she seems happy in it. I just prefer riding in my Specialized for endurance. I love my Duett for arena work but now that I have ridden in the Specialized, I really like the support of that saddle for the trail.

The only other option is to have the rep mail me the thicker pads and let me try to get the fit right on my own however, I am not feeling like confident enough to get it right at this point and I can’t afford to sore Maggie up again.

Looks like I will probably wait , ride the Duett to continue to prepare for the July ride and coordinate with the June trip to get this saddle fitting done.


irish horse said...

How frustrating! You were very thorough! Saddle fitting is such a puzzle, I'm dealing with it now too. I think you could order the thicker pads, that way you could play with it when you have time. Also, if you can get it to fit, you won't need to haul Maggie down to the fitter. Just do it on a nice day, when you have no other plans and your frustration level is low and patience is set to high! good luck!

CG said...

I agree, try the thicker pads yourself. You might get a pleasant surprise and they will fit with your current shim set up. It sounds like the shimming was OK, you just need to get the saddle up away from her back more?
Cartman goes in the 1 inch pads, but he was fairly narrow last year when we fit them. I'm going to be watching now, as his shape has changed considerably- just like Maggie has.
Isn't it wonderful developing youngsters?? Good luck!

kathie said...

My Uncle was a retired jockey, he taught us to use vaseline on healing saddle woulds to prevent white hairs from filling the rubbed spot. Over the years I have used this successfully, also have used grape balm & grape seed oil with great success, aloe vera cream works too! Keeping the area moist and refreshed seems to do the trick. Saddles fit, but there is always a day that they may rub, a bit too much heat, a few added pounds, riding off to one side as you go up or down steep inclines, even the best fitting saddle may have an issue now & then. Happy trails !

Jonna said...

Hey all! Thanks for all the input..Yes, saddle fitting is an ongoing thing we have to be aware of, just comes with the territory and i guess with distance riding, it becomes more of a theme because of the amount of time we are in the saddle! Since I have my Duett, I am going to hold off and take Maggie down to the fitter in a couple of weeks. I will feel better having someone there to assist, an "professional" eye if you will!Then it can be fit, I can ride it (going to go on a ride with the fitters once fit) and assess the fit, etc.. I am hoping the thicker pads do the trick..Today, we all get so particular about saddle fit, pads, comfort of horses. I often wonder back 'in the day" when cowboys had to get a job done on a horse, how they dealt with it. I can't imagine they all rode sore backed horses.. I guess they adjusted pads as needed and if it got too bad, they just switched horses..
@Kathi- interesting on the home remedies. I am always interested in things like that. Luckily, the hide is not rubbed off of her in the sore spots but more of an area that was more padded down... I caught it before it got too bad... thankfully! Thanksfor the info...