An article came up on my newsfeed during the week about the problems of adjustable saddles.
Seeing as I am a recent convert to changeable gullets I had a minor panic. What lies are people telling me now?
Upon investigating further, I realised my panic was for no reason. The article was describing how people have taken the idea of an adjustable saddle too literally. They assume that by having a variety of gullet bars the saddle will fit every single horse on the yard; be it a thoroughbred or gypsy cob.
Now, correct me if I`m wrong, but I`ve always assumed that shopping for saddles is like clothes shopping; each make has a slightly different body shape in mind. For that reason I would never shop in New Look. My legs aren`t long and skinny enough. Similarly, I wouldn`t even contemplate a high withered saddle for my chubby cob. Research gets you so far; you can shortlist the saddles which are likely to suit your horse, and then find a local saddler who stocks and sells these makes. Within your short list you will be surprised at how different makes fit slightly differently. I was adamant, when looking for a dressage saddle, that Otis would need the cob dressage style, due to the fact most other makes were too wide. As it happens, my saddler was correct and brought a standard dressage saddle with a wide bar. Now I think Otis is wide … but a wide bar is only in the middle of the range of gullet bars available – I can`t even imagine sitting on a horse who has an XXW bar in! I guess it is best compared to a barrel.
Back to the subject of adjustable saddles; this article went on to say that these saddles are useful as they can be adjusted as a maturing horse puts on condition, or a horse becomes fit and more muscular, however the saddle should be fitted to the horse initially; to make sure it is the correct length and won`t damage the lumbar area of the back, and that the panels suit the frame of the horse – Apollo is quite narrow in the lumbar area so his saddle has wider panels to provide a flatter seat for the saddle and to support his frame better. For that reason I wouldn`t dream of putting a wide gullet bar in and expecting the saddle to fit Otis, who is particularly wide in the lumbar area.
From what I can see adjustable saddles just require being used with common sense; they`re very useful for developing horses as you aren`t constantly forking out for new tack, but each horse should have their own saddle fitted so that they are most able to work correctly and fulfil their potential without damaging their body.