From Endurance to Dressage
Speaking of saddles ...
A week or so ago, we had the saddle fitter up to adjust our saddles. There aren't enough dressage riders in Bakersfield for a saddle fitter to be here regularly, so when I found out Tina Fitch was coming, I signed up immediately. Tina is an accomplished eventer, photographer, and saddle fitter.
Before making the switch from endurance to dressage, I had never had need of a saddle fitter. As a rule, most endurance saddles are built on western saddle type trees which means there isn't any flocking to adjust. Minor fit adjustments are made by changing the pad.
My first two dressage saddles were Wintecs, a basic model and then the Isabell Werth model. Once I bought a dressage saddle that had wool flocking (a Custom Revolution), I had Tina do the fitting, and I've never felt the need to call anyone else.
Tina was kept busy all day. She started on the far west side of town and then headed east, adjusting saddles along the way. In our neighborhood, Tina adjusted three different saddles, starting with Laurel's.
Before she starts adjusting the wool flocking of a saddle, Tina starts by doing a careful exam of the horse, gently feeling for any tightness in the back. She also asks the rider what she's been feeling under saddle then she looks at the saddle itself.
My favorite thing about Tina, besides the fact that she's really good at her job, is that she is patient about answering questions and genuinely seems to care that her clients understand her process. Laurel's saddle had a knot under her seat along with some flattened wool that needed some perking up.
While she worked, Tina explained how she was working out the knot. When asked about the different types of wool in her bag, she explained that different saddle manufacturers use different densities of wool, so she tries to keep a variety of wools to most closely match what the saddle already has.
When Tina was pretty happy with the adjustment, she asked Laurel to take a short ride to see how both she and Willie felt about the adjustment. Laurel came back with a big smile and tried to articulate what she felt had improved. Tina was quick to understand the sensation that Laurel was describing; the saddle had been bridging, but was now making an even contact down Willie's back.
My saddle was up next. I didn't have any particular complaints, but since buying the saddle last fall, Tina hadn't yet seen it. Right away she could see that it needed more flocking. It was settling too deeply on both horses. Tina also surprised me yet again by declaring Speedy the wider of the two horses.
Tina worked on my saddle for a while, adjusting the flocking so that my pommel started to come up. I explained that my biggest riding problem with Speedy is a tendency to pitch forward. Tina explained that with my saddle correctly balanced, I wouldn't have that problem any longer.
With Izzy, I get stuck in the saddle and find it hard to post. Since he isn't as wide as Speedy she encouraged me to lift the saddle with the half pad I am already using. By adding flocking, she explained that she had filled in the hole in which I was getting stuck.
Once she was finished, I hopped up on each boy and was amazed at how much my position had changed! On Speedy, I was sitting back on my seat bones and his shoulders felt much freer. I noticed a huge difference on Izzy as well. I didn't have that stuck in a hole sensation.
If you have a wool flocked saddle and live on the west coast, Tina travels. She's an excellent saddle fitter, and she's really great about finding ways to make what you have work. A poorly fitting tree can't usually be made to work, but if the tree is close, Tina can get a good fit for both horse and rider. Let me know if you want her contact information.
I can't wait for my next lesson!
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9/7/2018 07:49:42 am
Does she travel to Washington? :S
9/8/2018 04:32:02 pm
I just emailed you. :0)
9/7/2018 09:18:59 am
I love saddle fitting days! My fitter is coming out this weekend to do some tweaks to our saddle.
9/8/2018 04:33:22 pm
I only get to see mine about once a year (or less), but I definitely look forward to her visit. It's one of those "luxuries" that you know actually works. :0)
9/7/2018 02:43:56 pm
How does the saddle fitter get access to the flocking ? Or is there a open gap on each side in the makes of saddle that she adjusts?
9/8/2018 04:37:51 pm
Good question! If you have a dressage saddle, you can find the opening underneath the flap near your stirrup bars. It's a tiny slit in the leather. She uses long wires, almost like a coat hangers, to push in new wool or drag the existing wool around. It's pretty interesting to watch. :0)
9/10/2018 02:56:01 pm
Thanks I do have a dressage saddle and am now going to look and see for a way to get in there.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: