Adventures in Saddle Fitting

My Kent & Masters GP saddle fit Paddy fine (not perfect), but I had been feeling for a while that it was just not right for what I wanted. It was (and still is) the most comfortable saddle I have ever sat in, but there was just too much saddle – I found it quite bulky and I couldn’t quite get my legs on when I rode. I also found myself a bit ‘perched’ in the saddle – tipped forward and unable to get back onto my seatbones and get my legs under me. I also really wanted a Jump rather than GP saddle as my plan is to have a Dressage and Jump saddle. So I sold the saddle to a girl who was looking for more security in the saddle and comfort for her long hacks – the K&M is ideal for this!

I did not have a Jump saddle lined up before I sold my GP – I also did not know that Paddy is an exceptionally awkward shape. He is long in the back, high withered, with big shoulders, and a LOVELY hollow between his shoulders and withers. I am also long from hip to knee so need a relatively forward cut flap. Ideal for fitting a saddle. *insert sarcastic tone here*

I must have fitted about 10-15 saddles from private sellers, saddle fitters, and dealers over the space of a few weeks. It was like the Goldilocks of saddle fitting – too wide, too narrow, too high at the front, too short for my legs… I was beginning to think I was never going to find the saddle that was ‘just right’ for both of us.

A few friends noticed the struggles I was having finding the right saddle, and recommended that I take a trip to Old Mill Saddlery in Co. Antrim to see if they could help. I was dubious about the journey (three hours each way from my yard) but I decided to go based on the really positive reviews from friends, along with the fact that they had a great saddle fitter as well as hundreds of saddles for me to choose from – surely there was SOMETHING in there that would suit us!

A view of (part) of the store at Old Mill Saddlery. Credit: Equestrian News NI

A view of (part) of the store at Old Mill Saddlery. Credit: Equestrian News NI

When making my saddle fitting appointment with Old Mill, I was asked to send them pictures of Paddy from the front, side and back so that their Master Saddler, Robert (who owns the business), could assess his shape and line up some saddles before my visit. He then called me back and we had a good discussion about what I was looking for – making sure he was really clear on my needs and what I wanted to do with Paddy/the saddle before I came. Robert advised me that he would do everything in his power to find me the best saddle for both of us – he couldn’t promise that I would go home with one, but that I would learn a lot about what saddle suited us both best at the very least. This put me at ease because I knew he wasn’t going to try and force a sale on me if something wasn’t right, and he also wasn’t aligned to a specific saddle company either which I really liked.

I was nervous about the trip as I hadn’t towed Paddy that far yet, but he was an angel to travel and didn’t make a peep the whole way. The whole trip ended up taking more than 3.5 hours to make as we stopped for food, then to fix a flat tyre! When I arrived at Old Mill, the first thing they did was take Paddy and put him into one of their stables so that he could have a drink and go to the toilet. This really put me at ease that Paddy would be comfortable as I was worried he was a bit tired after the journey. We then met with Robert who assessed Paddy in the stable – he noted he was croup high (as he still has some growing to do), as well as being a bit hollow by the shoulders. It was going to be tough to find a saddle to fit but he already had some great ideas about what might suit.

A view of just two of the many racks filled with saddles at Old Mill. Credit: Equestrian News NI

A view of just two of the many racks filled with saddles at Old Mill. Credit: Equestrian News NI

We then made our way into the shop, where the staff gave us complementary coffee and water after our long journey, and Robert took us up to the saddle warehouse. I was expecting to see a lot of saddles, but I was truly blown away by the amount of them when I entered the room! Rows and rows and rows of saddles – Robert told me they could have up to A THOUSAND saddles at any one time. So off we went – Robert started pulling out saddles based on what I wanted, my budget and Paddy’s conformation, and I had a sit in them on the saddle rack with built in stirrups. So before we even fitted them to Paddy, we knew what I liked. We narrowed it down to six saddles, and brought Paddy in to fit them. After fitting the saddles to Paddy, we had it down to three saddles – an Albion K2 Jump, an Amerigo Vega Monoflap, and a Prestige Roma. The Albion and Amerigo were both used (in great condition) while the Prestige was new – I had my heart set on the Prestige, having ridden in a friend’s Meredith for the few weeks I was without a saddle.

 

The Amerigo Vega Monoflap that I ended up buying. I love it!

One of the best things about Old Mill is the fact that they have an arena that you can ride in so you can make sure the saddles suit before you buy, as well as a few little jumps – the surface is amazing! I recommend bringing your own girth and stirrups for this. Robert watched me ride in all three and we quickly wrote off the Albion – it was just a bit too tight for me and I needed a bigger seat. Paddy absolutely loved the Prestige – freer through the shoulder and his trot was amazing! The Amerigo I felt a bit tipped forward in, and Robert noted it was just a bit too low in front, so he brought out an Acavallo Memory Foam Half Pad for me to ride with. This instantly tipped the scales in favour of the Amerigo – I felt secure, Paddy was forward and free through the shoulders, and as soon as I jumped in it I knew this one was for me. I couldn’t quite keep my lower legs still in the Prestige, they  kept swinging in canter – so in the end I went for the Amerigo. I also bought the half pad to go with it (full review to follow!). We had some time to wander around the store after and I’m half glad I was broke because I would have bought the whole shop! I would really recommend a trip to this store to anyone.

My whole experience at Old Mill from the day I called them, to leaving with my new (preloved!) saddle was nothing short of excellent. I had preconceptions about what I needed in a saddle – black, 17.5″, and dead set on getting a Prestige – what I came home with was a Havana, 18″ Amerigo Monoflap. Robert was extremely knowledgeable and made sure that I went home with the right saddle for both me and Paddy, with no compromise, and didn’t try to push a particular brand or saddle on me. Robert also told me that if I rode in the saddle at home and found it wasn’t right for me in the first 10 days, that I could send it back and he would courier the Prestige down to me with no quibble.

In my opinion one of the most important investments you will ever make as a horse owner is your saddle (another being your bit – more on this later!) – the wrong saddle can put you in a terrible position and make you an ineffective rider, but worse still it can cause your horse back pain and long term damage. Getting the right saddle is no mean feat, and I was delighted to be able to have mine fitted by an experienced saddle fitter, and have had a wide selection to choose from.

I have no affiliation with Old Mill Saddlery and was not incentivised to write this post – I just had a really great experience that I wanted to share. Thanks Old Mill!

Natalie xo

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