Saddle Help - Anyone Familiar with Childeric Dressage Models?

Hey everyone,

I need help with saddles (who doesn’t??!), and wondering if there might be an expert here who could offer some insight.

I have a wonderful young mare - just turned 6 - who I started under saddle two years ago (with my very excellent trainer). We have been struggling with finding a good saddle fit for her and I basically since the beginning. I don’t think she’s a particularly odd shape, but she is very, very sensitive to all things and apparently we’re a difficult combination (or else we just haven’t found the right help). She’s small, and the average “medium wide” is too wide for her, which makes finding used models a little challenging.

My trainer and I started my mare in my trainer’s saddle - an ancient Childeric DUS model.
I had an independent saddle fitter who I have worked with in the past evaluate Penny (my mare) basically as soon as we could reliably walk/trot/canter under saddle. She did not think that the Childeric was a good option, and indicated that it was too narrow/the wrong head plate shape for her.
She pointed me in the direction of a reasonably priced brand she thought would work, and helped me to design and purchase a new saddle. I waited about 3 months for the saddle to arrive; it did; it seemed to fit for the first try, but after about 4 months it was visibly rubbing a spot on her withers and obviously not working anymore.

During this time, my saddle fitter had a baby and was unavailable, so I worked with another saddle fitter (a master saddler, who makes his own brand of saddles). He was happy to come out and evaluate; agreed that the new saddle did not fit and didn’t think it could be adjusted to be better. He thought that the tree shape of my new saddle was wrong for Penny at that point, and was honest that I would probably need to buy a new saddle (he didn’t try to sell me his brand at all). He also looked at my trainer’s Childeric (which we had gone back to as the best alternative available), and thought that it was a reasonable fit (so either disagreed with fitter #1, or Penny changed shape significantly in a short period of time (possible)).

Because the brand of my new saddle offered a trade-in option and I’m not dripping in cash to buy multiple saddles, I then contacted the brand rep to come up with a solution. She came out and spent a long time with us, bringing many different models to try.
I had my trainer involved for this lengthy trial. We both tried multiple options on my saintly mare, and the three of us settled on a new model. The rep took my trade in and I ordered a new saddle with the new specs.

I waited 5 months for the new saddle (COVID; no one’s fault), and in this time continued using my trainer’s Childeric. Penny started to blossom during this time; doing really, really well.

New saddle #2 finally arrived. It seems to fit Penny well; she’s happy, but I can’t ride in the thing! I have no idea why this saddle is so different than the demo model we tried, but it tips me forward terribly. We tried shimming it/adjusting the flocking, etc, but shimming it makes Penny miserable, and we can’t seem to create a solution.

Frustrated, I begin trying to find a used saddle similar to my trainer’s Childeric. Of course Childeric no longer makes the DUS model.
I tried a DAC model (acceptable), a DGP (not good for me - set back stirrup bars do me no favours), and a DPL (fabulous). Unfortunately, none of those models fit Penny well (in the size available to try, anyway).

I finally found a DSC for sale online in the right tree measurement and did exactly what you’re not supposed to do - I just bought it outright, knowing that I could sell it again if I needed to.

So now we’ve had the DSC for about a month. I love it. My trainer loves it. Visually, I think it fits very similar to my trainer’s saddle. However, I think Penny does not love it. Just based on the way she is behaving both on the ground and under saddle, I suspect it’s too narrow around her withers. My wonderful horse who was working on third level now can’t go straight, and we’re all frustrated!

Unfortunately, the only place that I’m aware of that sells Childeric saddles in Canada (possibly in all of North America) does not offer a saddle fitting service. They’re happy to order a new saddle for me, and would come out to do a “fitting” if I were going to buy a brand new saddle, but they don’t do “fittings” otherwise, and carry only the DAC and DGP models regularly.

So at this point, I know that there are multiple Childeric models that work for me. One (discontinued) that works for Penny and I, and several that don’t.
I am hesitant to contact the original saddle fitter only because her assessment didn’t work for us the first time (perhaps that’s being silly), and she didn’t like the look of my trainer’s Childeric on Penny, though Penny clearly loves it.

I could contact the second saddle fitter again, but he doesn’t have anything to sell me and agrees that his own brand is probably not an ideal option for us (and I can’t afford one, anyway!).

I could contact the brand rep that I’ve ordered from twice now. She’s been really helpful, but I’m REALLY gun-shy to order another new saddle (even if she will take mine as a trade in), because I’ve done this twice and waited a long time only to find out it doesn’t work.

Does anyone have any brilliant suggestions? A large part of the problem is that I’m really rural, and it’s not easy for all of these people (or other brand reps) to get to me. Used saddles will have to be shipped to me.

Is there anyone that knows the Childeric models well enough to help me decipher what it is about the DUS that Penny likes, so that I can try to replicate it elsewhere?

Any suggestions (or sympathy) are much appreciated. Maybe I’ve just been really lucky so far, but I’ve never been so frustrated by a saddle!

Thanks in advance!

I have no real helpful solutions, but suggest you try some of the the other brands that fit similar to Childeric. I think Erreplus and Apogee are similar and you can often find them used at Bahrs Sprucewood. Antares isn’t the same fit but maybe worth trying too. If she is wide and flat-backed, then try the Prestige D1 or D2 - it fits a surprising number of horses with wildly differing shapes.

Thank you! That is helpful. I will take “this fits similar to Childeric,” at this point. It’s at least something to try. I have been thinking to call Bahr’s and see if I could get their fitter to bring me a selection of used saddles to try as a next step.

I don’t even know what shape she is, at this point. Three saddle fitters = three different opinions on this. I do acknowledge that she has grown and matured during this 2-year saga, and the third fitter watched her go on the lunge (without tack) and speculated that the way she carries herself makes her a different shape under saddle than she appears to be when standing.

How many tracing points did they take of her back?

I’m not knowledgeable about Childeric dressage models, unfortunately. I’ll throw this info out there, maybe it helps: 1) I leased a horse that was a MN-M tree with a withers a bit on the high side & well-muscled shoulders. He went nicely in a Vega. 2) In fitting the GoGo Pony – 14hh Arabian x Welsh fireball that needs lots of shoulder room & on whom saddles slip forward – we found billet placement to be a key consideration. The girth will find it’s way to the natural groove on the horse. No matter how well fitted the tree & gullet shape, if the billet placement on the saddle is at the wrong angle for the horse, the saddle will slide. For the GoGo Pony, the point billet needed to be very forward set to hang straight down. If we owned her, I’d splash out on one of the petite Fairfax dressage saddles. The knee blocks are held on with velcro & you can actually take them off, run the billet down through a channel under the knee block & reset the block over it.

Schleese has what I find to be a very clear & concise explanation about billet placement with a ton of photos on their website. Hope this helps a little!

Thank you!
I have numerous tracings from all the fitters - all were very thorough, though each had their own approach.

I will try to figure out how to attach some photos, which may be helpful.

Oh, it worked!
The first photo is my trainer’s saddle.
The second is my (#2) saddle.

I have more photos, but unfortunately none on my phone of the current DSC saddle.

I used to ride a Childeric DAC and loved it. It fit my weird shaped Arab really well and I really liked riding in it. So that’s what drew me to this post.

I am not a saddle fitter, not an expert, but can I make one observation? It appears to me that you saddle your horse quite far forward. I found this summer that I was doing the same on my new horse. Putting the saddle back even an inch or so made a big difference in my feeling that I was riding at the sweet spot AND didn’t inhibit his shoulders so much. My horse also has a forward girth groove so the saddle fitter suggested an anatomic girth, which works really well, even with the saddle back a little further than I would (naturally? unconsciously?) put it.

I do have to spot check my saddling from time to time as I still have a tendency to put it too far forward.

YMMV, sometimes changing a little thing can help.

Good luck, saddle fit is not for the faint of heart. I must have tried 25 saddles before I bought my Childeric.

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Unfortunately this has been my experience too. Have even had two wildly different opinions from two fitters who both work for the same tack store!

Sometimes common sense and listening to your horse are the way to go.

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Agree - it can be the reason why something seems to fit fine while your fitter is there but not when you ride day to day.

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I see that, too (that the saddles are far forward) - thank you! I should have thought to take some photos with the girth done up. I do have an anatomic girth, and I find that when I’m done in my trainer’s saddle, it’s slipped a little further back than this initial position.

Relevant, too, is that I must use a sheepskin pad next to my mare’s skin (thin saddle pad on top of the Matte’s sheepskin), because in addition to being sensitive about her tack, her skin is also ridiculously sensitive. The sheepskin has been a game-changer in regard to her itching and developing eosinophilic granulomas in all of the areas where she sweats. So the saddle has to fit with the sheepskin pad.

The brown and black one above (my saddle #2) was designed to fit with the pad for her. Based on her reaction, this saddle fits her well; it just doesn’t work for me.

[Inserting obligatory “not a trained saddle fitter” fine print here]

She looks well sprung thru the chest & shoulders but short backed? Hard to tell for sure without pics from the front & back.

I suspect saddle #2 isn’t doing you any favors because of where the stirrup bars are placed. In combination with the flap is angle, this saddle might be forcing your leg forward, necessitating you bracing again it, which in turn causes your upper body to pitch forward. I think your mare likes saddle #2 because, while forward angled, the flaps are shorter & narrower than those of saddle #1, allowing her more freedom through the shoulders. It also sits up higher/maybe has a cut back pommel? The billets angle back- to- front. Especially with an anatomical girth, I bet the girth slides into the natural grove better.

Saddle #1 probably works for you due to the stirrup bar placement & what looks like a narrower twist. Saddle #1 probably doesn’t work for your mare because the flaps are very long, the billets sit too forward. The point where the girth buckles may be too low, and the whole thing probably pulls forward onto her shoulders & underarm. It miiiight bridge, too.

I can’t tell for sure from the pics alone where her T18 is. However, both saddles appear to be too long for her back. To my eye, at least. And the Childric flaps are too long as well. The flaps on saddle #2 are a better length for her. Did they take tracings from other parts of her back besides the withers? Are they checking the fit from behind as well? They need to make sure that the panels sit the correct width to either side of her spine.

@TheDBYC - you may not be a saddle fitter, but that sounds pretty darn accurate to me!

No one has ever told me she’s particularly short-backed, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t. I agree that both saddles are about as big/long as I’d want any saddle to be on her.

So what I need is to find a saddle that combines the “rider” part of my trainer’s saddle, and the “horse” part of mine……

Awww, I’m glad that helped! Did I miss how tall she is? And breed?

Throwing out one more idea. You’ve got decent size blocks on the “fits Penny” saddle and it looks like they’re a bit further back than the “fits you” saddle.

Is it possibly they’re pushing your leg back and pitching you forward? If so, a saddler can cut the blocks down or replace them. It might be worth a close look since you already own the saddle :slight_smile:

Also, if you’re comfortable posting a photo of you in the saddles we may be able to offer some additional suggestions.

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Thank you so much, everyone! At the very least, this is giving me the words to describe what I feel.

Here is a photo of us in trainer’s saddle. I will see if I can find one of us in mine. I have a thousand photos of Penny, but not many of me on her!

Her sire is Negro, out of a Canadian Warmblood mare with jumping lines. I’m pretty sure she sticks at 16hh with her shoes on.

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Just want to add a caveat about horses’ shape at EXACTLY this age/stage of training…as they come over their backs and really lift their shoulders, and drive from behind, their withers will actually “narrow”, which sounds counterintuitive.

What’s actually happening is the “thoracic sling” muscles are beefing up and causing the withers to rise, and the saddle to ride higher, and thus a wider tree will suddenly lose clearance over the withers. Your horse isn’t shark-withered, so hopefully this won’t be a dramatic remodeling that suddenly renders an expensive saddle unusable, but definitely something to think about.

https://dressageheadlines.com/articles/dressage/significance-horse’s-chest-sling-muscles-biomechanic-research-hilary-clayton

These days, because I am not fabulously wealthy, I don’t bother going custom on a horse that isn’t, at the bare minimum, going WTC in good self-carriage, suppleness and bend in both directions, with solid lateral work, etc. For me, it’s better to buy good used saddles with solid resale value until the horse has her more “grownup” shape. Thinline pad system can help here.

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One more thing that might be worth investigating…

Your new “fits Penny” saddle looks like it has fairly deep panels, which I’m guessing from the photo are wool flocked. Typically, new wool flocked saddles are built to allow the flocking to compress over several rides.

I’m wondering if the sheepskin pad is reducing the pressure on the new flocking so it hasn’t fully settled. If it’s just a bit too much, the saddle may be creeping forward slightly as you ride. This would put it pommel high and throw you out of balance.

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I agree the saddle looks too far forward, and pommel- high as a result. The photo with the sheepskin looks dramatically worse. I’d be very curious to know if you feel a difference after pulling it back behind her shoulder. It looks like the anatomic girth will be necessary if you do this.

Sending you a PM about the solve I found for my very, very sensitive gelding who was constantly needing saddle adjustments to stay happy.