Emma Sayer and her day shadowing Steph
Since a teenager I have always had an interest in how a saddle should fit correctly. I have been very lucky and have met some wonderful instructors who taught me very good basics of saddle fitting at pony club for all my tests. I have always been a bit of a stickler for making sure my saddles fitted as well as they could do and hope that I know enough to make small adjustments for when changes occur in between saddle fittings.
When I first met Steph Bloom I was amazed at how easily she could see something so small in a fitting of a saddle that would make a big difference in the way a horse would go. Over the summer I was lucky enough to spend a day with Steph out saddle fitting in our local area. This trip was incredibly insightful to the biomechanics of the horse as we were fitting for two different equine body workers. Steph's attention to detail to the horse and their conformation was second to none, talking through everything to the owner/rider of the horse and why each tree would suit particular horses. It was very interesting to see horses in AH's various trees and observe how they went. It certainly was true that for some horses it's obvious when it is the one.
Watching and observing horses work in the different trees was interesting as I didn't realise Steph observed so much. She noticed smaller things and how these would affect the horse in their way of going and how important straightness training (stretches, in hand etc) is to correct these and if straightness training wasn't undertaken what we would see in the muscle development and saddle fitting. It was also interesting to see how the different girth straps worked and how it helped saddle fitting on different horses.
Something as small as a bit of flocking also made a big difference in the way the horse went. One saddle was lifting and moving slightly at the back, but once it had a small amount of flocking added at the front, in the exact right spot, it fitted beautifully. Whilst Steph was flocking we felt and checked the current flocking in the panels checking for lumps, soft spots where the wool is more compacted and making sure both sides are symmetrical.
During our first visit we were discussing with one body worker how poorly structured horses are for being ridden. I always knew that ground work and engaging their core to work correctly was important but after working alongside body workers and Steph I have realised that a very large part of the horses exercise and fitness must be to strengthen this so that the horse can support carrying us. After my day out I have bought Gillian Higgins book called Posture and Performance and her Pilates and Stretching, which Steph stocks on her van. Both are very good reads with lots of ideas how to work with your horse to strengthen them. I aim to include this in my weekly work for all my horses, as each technique and training can be used on any horse. I am hoping to kick start this properly in the new year when the horses will be coming back into work.
Follow my page 'Team Sayer' to find out how I get on and see if there is anything you could try too with your horse.
The photos show our final fit of the day, a lovely short backed cob being fitted for a dressage saddle.