It’s both frustrating and enlightening how big a difference a saddle can make in the way your horse goes. The first dressage saddle I bought was a PA Spirig, and well, it served the purpose even if it did put me in a horrible chair seat. One saddle-fitter said it fit Monte ok, the other said it was too long for his short back. I sold a horse and upgraded to a used Prestige with a banana seat along with an Amerigo jumping saddle that was heavenly compared to the slippery, hard, pancake-flat jumping saddles I’d been using. The Prestige was an upgrade, but I always knew it wasn’t THE ONE. It did help my chair seat immensely, but I never noticed a huge change in Monte’s way of going.
I sold another horse and decided to upgrade again… this time to a used (barely IMO) Hennig. Hennig was one of the first saddlemakers to worry about freedom of the shoulder, short-backed horses and the width/shape of the gullet, and when I put this saddle on Monte, he felt like he was floating.
I had been prepping for my second outing with Monte had 4-1, and in our extensions, he had been breaking to canter more often than not, regardless of what I tried. My best results were when I held him in his extension with my hands, and on top of not feeling great, it wasn’t even always successful. It was also very difficult to sit, hence the return of the chair seat – but the difficulty is also a telltale sign he’s not using his back the way he should be.
The first ride in the Hennig he didn’t break from his extensions once, and they were easy to sit. I no longer had to push myself to the back of the saddle to stay in place and I could let go of his face and he would just become even more fluid… up and out. It was pure bliss.
Even after giving it a fair trial, the results were the same, and I had a horse with awesome, consistent extensions. (Not that we don’t still have plenty of other things to work on.) I almost wish this weren’t the case. When you ride and compete on a budget, it would be nice to know that hard work can fix everything. Unfortunately, Monte has taught me that when something’s really not right with him, a couple grand can do the trick much easier.