After bringing home the Stubben Aramis on trial from the Tack Collector, I brought it out to the barn to try it out on Kachina. It seemed to be a pretty good fit for Kachina so I went ahead and rode in it.
|Good wither clearance|
|Good tree angle|
The saddle seriously felt awesome. It confirmed my suspicions about what my Jaguar was doing to my position, as this saddle didn't do any of that. Sure, I could still lean forward and sabotage my position in other ways, but when I tried to fix my position I actually could. The block felt supportive but not restrictive, and the cantle wasn't pushing me forward. I wasn't fighting the saddle for every inch of sitting back or bringing my legs underneath me. It also made my hands better. I used to think I had fairly good, quiet, independent hands. However, for the last couple years I have regularly fought with myself to let go of the reins and to use my arms in a proper way without twisting them into awkward shapes. I chalked my struggles up to a lack of lessons and the challenges of getting used to a new horse. In my first ride in the Aramis, I felt that I jumped up several levels in my ability to maintain that elbow-hand-bit line and use my hands independently of my body. It makes me think that my balance has been so out of whack in my Jaguar that it was effecting my hands. I even instantly had a much more effective half halt.
So, if the saddle was that amazing to ride in, why was I still considering? A few reasons:
1. The biggest concern I had was that the saddle was too long for Kachina's back. It's a larger seat, which I need, but that generally makes for a longer saddle and I was concerned that it was going past the 18th thoracic vertebrae onto her loins. By feeling her ribs and looking at the hairline, it seemed borderline. I was seriously obsessed with this (I blame the Schleese saddle fit videos), and actually spent half of the first ride perching forward and being terrified that Kachina was going to buck me off in protest. Then I sat up and found that Kachina felt comfortable. She was stretching down and relaxed, and actually gave me a super nice stretchy trot circle. I was still concerned though and started to look into options of trying to get a similar saddle but with shorter panels (not really possible). Then, I dialed back the crazy a little and compared it to my existing saddle. Turns out that the Stubben extends only a teeny tiny bit further back on Kachina's back then the Jaguar, and is a similar length to the Stubben Maestoso that had fit Kachina so nicely. The seat of the Aramis is a totally different shape and is much flatter, so it looks longer, but the panels aren't actually longer (and they stick out less behind the cantle). I have never been so grateful for Kachina being a pinto, as her stomach markings gave an excellent way to compare where saddles sat in photos and videos from multiple saddles. I rode in it more, and even got a friend to watch to see if she saw any signs of Kachina being uncomfortable. Overall verdict is that it's good. Yay!
|Pretty good saddle pad sweat marks|
(ignore the seam location, it was off-center while I was riding)
2. The billets hang a little behind Kachina's girth groove when the saddle is behind the shoulder. Solution - I ordered an off-set girth, the Stretchtec Shoulder Relief Girth from Total Saddle Fit (thanks to CobJockey and DIY for the reviews!).
|Saddle positioned behind shoulder - billets angled forward|
3. I noticed that in the photo below, the cantle was level with the pommel so I was worried about the balance. Then I put two and two together to realize that the photo was taken at the end of a ride with my regular straight girth. My girth had pulled the saddle slightly forward which pushed the pommel up. My new offset girth should solve this issue too.
|Saddle balance looks slightly off, but just because saddle pulled forward slightly|
4. The saddle felt good for my position, but how did it look? I got my friend and old instructor KD to come out to watch me ride and take some media. She could immediately see that it was doing great things for my position. She commented on my steady lower leg at all gaits, and my better upper body position. It was threatening to rain so I had to ride in the indoor arena. It's the first time I had been in there for a few months, and Kachina was in a pissy mood, so it wasn't the same relaxation as my previous rides, but the issues were 100% attitude, not discomfort. Also the saddle kept me pretty centered during her shenanigans. KD took some really helpful photos and videos and also gave me some impromptu instruction - she has a great eye and I really wish she would go back to teaching!
5. The price also made me hesitate a little, but really, I was prepared to go new if used didn't work out, so this was a bargain. Also, I made an offer below asking and the consignor came back with a reasonable counter so I didn't have to pay full price.
|This is my best position in years! And I'm not even trying. Properly fitting saddle FTW!|
After addressing all my concerns, the above photo is what clinched it for me and made me buy the saddle. In the photo, I am sitting relaxed and how the saddle naturally puts me, and I actually have a decent shoulder-hip-heel line! Compare to the photo below in my Jag. In the Jag photo, I am not relaxed, and am actually trying to sit better for the photo, but you can see that in the Stubben I have my legs more under me, and can sit up taller without arching my lower back as much.
|This is pretty much the best I could do in my Jag, and even that was a struggle|
I've heard horror stories before about people having to change saddles again and again because their trainer of the day didn't like their old one. I feel like maybe the instructors and clinicians I have had didn't want to be those people, but maybe went too far to the other extreme. Now that I have seen the light, I have to wonder: Why did nobody tell me how bad my saddle was for me?!
I don't want others to suffer with a poor saddle for as long as I did, so here are my saddle Public Service Announcements:
PSA #1: A saddle that used to fit you (at least decently) may not fit after you gain a bunch of weight. Especially if a lot of said weight goes to your derriere and upper legs. There's a number of places on the internet right now talking about how seat size is all about the length of your femur, blah blah blah. There might be some truth in that, but I think it's also a bit of BS trying to reduce the stigma of needing a bigger saddle. Sometimes a person can be short, with short legs, and still need a bigger saddle. That's okay. I'd much rather be able to be a better rider in a saddle that works for me, instead of having a horrible position but being able to say that I ride in 17 or 17.5" seat.
PSA #2: You may not be as bad a rider as you think! A poor fitting saddle can cause you to tip forward, put your legs forward, have ineffective half halts, make it hard to use your hands independently, etc. I'm not saying that all issues are the saddle's fault, but do yourself a favour and make sure your saddle isn't sabotaging you!
Stubben Aramis, welcome to the family! I am keeping the Jag for the time being, just to completely make sure that the Aramis isn't going to cause any problems, but I am very optimistic!