By Rosemary on Wednesday, the 25th of April, 2018
Tracey Day is a long standing customer of Martin Wilkinson Saddlers and recently we received a cry for help as she was at her wit’s end with her youngster. Harvey is a 5 1/2 year old KWPN by Contendro whose career so far has been a bit stop/start. Tracey bought him as a project 4 year old and broke him herself, she says ‘He wasn’t easy to break and he almost broke me in the process!’ On questioning her we discovered that she had broken him in a saddle she had bought from MWS – but fitted for her other horse, Tarry. ‘It looked ok’ she said – but clearly it wasn’t as Harvey reacted violently to the saddle throwing Tracey and leaving her with back injuries which still cause her immense pain. This is a brave and determined lady though and she persevered but didn’t at that time think that the saddle may have caused the problem. This is not unusual as we often find that misbehaviour in a horse is blamed on the horses’ temperament but often the root cause is discomfort from an ill fitting saddle. Moral – best to get a well fitting saddle to break your horse in so that their first experience of a saddle is one of comfort not pain!
Tracey struggled on but still felt that Harvey was not giving of his best. He was fine in the jump saddle she had (also fitted by Martin Wilkinson for Tarry) but couldn’t fathom why he still felt that he could give more. Tracey has a livery on her yard who uses a different saddle fitter and as she was on the yard seeing the livery horse, Tracey took the opportunity to consult her about Harvey. This saddler fitter only has one brand of saddle, a brand with air panels, and she recommended that Tracey find a saddle with air and she would then be able to adjust the air to compensate for Tracey’s back problem. Tracey said that she had seen an Albion K2 Dressage online same width and seat size as her jump saddle with air panels and would this suit? The saddle fitter assured Tracey that ‘an Albion tree would be suitable for her horse’ so she went ahead and bought the saddle. The saddle fitter said she would be able to adjust the air in the saddle to compensate for Tracey’s back problem and so she ‘pumped up’ one side of the saddle and sent Tracey on her merry way.
Sadly this didn’t seem to be the answer and after two weeks Tracey felt that things had not improved in fact she said ‘It went from bad to worse’. Not unusually, Tracey felt that the problems probably lay with her and that her back injury was causing the problem with the horse and that she just wasn’t sitting straight, so she booked herself on a biomechanics assessment day with Russell Guire, Centaur Biomechanics. Russell watched and recorded her riding and said that no, she wasn’t sitting straight but that it was the saddle at fault, not her! He confirmed that according to all the research, the best way to alter the balance of a saddle would be to use shims or felt under the saddle so that you had a more solid base – the air would just shift and the more you pumped it up the harder it got and the more ‘bouncy’ it would become!
By this time Tracey was several hundred pounds out of pocket and no further forwards! So this was when she approached Martin again and said help! Realising that this was not an unusual scenario, Martin asked her permission to use this as a case study to help educate and inform all the other horse owners out there who may be experiencing something similar!
Next: Read what happened when Martin went to see Tracey and Harvey