The saddle fitter and Faeryn’s “fit”

We are in a ‘vast wasteland’ when it comes to availability of saddle fitters. Despite being the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston is mostly still ‘western’ country as far as riding is concerned – although there is a huge population of hunter, jumper and dressage riders. However, I don’t think hunter/jumper people are nearly as obsessive about saddle fit as dressage people are. As a result, we are dependent on ‘traveling’ saddle fitters who come through on a varying schedule. Saturday I found out that one was coming to Marie’s the following Tuesday. Faxx and Faeryn had gone two years and at least a year, respectively, since their previous saddle fittings. And considering they are young and developing, I knew their backs had changed a lot – especially Faxx’s. It required a herculean re-scheduling of my life, and a half a day of vacation, and the dreaded task of taking two of my horses somewhere together – but I managed to get them both loaded and at Marie’s at the appointed time Tuesday afternoon.

Why, you ask, is taking two of my horses somewhere together a dreaded task? Well, first, the logistics of handling two horses all by yourself. Secondly, if Faeryn is one of those horses, the game changes. Faeryn is, to put it mildly, very attached to her herdmates. Away from home, that attachment grows to psychotic proportions, and she becomes “Crazy Faeryn.” People who know her as the obedient, calm, consistent  horse under saddle are always astonished if they get to witness “Crazy Faeryn” in action. It is truly like Jekyl and Hyde. Every horse has a hole, as a friend used to say, and that is Faeryn’s. So you might understand why I was not wild about taking half a day of vacation for this task. And believe me, it was a task that I looked forward to about as much as I look forward to a root canal.

But like a root canal, it was something that needed to be done.

I came prepared and had a strategy. I planned to unload Faern first and put her in a stall (along with a hay net I’d brought) , leaving Faxx in the trailer with some alfalfa as a distraction and a bribe. The hope was that once in the stall with her hay, and out of sight of Faxx, she would settle down.

The first thing I did not plan on was Faeryn’s refusal to get OUT of the trailer to leave Faxx. As soon as I opened the door, she obediently backed out – and then jumped right back into the trailer to be with her buddy! And did that about three times before I managed to get her completely out of the trailer!

I came prepared with a chain-end leadrope but my plan fell short when I failed to put the chain over her nose before I even got her out of the trailer. The other fly in the ointment was that the farrier was at Marie’s, halfway blocking the entrance to the barn, and the saddle fitter’s truck/trailer essentially finished completely blocking the main entrance. By this time, Faeryn was spinning in circles and screaming. The farther we got from Faxx in the trailer, the louder she screamed. And she was whirling around such that I could not even adjust the chain to put it over her nose. My bad. So now I had a spinning, screaming horse, and had to take the very long route to get her inside the barn – through a gate, beside the arena, etc. etc.  And of course we had an audience for this. Suddenly I felt like one of those moms you see in the grocery store with a child pitching a very noisy, very emotional tantrum. It’s one of those situations where there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it. And it seems they always happen with an audience around. 😉 (I will never look disdainfully at a mom with a screaming, tantrum-throwing child out in public again!)  I am sure the saddle fitter, as he watched Faeryn spin in circles, was wondering how he was going to fit a saddle to THAT! 

As Faeryn spun in circles around me, screaming, I managed to move her closer to the barn’s side entrance – steering her whirling self through the gate and ever closer to the side entrance to the barn – and finally into the barn where she thankfully was distracted by the other horses and her hay. I left and did not wait around to see if that lasted or if she started spinning around in her stall! I needed to get Faxx out of the trailer, and get my saddle out of the dressing room.

Fortunately Faxx was much calmer about the entire thing. It helped that Faeryn was out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Faxx definitely cannot think about more than one thing at once!

The saddle fitter confirmed what we’d suspected – the saddle was no longer making contact all along his back, “bridging” in the middle. He quickly restuffed it, we tried it on Faxx and he was good to go. I put him back in the trailer with some alfalfa and he was a happy camper.

Next was Faeryn and I wondered if the ‘crazy’ had passed. I suggested to the fitter we look at her in the barn so there would be less chance of her hearing Faxx if he should call to her. We got to Faeryn and she was happily munching hay and calmly surveying the horses being tacked in the aisle and just the general barn activity. The ‘evil Mr. Hyde” had left the building and “Dr. Jekyl” was thankfully, back in control. We checked her saddle and it, too, was bridging and the master saddler whisked it away and returned shortly with it restuffed to fit. He commented on how similarly Faxx and Faeryn looked and were built and I explained to him exactly why they were so similar. 😉

So, not making my earlier mistake, I put the chain on Faeryn and led her out of the barn and as soon as she saw the trailer she started screaming even louder than before. But this time I had more control and at least she could not spin in circles  – she could only deafen me. I have NEVER heard that kind of noise come out of her. She sounded like a stallion. As soon as I opened the trailer door she launched herself into it, shaking the trailer as she landed!

I quickly shut the door, thankful the ordeal was OVER!

But not so quick. I am riding Faeryn and Fling both in a Debbie Bowman clinic tomorrow and my rides are such that I am going to have to take them BOTH together. Valium anyone? (But not sure if I would take it myself or give it to Faeryn!!)  Stay tuned!

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