Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saddle Trials: the Saddle Triumphant

And the winner is: the Albion SLK Ultima 18" seat wide tree:
a front view of the substantial knee blocks and cutback pommel:
Pros: The first saddle that, on first trial, does not pinch or otherwise put incorrect pressure on Delphi's withers, spine, or back! The gullet and channel are wide, with a cutback pommel that allows freedom of the shoulder and ample room for the withers. The large knee blocks and deep seat provide security. Extremely comfortable to sit, this is by far the most comfortable saddle evaluated. It left an even sweat mark revealing correct contact on Delphi's back.
Cons: it is a tad low in front, so has to be managed by putting a felt pad under the pommel to cause it to sit level on Delphi's back. (However, this extra padding could be removed later to allow for increase in muscle/weight over time so even this feature is potentially a pro depending on how one looks at it.)

Bottom line: the saddle fits with no rubbing or pinching, though it does have to be managed with padding to raise the front of the saddle (if only Delphi's front legs were an inch longer-- but alas!). My trainer Karen Brown has invented an ingenious padding system with a wool pad "insert" that goes under the pommel on each side of the back, but not over the withers or back. The wool is graded so that it gently feathers to a fine edge so the horse does not feel a rim or seam under the saddle. It raises the saddle in front so the saddle sits level. With the saddle's deep seat and those humongous knee rolls it is very secure and comfortable. Most importantly, it is comfortable for Delphi. Lovely!

The padding system Karen Brown created. Near side view (note how nicely it raises the pommel, with no pressure to the withers or spine):
Off side view:
Off side profile: