Man, I am really liking K over at Advantage. She is amazing. Very quick to reply with an answer that shows that she not only read my entire, lengthy email but has put some thought into what I said.
I emailed her Saturday night with my overall impression, some concerns and about 15 pictures. She responded that same night with her first impressions.
She agrees that the saddle overall fits well, but the shoulder angle should be a little steeper to decrease the pinching in the d-ring area. Since Gem moved out great without complaints, the pinching isn't too big of a problem, but if we can resolve it easily, why not?
The ruffled hair was apparently expected from her due to the loin lift that is present in the demo and that Gem doesn't need. When Gem moves her back becomes flat like a table and the rock in the saddle will cause it to move. This is why every other saddle I've tried on her always causes this same ruffled fur in the same spot. Thank you K for finally explaining the cause to me!! The saddle I will order will be flat through the seat to prevent this.
We discussed potentially switching to a narrow tree instead of the medium. It tilts down in the front slightly when I cinch it up. But it overall fits so well the concern is that we would cause more of a problem. The little tilt can be fixed with a proper pad and adding a shim to the smaller left shoulder. When I originally emailed her to begin this process I mentioned my concern over spending a lot of money on a saddle to fit Gem who is now 17 and then having to sell it once Gem is officially happily retired. She remembered this and said that to keep a medium and add a pad is better in the long run since the medium fits 80% of horses out there. This way I have the best chance of keeping the saddle for a new horse once I come to that point in my riding life. I like the fact that she remembered that.
So it seems like the problems on Gem's end are easily resolved with a few minor changes which is what I was thinking the case would be. Yay!
My problems are more difficult. I will definitely be ordering a 15" saddle and I wanted a full sheepskin cover anyway which will make it fit more snugly as well. She was not surprised that it was too big and apologized but the only demo she had was a 16". That will help my leg position since my whole body will be in better position overall. In addition a pad that lifts the front slightly will prevent the feeling like I am tipping forward. Good.
The cinch ring is a whole other ball of wax. She mentioned the possibility of using bronze because it is thinner without any edges, but I don't think that will make much of a difference. She also mentioned a buckle instead of a ring which sounds like a better option. She is a little concerned that with my short stature I may not find any combination in the western style all that comfortable. She has an English style as well and has had to use that for shorter people in the past. In fact she said she can really do almost anything that I need and all at no extra charge! We can play around with the seat and the flaps as mush as we need which is just plain awesome.
So.....trial so far has been a wonderful success. I am so very happy. I need to clean my WISE saddle and get some good pictures to put that sucker up for sale so I can get ordering my new one!!!!!! :)