October 11, 2013

Nightmare on Gem Street

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
- Thomas Edison
Wow. That was spectacularly dreadful last night.
I received two very nice saddles from Reactor Panel in the mail on Tuesday. I was super excited. A quick run down on the system: the basic principle of the saddle is that while it has a standard, fixed tree the underside that is against the horse is made of two independent and flexible panels. They attach to the saddle via high tech "hook and loop closure" aka Velcro and because the right and left sides are independent of one another, in theory you can adjust it for each side. The panels are supposed to move with the horse's back allowing freedom of motion. You place rubber discs between the saddle and the panels for shock absorption and these add another layer of customization and come in 3 thicknesses.
I had a by phone saddle fitting appointment for last night at 7pm. I was stoked. I had been in contact with the company numerous times and they had pictures and tracings of Gem and knew my entire saddle fitting history. It was going to be like sprinkling pixie dust all over her and I would hear magic bells going off when I sat on her back. I got two different models: a Summit which is very much like a traditional English saddle and a Heraldic which is like half a saddle, but was made by endurance riders (probably crazy ones).  My hope rested not only on the fact that we could customize the fit to Gem, but also with the very forward placement of the billets on the Summit and the movable billets on the Heraldic. Life was going to be great.
I set everything up and watched every single RP video on you tube to prepare. I called her and we talked a little about my problems in the past. We began. It was fun. Gem was behaving nicely and things were moving along smoothly. I will avoid the boring specifics. At one point everything was as set as it could be on the Summit. I was told to go ride for 15 minutes and call her back.
That's when everything went south. Quickly. We strode out to the arena in true terrified fashion because it was now 8:15pm and very dark. Oh! Did I forget to mention that in the middle of it all the BO came to feed the very large dinner she gets? And she was ultra unhappy with missing it? And had lost all her brain function? And had figured out that if she flicks her head in just the right manner she could get the cross ties to unclip and then saunter off while my back was turned? Fun. Loads of fun.
Up I went and off she went. Like a crazed lunatic. Granted some of it was her hyped up on grain brain she now has. (Yes, we are fixing that and getting her cut to half a scoop twice a day and will monitor) But she did walk and trot. When I asked her to canter she flipped out. And she actually bucked for real. Ears back, angry face bucking. I got off. The saddle had slid ridiculously forward and the support discs were right over her shoulder pinching big time and causing big time pain. Not good. I slid the saddle back to proper position and changed to using the most forward billet available and got back on.
Up I went and off she went like a rocket. Ears pinned, evil look and mad as all get out. I stopped. The saddled was over her shoulders again. I gave up and went to call her back.
We discussed matters and she was at a loss. Maybe the saddle was too wide? Maybe we could do this or that? In the end it was decided it just wasn't working. Switch to the Heraldic. It did sit on her back better than the Summit and was 1/4 inch narrower. The problem was evident from the get go though. Even the most forward billet sat a good hand and a half width behind her girth groove. Saddle slippage was predictable. Admittedly, I was already a little apprehensive to try such a small saddle in the first place, but with her angriness and bucking spree I was done. I was not on a suicide mission and had no interest in getting on her in that at 9 pm. I called it quits.
In the end it sucked. Big time. Good news: I won't be selling my wonderful saddle. Bad news: I still need to come up with a better solution than my current tack. I did get two great suggestions from the fitter who was amazing to work with:
  1. Switch to the County Logic Anatomic girth. Yes, it is ridiculously expensive (what isn't in the horse world?) but it the only one she has ever seen really work with a horse set up like Gem. If it saves me thousands in new saddles, it is worth shelling out the money for. I will be contacting them today.
  2. Try a shim correction pad. With her right shoulder being bigger than her left, the saddle is not incredibly stabile on her back. The pad allows you to place foam shims in various places to make up for this. Problem: $$$$$
So what am I going to do? First step is mail these torture traps back. Second, purchase new girth. Third, wait until my money tree grows in my front yard and then purchase a new pad. Fourth, cry.
PS - 18 people read my give away post. 2 made guesses. Come on!!!!! It is a free book! Place your guess and see what happens.


  1. Oh, no -- sorry it didn't work out, and in such dramatic fashion!

    If you found any especially good fitting info/tips you'd be willing to share, I am all ears.

    1. I will definitely share some of what I have learned. Look for it this week :)

  2. 18 people read your post! Boy, you are loved! A.J.