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#31 The Importance of Saddle Fit with Holly Barnett of August Equine

Holly Barnett is the founder and CEO of August Equine. August Equine takes a whole horse approach to saddle fit, combining the knowledge of saddle fit with anatomy, conformation, biomechanics, and the nervous system.

For over 20 years, Holly has studied and transformed equestrian partnerships of all levels and disciplines. She specializes in dressage, eventing, and jumping as well as western and endurance riding. Holly’s innate ability to both spot and resolve performance blocks, as well as temper the nervous system, harness the foundations of movement, and optimize the fit of equipment, enables clients to create quantum leaps in their riding performance.

In this episode, we discuss the importance of proper tack fit, the common signs of an ill-fitting saddle, the factors that can affect saddle fit, and so much more.

Podcast Transcript

This transcript was created by an AI and has not been proofread.

This transcript was created by AI and has not been proofread

[SPEAKER 1]On this week’s episode, we’re talking with Holly Barnett of August Equine.

[SPEAKER 2]But when you get those parts right, like the horses really do come up, they really put on the top line, those changes are possible. But I think there’s a bit of a gap of knowledge of recognizing when things aren’t right. And that’s keeping a lot of people away from their goals a little bit.

[SPEAKER 1]Welcome to the Equestrian Connection podcast from wehorse. My name is Danielle Kroll, and I’m your host. Auguste Equine takes a whole horse approach to saddle fit, combining the knowledge of saddle fit with the horse’s anatomy, conformation, biomechanics, and the nervous system. For over 20 years, Holly has studied and transformed equestrian partnerships of all levels and disciplines. She specializes in dressage, eventing, and jumping, as well as western and endurance riding. Holly’s innate ability to both spot and resolve performance blocks, as well as temper the nervous system, harness the foundations of movement, and optimize the fit of equipment, enables clients to create quantum leaps in their riding performance. This is a jam-packed episode, so let’s get right to it. Holly, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited for our topic today, and I know that a lot of our listeners are going to be as well.

[SPEAKER 2]Thank you for having me.

[SPEAKER 1]So a lot of equestrians that work within the equestrian industry have a little bit of an origin story as to how they got into their profession and I’d love to know how you became interested in saddle fitting and then what led you to pursue it as a profession.

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, for sure. So I actually got into the working as equine professional straight out of high school, I heard of this equine massage course, it was at Darcy Lane time, so like two year full time registered equine massage therapist. So straight into that part of our, um,

[SPEAKER 1]Sorry, what’s the word?

[SPEAKER 2]We had to do a couple of hundred hours with a veterinarian. It’s an internship, sorry. And I ended up taking a full-time job with this veterinarian afterwards. And so she also did chiropractic and dentistry and lameness. And so we were going out working on cases and like all of these horses kept on having all of these sore backs. And so she’d do chiropractic, I’d do massage. And we were never quite really, you know, they would get somewhat better, but obviously there’s something else at play. And then we also would go to the veterinary conventions and there was one on saddle fit and they were telling us to take baby powder and put it on the horse’s back and ride and read the powder. And we’re like, okay, now what? So there was like a really big blank, but I kind of clued in at that point. I’m like, there’s got to be something. I mean, that’s where the saddle goes. That’s where the horses are stored. And so a couple of years later, I ended up going to a saddle fitting clinic and it was just like, I need this information. So I ended up completing, I think it was like a six or eight month apprenticeship as a saddle fitter. And then working for about four years all over North America, working with all kinds of different breeds and different disciplines. And it just, you know, honestly, it’s been a journey of curiosity. Like it was, why is this happening? What is wrong with this?


[SPEAKER 2]Then you learn the difference between the French trees and the German German saddle fitting and the French saddle fitting and Italian and England. And so it was just really kind of getting all the pieces. I ended up traveling overseas, going even to the saddle pad factories, went to the tree factories, went to the saddle making factories. I traveled to the tannery and even to the Leather Museum in Walsall just to get like to the bottom of everything.

[SPEAKER 1]Wow. Wow. That’s so in depth. And so I remember as a child coming up along in the horse world and having one saddle and keeping that one saddle for years as I changed ponies and horses. right and it was never a oh we have to you know get this saddle fitted or anything like that it was a slide your hand as a pinch the withers no you can fit your hand in right you’re good to go yeah and we’re now realizing that is very different can you this is a little bit of a loaded question but can you explain the importance of a proper fitting saddle for not only the horse, especially from a bodywork perspective, but then, and then also we’ll get into a little bit to the rider. So we’ll start with the importance for the horse, and then we’ll discuss also the, you know, the importance of the proper fit for the rider too.

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, like that’s been something that’s come up many times, I think a little bit less so now, but there was quite a period of time where like, oh, you know, we used to always ride and whatever saddle, we just threw it on, everything was fine. And for a long time, that was the case. But you can go back and see that there is some saddle fit issues, even in some of the historical photos. But if you wind the clocks back a little bit further to the times of Calvary, they were on it. They were on top of Saddlefit like nobody’s business. I actually love to quote, I have a 1933 handbook from the wartime veterinarian’s office and it’s written in this really amazing old English. So, and the information that I tell clients in person isn’t different than what’s written in that book. So we’ve had this information, but when horses went from a necessity to a luxury, the saddle fitting information didn’t really follow them. And so there’s no one really governing how saddles are designed or made or how they fit. And so it’s a little bit of the Wild West when it comes to, even for sizing, there’s no industry standard for sizing. So you can make a saddle and make it a medium wide at X amount of centimeters. I can make a saddle and say it’s medium wide and they can be completely different and that’s just the way it is. So there are a lot of things that kind of make it harder than it needs to be but um and the old odette like it used to be oh just if you can put your fingers on the top of the withers you’re good to go. So when you really understand the biomechanics of the horse, the functionality, the muscles, the innervation and how the horse where it can bear weight more easily. The elephant in the room is that horses weren’t necessarily made to carry a rider and they can, if we set them up to do so, which requires getting their body strong enough and their saddles to appropriately position the weight and not put too much adverse pressure that blocks blood supply causes. Cause horses are morphologists. Like if you touch a horse, it’s going to move. Like we, you know, we know that. And so if you’re riding and your saddle is putting a lot of pressure somewhere, the horse is going to invert and move away. But then we’re asking them usually where it’s putting the pressure is where we’re asking their backs to come up. So, yeah, I could go on probably for three days and just that part of it.


[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, so the information was there, we did kind of get away from it, and then we’ve really been taking a lot of strides to get back into it. For me, following so many horses and riders and offering them saddle fit and combining it with the bodywork and seeing the results, has really taught me how the majority of saddles have a lot of similar fit issues in some of them, but when you get those parts right, the horses really do come up, they really put on the top line, those changes are possible, but I think there’s a bit of a gap of knowledge of recognizing when things aren’t right, and that’s keeping a lot of people away from their goals a little bit that way.

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[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, huge implications for the horse, even if it’s affecting. So when the saddle’s affecting the fit of the rider in a negative way, that does negatively influence the horse’s way of going. So there’s a couple different ways you can kind of tackle this question. Even how the saddle fits the horse will affect the way it fits the rider. Obviously, if it’s out of balance on the horse, the rider can’t be in balance. If you’re riding your horse and you just on purpose hollow out your lower back, your horse will change its gait. So that just goes to show how much your horse is reading your pelvic positioning and the forces that’s inserted. So I would actually have people riding around and just play with that so they can really recognize how much their horse is noticing when they’re out of balance or when they’re changing the balance of their seat. Seat size is an interesting one because my world got a little flipped around a couple years ago. The way I was fitting riders and seating them has actually evolved quite a bit. So it’s always fun to learn something new 20 years in the game. what this new methodology or this new style of working with the riders actually to take a seat imprint. We use cardboard like a corrugated cardboard and we get a measurement of the seat bones in relationship to the pubic arch and so that’s actually going to dictate a lot about Uh, how the seat should interact with that person’s, um, seat. And interestingly enough, we were previously kind of thinking it had a lot to do more to do with male versus female and the sizing, but really, truly it is that relationship and, um. There are different styles of pelvises that everyone has, regardless of your male or female, and those all come into play. So the width of the seat, and also now we’re also looking at the width of the horse, because that’s going to affect how that rider sits in that saddle. So if I have a saddle that fits a rider on one horse, but then on the next horse it’s got a wider barrel, that might change the way that fits. Um, large thigh blocks. There was, I think we’re kind of coming out of a phase where it was a bit of a supersized me with massive blocks and massive candles. I have really always shied away from those, those really tall candles make me a bit nervous. If you were in a bit of a bucking situation and you came down on that with your back, I don’t think it would go so well for you.


[SPEAKER 2]But yeah, it can be really dangerous. But when you have those really large blocks, you now have, like when you’re wanting to move with the motion of the horse, so you want to have a little bit of motion, right? And so those blocks are going to basically be an end point that you can end up leveraging on. And you can really, if you put some videos in slow motion with some of the larger blocks, you can really see the forces going back and forth where you’re going to be interacting. And, you know, if you, especially the saddles like on a big point billet with a massive front block and a high cantilever, those forces are just getting really jammed forward instead of having the freedom to move with that horse’s body. So I probably have an easier time describing with some diagrams and but the blocks do cause change and actually they’ve done some research recently, if I’m not mistaken, on that as well. So I prefer to have a smaller block, the jump ones we can Often we’ll see them on velcros, we can move them so that we can play with getting the ideal position. But if we’re relying on thigh blocks, then those forces are going somewhere and they’re going into the saddle, into your horse’s back.

[SPEAKER 1]And now when you had mentioned about like measuring the pelvis and the seat width and things like that, so is that allowing it so that when someone is, um, looking to purchase a new saddle, and then you say, okay, I need a 17 inch seat size, let’s say, and then I know I need a medium twist, things like that. So having that knowledge to help determine the saddle, because we’re seeing more and more saddles that are being described with their twist. And I know for myself, sitting in different saddles, you can really feel the difference. So how does that play in and for people to know their, you know, quote unquote, twist size or twist width?

[SPEAKER 2]So the twist is so the the one we’re doing and this this type of measurement is specific for one specific brand so it’s not necessarily fully transferable to other brands with regards to seat size but the information that you gather by looking at riders this way is helpful and so say um Like the twist is interesting because a lot of times people come and they’re like, oh, I need a narrow twist. And it was kind of like everybody under the sun was saying that for at least a couple of years, a while back. it was uh and it really has to do with what distance you can receive um under your like under your seat and it’s also going to be in relationship to the your femoral heads the neck of your femurs are they long are they angled um are you riding a narrow horse or white horse so there’s all these like you know riding’s fascinating it’s the most complex sport on the planet and we have all these moving parts and all these things that need to be in order to not be obstructing progress and performance. But I don’t, to just go and say, oh, I need a narrow twist. Well, each, again, the manufacturers, what is a narrow twist? There’s not a standard per se, the seat balance is going to come into play. So it’s not to say that you can’t get information that’s helpful, but the seat size, you know, you might have a pair of shoes that are seven, but in this brand, you wear a seven and a half. So there’s a little bit of some gray edges around that seat sizing. basically you want to have a saddle that is appropriate for the horse. So obviously if you’re thinking you need a really large saddle on a short backed horse, you’re going to run into issues where it’s probably not going to work out so well, but no, you’ve got an average price horse and you’re not sure if you’re a 17 or 17 and a half, your best bet is to ride in both. If you can ride both side by side and see your position. Um, some people have like a lower, cubic arch versus a higher pubic arch. So they’re going to do better in a saddle. It has more of a higher pommel than, you know, those kinds of, those things come into play too. So where you naturally sit, some riders hug the pommel. Um, so there’s all, it’s, it’s not like, uh, when I’ve been looking for the saddle for the formula for about 25 years, it’s, uh, we’ve gotten close, but it really is dependent on the style of the seat construction and the shape of the horse and the internal aspect of the rider’s pelvis.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah. It’s the same as like, um, I remember always hearing like, well, how many fingers is between like your bum and the top of the cantle and that will tell you. And it’s like, well, again, that is so dependent now on so many, like it, it’s not a one size fits all, um, because there’s so many variables. Yeah. Now, before we go into, um, some of the other things about like the right way to do things or the, the you know, more details about like saddle assessments and things like that. Let’s look at like debunking some myths. And one of the things I think of is, um, you had kind of briefly mentioned it a little bit earlier about like the gullet width. And so thinking, okay, well my horse needs, you know, whatever size gullet widths. Um, There’s also, for example, like the shape of the tree, all of those different things that we don’t think of. And so debunking them at the same as, OK, well, you just need a narrow twist. Well, no, it depends on the saddle. And it’s not just the gullet wood, things like that. What are some of the myths or common misconceptions that you’re hearing that maybe we can just give to people to help them out?

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, I think, I think tree size, like making sure that they’re aware that a medium wide is not a medium wide across the board. You’ll see ads for people looking for saddles, and it’s like, oh, I need a medium or a medium wide. And so I’m always curious as to like, what’s the general conception around where that that’s coming from is it because we’ve ridden in medium wides all our life or you know and then also looking back at the horse what is the state of the current muscle condition um so are we have we taken a wither tracer i would say the one of the important i haven’t actually looked at it as myths so much as just misconceptions i guess i guess it would kind of go hand in hand is that you can take a wither tracing and then take a one mil slice of your horse’s wither and take that to a staff pack store and find a saddle. When we actually are looking at a 3D shape that is also going to be moving and we have a shape from the wither to the basically the loin, the before the loins, that’s our saddle fit area. So what’s the confirmation of that shape? We’re off, one of the biggest things I see get overlooked is the shape of the pommel needs to match the shape of the withers. So they need to be in a happy marriage. If you have a longer wither on a shorter pommel, no one’s going to have a good day ever. It’s really, really problematic. It really causes a lot of pain and therefore dysfunction. and the horse is not able to move correctly nor is it able to build muscle properly and because what happens is you have a basically the front half of the saddle is fitting in a vertical context whereas where the wither blends into the back there’s an angle shift from vertical to horizontal And when a pommel is turning into a seat, that’s the same place that that change in angle needs to happen. And if you’ve got a shorter pommel and a longer wither, you’ve got that change in angle happening before the wither’s done. And so you get a lot of pressure right where that angle change happens. Another common one is we’ll see some horses that have like a wider, flatter back, and then they have like a steeper angle to the rails of the tree or the panels are steep, so now you’re not getting that distributed pressure, you’re getting localized pressure around the edges, so it kind of stabs into the back. One that should not even exist, and I can’t believe saddles still come out of factories with this, is a narrow channel down the spine. That at this point is just unacceptable.

[SPEAKER 1]Can you define what, like how how to know whether your shuttle has it.

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, so you turn your saddle upside down and you want to look down the channel. In this case we’re talking about the space between your two panels and so if that space is narrow like three fingers like If it’s less than, this is a very technical term, we all use it, four fingers wide, then you’re heading into too narrow of a channel territory. And the reason is, is that you have your spinal column, so you’ve got these tall, you’ve got these dorsal spinous processes, and on the sides of your spine, you have a dorsal ligament system. And ligament is not something you want to have weight on. And then outside of that, now you’ve got the muscle that is ideally looking like the top of a loaf of bread, the longissimus. And that’s where you want your saddle panels to be sitting. If your saddle panels are pressing on the ligaments of your horse’s back, that causes massive irritation. And I can literally walk in a barn and see the horse’s back and tell you if the channel is too narrow without even looking at your saddle. I’ll know because of the presentation of the tissue and the posture. So you really want to make sure that you’re The space between your panels when you turn your saddle upside down should not be less than on average four fingers, like on average. And if you’ve got a really wide back horse, we will actually open that channel a bit wider to accommodate those ligaments.

[SPEAKER 1]And now what are some like common signs? So you had mentioned about like you can tell if the channel is too narrow for the horse. What are some other common signs that maybe there’s incorrect saddle fit happening, such as like atrophy, trapezius muscles, and things like that. Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]Great question. Um, so the first thing, and I’m just, uh, wrapping up my round of saddle assessment, frequent body workers where they’re, we’ve been talking about this for the last month and a half. And it’s just, um, it’s amazing how they’re really starting to walk in and be, yeah, I see it now. And so the first thing I’ve taught them to look at is the horse’s expression, because we first informed me, we do get the history from the owner about, you know, what’s our performance issues and whatnot. because that all plays part in it. And I’ll just sort of put a side note in, I also do spend a good amount of time talking about other factors that could be at play. So it’s not for always going in and going up and settle like there are other factors at play. So we do spend a good amount of time like considering those and You know, there’s the pathological, there’s the pathogenic, all these things that come into play. But when it is saddle related, I love to watch how the horse responds when the saddle’s brought out. I tend to count. I don’t think horses are liars. And it’s been proven to me, like I’ve worked with thousands and thousands and thousands of them, how consistent they’ve been, especially when the cell that was not working was taken away and then you bring one that was working and their expression has immediately changed. So they have shown me that the vast majority of them are pretty aware of the situation that’s at hand. Uh, as far as physical presentation, the withers are going to be very telling. And when your horse is in an elevated, like I call posture neutral, uh, positive or negative or elevated or depressed sort of, um, one of those key. And so when it’s postures like neutral or a bit elevated, there’s this really lovely, smooth top line, um, form. And when there’s saddle fit issues, you’ll get, you go from like rainbows and arches to angles. So you don’t want to see too many angles. Uh, if your withers have like a sharp drop and then there’s like a Nike swoosh back, um, when the shoulders are sort of pushed forward and then the front legs angle backwards, um, the neck, you’ll see the underdevelopment of the lower side of the neck, the rump and traps, not so much, or you might even get a bit of a dip in front of the wither. And then the loins, they can be. the saddle is a bit too long or putting weight too far back they’ll typically do one of two things that might bump up in like a roachy appearance or they actually just drop all down away altogether and then you get that like really sharp angle from the sacrum down to the low so they’ll present their backs like in a drop way and a lot of times it’s so common that it’s actually just everyone’s like oh it’s just the way it looks and then when we go in there and release a couple things and kind of get their posture up a bit we can see this other Like, okay, yeah, I can see the difference in how the horse’s back would look if it wasn’t getting insulted by a saddle that wasn’t fitting.

[SPEAKER 1]And now if somebody is listening to this and they’re thinking, oh my gosh, she just described my horse. Where would you recommend they go from here? And I’m sure your immediate answer is book a saddle fitting with a fitter. Get your saddle checked. But is there anything else for them that, you know, where they should be going, what they should be doing? And then also, what can they expect from a saddle fitting?

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, no, absolutely. So I think the best thing is to always have a few supportive answers instead of just, oh, just go call a fitter, because that’s not always working for everyone. And the ratio of saddles that aren’t fitting to fitters is completely, is very much out of balance. So it might not be available. And it’s honestly not that much talked about, but there is a bit of a problem with how the number of saddles that aren’t fitting and the support available for people. So I do feel for them because there’s not a lot of easy solutions just ready to go. a lot of off-the-rack saddle fits are going to be problematic and just some people don’t have accessibility. So I like to, I think, I really think that riders, we have a lot of practical but maybe not quite enough theory in our approach to being an equestrian and so really learning what good posture looks like in horses and again this isn’t something you’re going to easily find so I do feel for the riders because You can go on like a stock photo thing or a Canva and try to find well postured horses and there’s a lot of posture issues so learning your horse and so maybe with a good body worker seeing you know if they’re getting tight in the same spot all the time can we correlate that to a saddle getting put on as the horse being reactive as a saddle fit like put your hand under your saddle and where that muscle is always tight and sore does that happen to be tight under your saddle if you’ve drawn those little conclusions you can pretty much rule in that you have a saddle fit issue. The biggest one, I told this to my class, if you take one single point away from this entire course, please take away side wither clearance. It’s the most common overlooked hidden fit issue that is just devastating horses backs and withers. And that is the pressure that will be further back from the front. When you’re looking at the front of your saddle, you’ll see the withers and you can see this wither clearance on top of your withers. But back a couple inches on the sides of your withers, you should have that clearance. That’s when we’re talking about trapezius clearance. And that’s where sometimes the stirrup bars might get tight or the tree itself. It just isn’t wide enough there for your horse’s base of wither. So, you know, you really want to learn your your horse’s posture and how is your documentation going? So you’ve got plans, you’ve got goals with your horse, you’re working up to the levels, whether it’s jumping or massage or whatever your sport discipline is. If you’re working towards a goal and you’re putting in X amount of hours per week and you were getting supplements and body work and lessons, and how is your horse’s appearance though? Are we taking pictures and comparing? If we’re going to the gym and working out, we expect our bodies to change. Is our horse changing in the direction that we would think it is? Or are we getting tighter and more angular? As they get more muscular in the right way, they become bigger and rounder and more arched and more full in their tissues. If their muscles look really matted down, like they’re vacuum sealed, then that’s not a sign of proper training. I think another, just a little side note too, when we’re looking at this, we also want to keep in mind that exercise physiology also isn’t talked about a lot. And so when we’re increasing our expectations out of our horse, we want to look at different things like speed and intensity and length of time training. And in order to not cause muscle breakdown, you really need to be only introducing one of those every two weeks. And so really being cautious that we’re not doing, because I think overtraining by accident happens a lot. So if we compound that with some pressure and fit issues, it really keeps our goals out of reach for a lot of times, or worse than that is it’s actually causing our horses to need downtime or predisposing them to, you know, injuries that, I mean, the last thing we ever, anyone wants is to see a horse sore. And that’s like the most heartbreaking thing for all of us. So to, and that’s really the, the research is showing that the, the injuries that most horses get are hitting a tipping point from wear and tear that’s been happening over time.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah, and one of the things that I want to address that you had mentioned is the idea that saddles are expensive. Saddles are very expensive in an already very expensive sport. And for many of us, there are so many other expenses that pop up or that we are saving for, for just in case they pop up, you know, horses and all the, they can come in from the field with something we did not expect. So let’s just for a second address the fact that if someone perhaps is using an older saddle or a less perceivably expensive saddle, you know, something off the rack, things like that. How can we set that horse up for the best success possible using what they currently have? And is that possible?

[SPEAKER 2]It may or may not be possible. And a lot of times, unfortunately, it’s not in the best interest when we add up how much we’re spending on lessons and showing and trailering and boarding and supplements and doing everything under the sun to get our horses in. It can literally be robbed by an old fitting saddle. And unfortunately, and I would love to say here’s like a list of like five brands under 5k that are like, we do have a bit of some trouble and I actually ordered a couple years ago and two years ago now I was like really trying to find a lower model saddle that would work and I had another fitter to say oh we’ve been having a success with them. So I ordered a couple and they came in crooked. They were like in the $3000 range, I think it was. And I showed them and they were like, oh, no, that’s intolerance. So when we have these less expensive saddles, and I’m not going to say it’s for all of them in that price range, but unfortunately, the lower price range saddles tend to be the ones that have the most tree issues. They don’t have the research and development. Well, and I will say, some of the high expensive ones don’t have it either. They may say they do, but when you’re in the field practice, the constant problems that are in some of the design, regardless, price does not mean better fit. But we will find that the less expensive ones tend to use cheaper materials. Whether they come out of the factory more crooked, they might have less stringent quality control. Some of the ones have really high tech quality control and it shows because you get the saddle and they’re consistently the same whereas other ones, there’s more obvious asymmetries in the way it’s put together. Is it the tree? Is it just leather? The less expensive ones tend to have like if they have a foam panel, the foam might not be the most forgiving or the design of the foam shape is a little questionable or a lot questionable for being honest. So I feel like I just have to say all this like people that want to hear and I don’t enjoy saying it, but there is a good amount of problems when we have, you know, it is an expensive sport and I can’t change that. I can’t make it less expensive. I can say that it’s more expensive when our saddle doesn’t fit than it is to buy a well-fit saddle.

[SPEAKER 1]Very well said. I like that. It’s even more expensive, you know, when you’re in an ill-fitting saddle. Adjustable saddles. Yeah. Pros, cons, thoughts?

[SPEAKER 2]So I like to remind people there is adjustable and interchangeable. So that’s like a thing I like to clarify because when we have the gullets that come out, those are interchangeable, which is great because it does give us some options. However, you’ve got a set of cookie cutters and some saddles that have interchangeable gullets have a variety of shapes, like offer different shapes in as the horse gets wider, but majority just take a, an A shape and widen the A. But as you widen the A, the top doesn’t get wide enough to accommodate how much wider that horse is up top. So you need that U or hoop shape. So just taking an A and making it wide is not going to fit a wide horse. So do we have the right length of tree point? If we go from an average width to a super wide, well, that might be a less width or so. How many considerations are we taking? is the rest of the tree adjusting to match these changes. So there’s it’s not just and this is where we go I have a column called beyond the weather tracing because for years we’ve just been taught like oh you just take this weather tracing and then you know what size to get.

[SPEAKER 1]And you’re like holding it up.

[SPEAKER 2]It’s a windmill flight of a 3D back shape that’s going to move and change. So we really, and again, you’re also taking it of a standing horse. So I remind people like, A, you need to be able to interpret the wither tracing. Some people swear against them and they say they’re garbage. I use them like, I’m a very much a wither, pro wither tracing, but how I use them is probably a little different than most. And I also might take several weather tracings throughout my fitting to follow the changes that have happened as I introduce either adjustments or change the saddle or, you know, whatever I’m doing, or just, hey, we worked for 15 minutes, what’s the horse look like after 15 minutes? And how much blood fill do I need to accommodate for? So I take a lot of those things into consideration and I look and I feel, but I use the measurements to back up what I’m looking and seeing and feeling.

[SPEAKER 1]I have a question on that when you said the like the blood fill for like as a horse is being worked. This is something I’ve never considered. And if my mind is being blown a little bit here. So are we looking at the idea of the pre-worked horse in their state, like resting state essentially. And then, because I’m thinking like if you’re like lifting weights or something like that, you have your resting size of arms.

[SPEAKER 2]When do you go take your flex pump in the mirror shot?

[SPEAKER 1]Right, exactly, exactly. And so then if we look at, okay, the horse has been ridden, has since been ridden for, you know, 15, 20 minutes. Now let’s look at it again, because the size of the, like you had said, the blood flow, things like that is increasing.

[SPEAKER 2]The shift in posture.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah. Okay. Um, I I’m sorry. I’m having a moment here. I just hadn’t, I hadn’t thought of that. Hmm. Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]So when we take, so I call the first tracing a cold tracing. So horse comes out of stall as he been standing around all day. Has he been out in the field all day? Has he had the same amount of water as he did yesterday? Was he stressed out because he had a new neighbor? Like there’s so many factors that are going to affect your horse’s posture and condition day to day. And as someone who now, um, spends quite a lot of time watching, uh, what I do these days of like just observing the horses outside. And even my 28 year old, he looks different almost every day. I’m just like, wow, interesting. So we have these factors that come into play. What doesn’t change is the bone structure. and so how long the withers are etc I mean within reason it can change as they you know there’s age related growth and change um but for the for the most part your bones like once they’re mature third that like how they go together is going to stay uh posture can affect a little bit so you I take tracing as when I first get there, but I also try to get a bit of information as to like what’s going on in the source’s life in the last month, week, day kind of thing. And then I will have the, so if I’m refitting a saddle I already fit, it’s probably going to go a little differently than when it’s a new client and the saddle doesn’t fit. We’ve got a different mountain to climb in that regard. but so i will sometimes are in such a really negative inverted back posture because of the ill-fitting saddle they don’t usually call me for a new fitting when things are going great it’s usually because it’s a problem right and so i may do i i used to do it through saddle fitting and getting them to do different exercises in the saddle like almost like a little mini saddle fitting ride and listen but then i got really good at the body like adapting bodywork to help release the horse’s posture to get them into a posture that was appropriate to be fit. So if you’re trying to fit a horse in a poor posture, you’re not going to get anywhere that you like. It’s not going to go well because you’re fitting the compensation pattern. So you really want to see what their true shape is and fit for where they’re supposed to go. You still have to fit the horse you have in front of you, but you can’t trap them in that negative posture, if that makes sense.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]So, um, that became sort of my protocol was to reposture and fit the posture and it would hold if we have the saddle to accommodate that. Like if you’re, if you’ve been stuck in a negative sore posture and all of a sudden someone releases the muscles that were holding you tight and gives you a really comfortable way to sit and stand, like you’re not going to just naturally revert unless the insults are returned to the situation.


[SPEAKER 2]Then I would put them on like, okay, dial back the work because now we have to train like we have baby muscles again, because they haven’t been used in the same order. They’re not in the same, like they were working in different, um, out of balance, uh, format. So we want to, they’re going to fatigue tighter, um, quicker if they haven’t, if they’ve been a tight muscle that’s been released, it’s weak, right? So we have to kind of put it into a bit of a ride, back up the riding program and this new saddle, even though the horse feels that much better, don’t ride the wheels So it’s all, and we track. So when I have horses that are coming through a major posture change, then we might want to book a couple of fittings closer together. And even if I go out and I don’t have to fix this up, do anything to the saddle, that’s great. Let’s monitor and make sure your progress is on track. So that would be the most successful fittings I had.

[SPEAKER 1]And now how often would you recommend that somebody gets their saddle fitted? Or checked? Yeah. Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]So without a doubt, like if you’re riding regularly throughout the year, like twice a year is really like basic maintenance. Once a year is a bit long to leave it, to be honest. Um, if you have a young horse that’s growing and changing, keep in mind that young horses are building the muscles that also combat gravity. So it’s really critical that those muscles are not interrupted and getting, um, tension patterns. If you have a young horse, like, when we’re talking about horses that are under four and being ridden, it’s really, really delicate. And whatever happens to them saddle fit wise and posture wise at that age has a good tendency to last throughout their life. If those deep spinal stabilizer muscles aren’t in excellent condition, they’ll be technically, usually there’ll be some remnants of problems throughout the rest of their riding career. So it’s really critical that we treat them that spine delicately and make sure they’re balanced and not because everyone’s like, oh, I’ll just wait till he’s done growing.

[SPEAKER 1]Right.

<p>[SPEAKER 2]Well, you’re going to have a totally different animal to fit than had we taken care of it correctly. So when they’re earlier in life, you need to be on top of it a bit more often because they’re going through so many changes. And when that bum high happens, just let them be a horse. Don’t ride that. Like give them that’s that’s a time when they need to not be ridden because the saddle has to be sliding down the slope. And sometimes they can just that’s actually a good time. What I’ve learned over the years is to do some body work. And when that happens, because a lot of times the front end just needs to get freed up to get up as well. So if it’s a young horse, you’re going to want to do it more often, like maybe three to four times a year. Basic maintenance twice a year. If you’re showing like, you know, beginning of the show season and end of the season, you’re going to have very different looking athletes. um you’ve been heavy did you ride all winter did you take the winter off because it was not you know fair weather riding totally cool but your horse is going to change so depending on the age if they’ve the seasons the show season the weight gain if you’ve noticed um sometimes supply season starts kicking in they start moving more in the paddock they might lose weight if they’re out there grazing and they blow up on the grass they might gain weight so all of these things come into play and that’s why I go back to take you know take photos like at least quarterly do a self-documentation of your horse and just sort of study what your horse looks like throughout the year. You’ll start recognizing hey you know what this looks very different and during your saddle fitting as well take photos at the end result of your fitting so you know you have a good memory of um what your saddle was like when it was freshly fit. And so like two months down the road and you’re just tacking up on, you know, talking away, talking up, and you might not notice that things have changed, but if you’re on your own self-documentation schedule, like every three months you do a little check yourself. You’re like, wait a minute, this looks different than when I had it fit. And also my horse’s postures change either to get on this.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Yeah, absolutely. I once heard somebody describe saddle shopping as worse than bathing suit shopping. That’s what they say. And I thought, how true. But it is. It makes me sad.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]It shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be that way. But I know it is. And it makes me sad.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]However, the importance of it. You know, so we can kind of look at it as, Oh my gosh, I, I don’t want to have to try to get a new saddle or, you know, or something like that. But the importance long-term of doing the due diligence of having your saddle checked of. Working with a fitter to whether it’s reflock your saddle or perhaps, you know, get a new one altogether. Um, I think it’s just really, it’s really critical.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]It’s really not that common that once we’ve got your horse into you know he’s over age five or six and he’s in like consistent environments like his bone structure is pretty much his bone structure he could go from being level to more uphill depending on how you ride and work but it’s very seldom that we have to change saddles after that we might need to change the panels we might have to do some things but once your horse is matured and your saddle’s fitting. you are usually good to go for a long time with it, maintaining the fit. When your saddle isn’t quite fitting all the way and then your horse changes a little bit, then you’re going to be out of ways to make that saddle quote unquote refitable. But usually it’s because it wasn’t a great fit in the beginning. So getting that, you know, for me, it’s like square peg, square hole. When you have a pommel that matches the wither and the base of the wither is appropriately, that’s like my secret, by the way, saddle fit is like everyone’s looking at the wither tracing and the withers and I’m like base of wither that shape and that ability for that horse’s back to come up in that area right where we sit if that’s working then it works if that’s not working nothing you do outside of anything will help because the horse will always be dropping its back away from the pressure there and then that’s when you get the over curling and all these things that we’re trying to get where we start looking for other gadgets and pieces of equipment to help to work with. But when your horse is in a decent posture and the saddle is appropriate, you should be able to refit that for the most part. Obviously, not every single time. The odd time I’ll have a six-year-old, some sport horse who’s got who knows what, and it’s like, oh, I’ve got some Morgan. It just popped out. I’m like, OK, the saddle is not going to work anymore. So it does happen, but it’s not been common for me.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]And now what about like too wide, too narrow? How do we know when the saddle is too wide for the horse? And how do we know when it’s too narrow for the horse?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, so the angle of the tree points, you can lift up the flap on like your average saddle and see a little leather pocket. That’s going to have the tip of your tree point in it. And you want that to be relatively parallel to your horse. Now, that’s given that your horse has ample back condition and muscling. And also we want to take into consideration what type of half pads, if any, we’re using. So there’s a few things to think about If you have a horse that has a really tight non-muscle wither and then you’ve got a saddle that’s parallel and fitting that, well, yeah, the saddle is appropriate considering angle to angle, but you’re fitting a horse that should have more room because he’s not in its proper weight. So you have to kind of throw that into the equation. But typically a horse that has too narrow of a tree point, the saddle will be sitting high in the front. And then if you were to actually palpate like your hand under the tree point, you’ll notice that it gets tighter at the bottom of the tree point. And usually they’ll have like a little bit of a divot or it’ll be a bit sore and twitchy there. So you’ll see like saddles always leave a trace in the muscles, I tell them. And that’s one of the big things about the course I did was that we teach how to correlate what we’re finding in the musculature. and relate that to fit issues. The one that actually gets less notice that is probably so therefore a bigger problem is the too wide. And what happens is when a tree points too wide, a tree is too wide, your base of your saddle, the tree point is the job of the tree points to protect the withers and keep the saddle up in front. So if it’s too wide, we have no base. So then it’s gonna continue to slide down. and usually ends up getting hung up on the side of the withers. So you might even still have wither clearance that you think you’re okay on the top of the wither, but then the sides of the wither get really tight. And so then you will see that the tree angle is too narrow at the top and too wide at the bottom. But then people look at the top of it and go, oh, it’s so tight there. I need wider. But they’re not realizing that the bottom of it needs to be narrower to support it. And you’re using the top of the tree point. Basically, it’s hanging off the sides of your wither instead of balancing on the tree point.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Mm-hmm. I’m going to talk about something that I hope I don’t get hate mail about. I know. Saddle pads. I know everybody likes their matchy matchy and they love when a brand puts out the new color of the season and all of the things but what about the importance of a proper saddle pad and how do you know you have the proper saddle pad? How do you know when to add a half pad or some shims or any of those things?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]I love this question by the way.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]It’s a really good question.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]So I think you can have your fashion and your function. I’m all for it. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Number one, take your saddle pad and look at your horse’s top line and then look at the top line of your saddle pad. If they do not look like they match, you have a problem. The biggest problem I see is that we have a straighter saddle pad with a horse that has a higher wither. So your saddle pad, even if you just hold it up against the side of your horse’s barrel and see your horse has this withered top line and your saddle pad’s like mostly straight with maybe just a little bit of wither. and that seems to be the common shape and it’s really problematic unless you’ve got mutton withers it’s going to be a problem so how so checking visually the other thing you can do is open up your saddle pad after you ride and look down the spine of your saddle pad and if there’s one spot over the withers that gets dirty and the hair gets jammed into the seams of the spine of the saddle pad that’s where it’s catching your horse’s wither. And it’s usually the back of the wither that you wouldn’t see out the front. So you really want to inspect your saddle pad underneath it. When it comes to saddle fitting and checking dust patterns on pads, it can be very misleading. This one’s not misleading. If you’re getting the hair worked into the seams of the spine of your saddle pad, and your saddle pad looks straighter than your horse’s wither, that can actually be very problematic and really interrupt your… You’ve always given away a higher withered saddle pad with my new saddles because I’m like you’re not going to ruin this beautiful saddle fit with the saddle pads not fitting so here you go if this one fits. So making sure your top lines match very important. When it comes to half pads I really do love keeping a more natural product so like the sheep’s wool is awesome. You do need to maintain it so that means you need to brush it and keep it fluffy or else you’re just kind of riding on a flattened it loses its amazing properties when we don’t have it. And the perfect place is for it to be underneath the pad against the horse’s skin, where it can be moisture wicking and thermoregulating, but then it requires a lot more maintenance and washing, so it’s not as common. And something I wasn’t fully in the know of years and years ago, and more so since I started reading research on heat transfer and trapping and how detrimental that is to our muscles. And, uh, when you look at anything that’s performance enhancing with athletes, they’re always getting those muscles cooled as quickly as possible. So if we’ve got half pads that are creating a lot of heat, and there was also some articles or research studies done on the boots and even polo wraps, creating a lot of heat. So I think we need to really take a deep look at, um, is our saddle pad set up creating more heat? And if so, to reassess that. I prefer to use a well-fit half pad, even if my saddle fits beautifully. Some people are like, oh, if it fits great, you shouldn’t need anything. But here’s the thing. Are you presenting a horse that has full muscles, that are beautifully full and filled, and does not need any extra padding? Most of the time not. Also your panels. So how much maintenance do you want to be doing to your panels? When you have that little buffer of a half pad, your panels tend to take less of a beating. So with the wool panels getting compressed, when I had a little bit of a buffer, the wool panels, they would break in more evenly and it was less weight distribution issues. So when I had no half pad, the wool panels tended to break in more unevenly or they would have more, you could see more obvious signs of the wool compression. So it’s something to consider. The recent research has shown that out of all of the half pads, wool did perform the best for shock absorption. The one I’m going to, I don’t usually nail any brand or any type, but I think gel has scored low for heat dissipation and for anti-concussion. There was actually, what I heard, was a work glove that was sold all over for people that use heavy tools, like a jackhammer, and it had these gel pads in the gloves. The impact just goes right through the gel. It doesn’t dissipate it. So it’s feeling better, but it’s not doing the properties, and that’s what they have also found when they do the research with the pressure pads and whatnot. So the type of material that’s used in your half pad’s important. Is it performing as described and is it trapping heat? When it comes to shims, this is where I’m going to say I don’t think you should be shimming your saddle without professional help because I’ve only ever seen things go really wrong and not really right because typically we’re seeing a space and we want to put a shim in it but that might not be the solution because it could be that the saddle has got a tree shape issue and now you’ve got an inversion and then the horse is getting away from somewhere and then now you’ve trapped you’re like oh look it’s flipping up in the back I’ll just put like a half pad that’s like bumped up in the back to fill that space well now you’ve counter levered it and increased leverage onto the front pressure points so it’s really not so I feel like more times than not people are going to use shims incorrectly and you really need to rule out tree fit issues before you start playing with shims at all. When I put shims in, I am so particular about layering and staggering so that there’s no pressure points and it’s a game plan. If I’m using shims, I know exactly why I’m using them and for how long and what’s our game plan. You’re never putting shims in and just like, okay, cool, that’s how we do it now. I might use an activator shim just to get a muscle group firing up, for example, because of the asymmetry and then that gets it going and then we pull that shim right away. I just, I get really cautious on shipping.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]And now what about girths? And maybe this is a whole other topic for a whole other podcast episode, because I know that girths are like a big, a big, um, thing in terms of impacting the horses posture and how they feel and their pain points and, you know, and things like that. And, and the, Are there anything that you want to discuss in terms of looking for the proper fit of the girth? Or again, is this something that is a whole other podcast episode?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Oh, it definitely could be one of its own, if not a series. But I think I like to really bring things back to simplicity whenever possible. And a lot of times girthing issues are related to poor posture. When your horse is in proper posture, a lot of your girth problems are going to go away. And if they don’t go away, is your saddle also a problem? So when you have a horse in good posture with a well-fit saddle, girthing gets exponentially simpler. you will have some body types where you’ve got this like forward, lower, bigger belly with tight, there’s certain pipes where you’re just like, oh gosh. And sometimes going from like a simple mohair cord girth is a solution. I’m not saying that any of the shapers are wrong, but they do tend to come with inherent issues with how the pressure gets distributed around the horse’s barrel. Some shape girths tend to gape and cause pressure on the edges. I just tell people always take your hand and run it down the whole entire length of your girth when it’s girthed up on both the front and the back and see if anywhere feels differently. If you’ve got some different people in the barn, you all have different girths, like if you want to try riding your horse in different ones, your horse will let you know which one feels better by the way they go as well. It’ll affect the fit of your saddle. I like to have girths that have a softer edge to them. Some of them have like a really tightly, they’re padded but the padding on the edge is really tight and like tightly stitched and it becomes like a bit of a hardened seam. So I prefer the ones that are a little bit softer. The horses seem to like that as well. And if you’ve got a lot of shape to your girth or a big pad in the middle, the pressure still tends to go right in the line of pull. So just because it’s got a big pad doesn’t mean it’s like they will market it that it’s distributing pressure, but that’s not always the case. And so when it comes to buying anything that’s advertised with really great sounding marketing, it’s not to say it’s all bad, but you really have to discern and go, okay, that’s what they’re saying. Let’s test that out. Let’s really look at this that way. There are some horses that have the configurations that require special girthing when I have horses and well-fit saddles with good posture, it’s been hardly an issue for me.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]And now what about when you have the saddle on, you’re girthed up and you’re looking and you’re seeing the girth is pulling forwards almost towards the elbow rather than lying straight. What about things like that in terms of how do you fix it? Where is that issue coming from? It’s just something very common I find that we see.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]A lot of people want to see it vertical all the time, and that’s ideal. If it’s on an angle, technically it’s going to be pulling the saddle a bit forward, unless you’re looking at Western rigging, for example, which has got the combination of… They’ll have it on a bit of an angle sometimes. where your girth your flat part of your horse’s your girth spot on your horse’s back barrel so the flat spot and then if that is really far forward and your saddle is not going to be sitting that far forward then you’re going to probably have to manage a little bit because you put an elastic on a balloon it’s going to go to that narrower spot so you want to take it into consideration but then i’m also going okay this is ideal let’s see what happens with this scenario and this setup how does it go and then watch them in motion if you’ve got that really forward girth groove, and then you’ve got lots of thick padding on your saddle and your saddle creedlent fitting, you’re going to have saddle fit and girthing issues all the time. You can get down to like the thinnest padding that was required for that. Usually that shape tends to be on the thicker guys, the round and chunkies. So I don’t tend to put a lot of thick padding under a horse. A saddle of the horse is already thick and round. And especially if I’ve got a forward girth group, I’m trying to, what I’m trying to do is take advantage of any purchase I have available to me with that saddle fit to any little nook and cranny that’s in that horse’s back, that’s going to stabilize the saddle. So there’s, you know, you got to work with what you have. So ideally, yeah, you want it more lined up, but there are times when it might be outside of the lines that you, it’s still not, you know, you can tell by the way the horse is moving and the muscle condition. When you take a saddle off that horse is after you go to the gym, you expect to be standing taller and having a puffed out posture. Your saddle coming off your horse’s back should be your report card that everything looks better. So if your girth is, you know, on that little bit angle, everything else is going great. Saddle’s not moving. So you take it, you take the signs into consideration as well.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Yeah. So like if you’re taking your saddle off and you’re like, wait a second, my horse’s back looks dropped like more after I rode than before.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]That’s a problem.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Right.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Yeah. And so it takes, you know, do that once in a while, take a photo before you ride, take a photo after you ride. It should look better. If your horse’s back is not looking better after you ride, that’s a big flag to reevaluate everything and see where it’s going. Is it saddle? Did I work him too long? Is the saddle pad trapping heat? Something’s going on. It should always look better after you ride.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Now, what about the horse industry itself and the saddle fit industry? Do you have any outlook for the future as to where the saddle fit industry is going to go? Do you have any hopes for the future? And that includes technology. We’re seeing a lot of technology coming out now that you can get a thing on your phone as to how your saddle is fitting. And it’s just, I mean, technology.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, I was actually looking at getting more involved in that initially. I think it’s great that we have all this technology. I also think that we really need to remember that we have innate knowledge within us when we look at a horse to recognize its expression, its posture, its muscle development, and I don’t think we want to only rely on technology to point us in the right direction. I really think that we need to spend the time really analyzing our horses’ posture, look at their feet. Are they in balance? If they’re not in balance, don’t just pretend everything’s okay. It’s like, oh, this is the way they are. That is going to be affecting them. And so when I have horses that have out of balance feet, saddle fits always harder. Always. So are we, you know, we can’t only look at the saddle when the feet are also playing a role. So technology, I think it’s great. I don’t have any problem with it. It’s not been needed to get things right in my world, but I think it’s great to validate and it’s probably going to be what makes the most difference. But I just like to circle back and be like, don’t forget that you can tell by looking at your horse. And how does your body feel when you look at your horse’s back? like there’s a direct relationship that you’re gonna be able to develop that way as well. For the future, I think we are going to see more technology come in play. I heard a comment years ago when I was at a farrier convention, and it was like this, all the dodge of like more technique, less technology. And it always struck me, because that was really don’t lose the connection to like what we know to be working as well.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Yeah.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]And, you know, when it comes to like technical aspects of fitting, well, we know that it’s hard to outdo nature when it comes to putting a natural product against the horse’s back, like felt or wool. It’s hard to outdo that. So nature’s technology is pretty awesome. As well as a what else did I want to cover on that? But I do think that’s interesting to really analyze posture. I’d like to see more technology tracing postures. And I think that’s for me, I can walk in a barn and that’s like instantly I can tell if there’s an issue, I can just tell you where the issue is. And I think technology around posture recognition might be helpful for those who haven’t developed their eye yet. Saddle making that it’s an interesting I’m not sure if I grabbed my thing here. If we’re going to see a lot of technical changes in the way saddles are made, I mean, we’ve seen so many different Saddles come out with different technology. In the last however many years ago, carbon fiber became a new composite on the market. The ones that got really out there in their technology didn’t seem to last or stick around or they ran into issues. It’ll be interesting to see. I don’t think there’s a not broke, don’t fix it. I do think we can improve. I think it really just needs to come down to how the trees are fitting and where the riders are being positioned on the horse’s back. How do we reduce the forces that are being generated and the horse has to absorb? So is that going to come out of more technical designs in what we’re using as materials? Or is it just the application of the angles and that? A lot of companies that have been making saddles for years are no longer around or they’re being purchased by other companies. So there is a big shift happening in the background that I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I know a lot of master saddlers, there’s not new people coming up behind them. like they used to be. It’s a bit of a trade that’s going out of fashion. So in 10 years, we could be in a very interesting place. Yeah, so more important than ever to really learn your horse’s back, learn what its needs are. If you have a thoroughbred with a longer wither, you need a pommel that has more length to it. Buying a saddle that has a short pommel is not going to work out, but the companies aren’t really mentioning that so much. The marketing, they say, oh, it’s got wither relief or it’s got shoulder relief, but they don’t really talk about the actual technical aspects. I think consumers now more than ever really need to get manufacturers to really put their money where their mouth is when it comes to talking about their designs. If it’s a bad design and it’s popular and people are showing and winning in that saddle, they’re getting sold. The only thing that’s going to change what manufacturers are doing is how the money is getting spent on their saddles. It’s not like an easy overnight solution, but I really hope that we see more money being spent into the design, more so than technology, if that makes sense.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Absolutely. Now, what about technology? for the help within saddle fitting. Do you think that there’s a possibility to be able to do like zoom call saddle fits, or I guess saddle checks, in some cases, maybe a little bit more simple? Or do you think it’s something that like, no, it has to be hands on?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]I have been successful at doing some through distance. I don’t do as many. I don’t advertise. It just ends up being someone saying, can you please help me? I can do a pretty solid job, but it doesn’t replace the degree of information you can get from a hands-on. I think also, too, my ability to explain and share information is so much better in person, so I think that’s a big part. Saddle fitting for me has always been about education, so I want to leave that person with the chances of that situation happening again much less likely, if not at all, where they run into another saddle fit situation. um but you you know especially on a live call you can really see if your if your phone becomes the eyes you can really see what’s going on when i see the muscles i know what’s happening i can watch you ride i can be positioned in certain areas of the ring that i need to see what’s going on i can have we can do some recording in slow motion and analyze so you can I find, I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone, but in my personal experience, we can get a lot accomplished. Obviously, the fitting is different, so it’s more assessing as highly possible. I have done distance fittings with success, but nothing will replace the in-person approach with it.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Yeah, absolutely. We have a couple WeHorse questions that we ask every podcast guest and they’re like a rapid fire, think on the spot kind of a question. So the first one is, do you have a motto or a favorite saying?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]I came up with this one years ago when I was trying to figure out how do I help these horses and put them back together, which is no longer my approach the same way. Now I approach it very differently, but it became take care of the spine, the rest will be fine. So I’m always about spinal integrity. When I would focus on just clearing tension around the horse’s spine from nose to tail, everything like, you know, all the other stuff would just sort of fall into place. So if you take care of the spine, the rest will be fine. It became my, my little go-to thing.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]I like that. Who has been the most influential person in your equestrian journey?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]So I’ve had a few that were really influential. I don’t know if there was one that was super influential. But when it comes to saddles, I did work with a woman named Janice. She’s no longer with us. She’s from Alberta, Janice Cook. And she helped me crack like I was so like getting it perfect and you know everything had to have a formula and I was trying trying trying and even though that was kind of her thing too but like she did help me expand my mind around what would be like you know and I don’t even know how to word it properly but she helped expand my mind the way I thought about saddles so when it comes to saddle uh she was helpful for me to like she was the first person I worked with outside of um I worked with the company for years and I was on my own for a lot of years and so she was kind of the first other professional I started talking to about cases and uh I would say that she would probably be one of the ones that comes to mind as far as influential. And even though we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, it was just so great to have those in-depth, like only so many people can go that deep into a technical conversation about saddles for about four hours straight and we would be on the regular.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]So I would say her. Yeah. Yeah. If you could give equestrians one piece of advice, what would it be?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Trust your gut when it comes to your horse. If you think something’s off, listen to your horse and trust, even if everybody’s saying it’s fine, this is just him, it’s them, trust your gut.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]I’d like to highlight circle, exclamation point, that as well. That’s been huge in my own journey is learning how to trust your gut. Absolutely. Yeah.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]And your horse is actually a wonderful reflection for you to practice that.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Absolutely. And the final question is, please complete this sentence.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]For me, horses are… Oh my goodness. So many things, but I’ve actually been recently joking that they’re land dragons. Mystical creatures that have so much to share with us and help us evolve as humans. And so I’ve been calling them land dragons.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]It’s funny, I’ve said that different times with people and sometimes I think, people think I’m so weird, is that I’ll be like, isn’t it crazy that like we just get on and ride these animals? I know, I mean, yeah. Where can people find you? How can they connect with you? I know you’ve, you’ve just recently run an online program. So are you going to be running that again? Is there an email list, all of the different things for people to get some information from you?</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, for sure. So I have, I’m reworking my website, but it’s August spelled August equine, but it’s actually August. Um, as I feel about the horse, uh, they’re magnificent and to be revered and Imperial creatures that we get to be blessed with. So that is the name of the business. I, yeah, we’re just wrapping up this round of saddle assessment, equine body workers and professionals. There’ll be another one in the fall and we would like to take saddle assessment and turn it into part of their career. We would love to, uh, hear from you. And I also have some other shorter courses and opportunities coming. I have a column in the rider in, um, I’m also going to be putting out some more, um, like videos and other content. Uh, so I’m on Instagram as equestrian consultant, um, cause I don’t really offer standard saddle fittings anymore as a profession, it’s more. Worked into, um, a consultant that involves assessing the saddle bodywork and rider assessment. So it’s a bit more involved and, uh, doing some mentorship and teaching what I’ve learned over the years to others so that we can get all of this great information out there. Um, but yeah, Facebook, Instagram, and</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Awesome. We’ll link all that in the show notes. I really appreciate you, not only for this interview, but also just allowing me to pick your brain. I always joke that some of these podcast episodes are selfishly for my enjoyment as well, that I absolutely love the topic of saddle fit, body work, you know, all of that sort of thing. So it’s been a joy for me to chat with you. And I know a lot of people are going to get so much from this as well. So thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for having me.</p><p>[SPEAKER 2]I could talk about it for days. I really enjoyed myself as well. And yeah, I would love to hear from anyone if they like some more information. There’s different resources we can point you towards. And yeah, we’d love to see a paradigm shift. And the majority of horses that are in ill-fitting saddles get into better fitting saddles. And I think the more awareness we share, we can do that. So thank you.</p><p>[SPEAKER 1]Awesome. Thanks, Holly. Great. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Equestrian Connection podcast by wehorse. If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean the world to us if you could leave us a rating and review, as well as share us on social media. You can find us on Instagram at wehorse underscore USA, and check out our free seven-day trial on, where you can access over 175 courses with top trainers from around the world in a variety of topics and disciplines. Until next time, be kind to yourself, your horses, and others.</p>

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