Regardless, Tina Hoover, the saddle fitter did an awesome job and happily answered my gazillion questions about saddles.
I expected to be laughed off the property when I sheepishly explained that I wanted my saddle adjusted to fit my Arabian and my Thoroughbred. To my surprise, Tina's response was sure, I do that all the time. Saddles are expensive and most riders can't afford multiple saddles.
WHAT?! My jaw dropped open. I didn't show up expecting a total cold shoulder, but I'll admit that I was braced and ready for the your-saddle-is-a-crappy-fit-and-needs-to be-replaced-immediately sales pitch. That's not at all how Tina operates. She asked which horse was number one, to which I replied that I ride them both equally. She gave them a quick once over and determined that since Speedy is the wider of the two, she would fit it more to his shape.
A pause is needed here. Again with the WHAT?! Speedy is wider than Sydney? I would never in a million years have guessed that. Yes, Speedy has ample withers and yes his rib cage is well sprung (Tina liked that visual for him), but Sydney is just so much bigger that I assumed he was also wider. Hmmm ...
One area that we looked at was the length of the saddle (17.5"). Even though Speedy has a longish back for an Arab, it's still short compared to many horses. Tina felt the back of the saddle dug into his loins slightly.
Along with being a bit long, the saddle has a tendency to sit too low in the back (on Speedy) which puts me slightly behind the center of gravity. Tina demonstrated by placing a pen on the seat of the saddle. Sure enough, it rolled just back of the saddle's center. She raised the rear of the saddle slightly, and the pen settled into the center of the saddle where my own seat bones should rest. Oh.
Other than those two issues, she felt that we had a good fit. With her bag of wool flocking, a smooth mallet, and several long pointy tools, she settled down to reposition the flocking in my saddle. She pushed and pulled the flocking explaining that she was giving Speedy more room in the front of the saddle so that it would drop down a bit in the front which would effectively raise it up in the back. She had the saddle on and off Speedy's back dozens of times as she adjusted and readjusted. She also had me ride both horses and lead them at the walk with the saddle just sitting in position.
Tina also worked to smooth out any hard places and fill in places where the flocking had shifted, like under my thighs. As she worked, she answered many questions about tree shape, panel design, and placement of the saddle. She explained that most people place the saddle too far forward on their horses' backs, even me! I had it close, but she suggested sliding it back another inch or so.
She demonstrated how to find the sweet spot by placing the saddle on the horse's back with no pad. Start the saddle far forward of where it should be and then slide it into place. Using one hand in front of the saddle, firmly bump the saddle backwards until it locks into place. Again, oh!
When making a few minor adjustments for Sydney, the saddle was a nice fit for him, she agreed that his right shoulder is less "bulgy" than his left, but she said it was very normal for horses to be somewhat asymmetrical. She adjusted the flocking still more until the saddle also fit Sydney. In all, Tina spent several hours fitting the saddle to both boys.
If you've never had your saddle adjusted, I highly recommend it. Not only will you be giving your horse a more comfortable ride, but it is a fascinating process and you'll learn a lot about your horse's anatomy.
If you live in California, Tina Hoover can be reached at 626-422-7382. And just as a gotta know, Tina charged me $120 which included a portion of her travel fee.
Speedy on the other hand was a bit of a stinker. He is great if he travels alone, but once a friend joins him in the trailer, he gets VERY herd bound! Grr ...