I have a fantastic Namibian warmblood, Tolero, who I have had since he was three years old. Over the years I have struggled to find saddles to fit him and battled to get sound advice that I can trust. I have been told to use riser pads, extra numnahs, get my saddles reflocked and eventually bought a new saddle that turned out to be asymmetrical and inappropriate. None of this has been done without the advice of trained saddle fitters. It is so frustrating seeking professional advise but not getting the proper results - or being sold down the river with really crap advice. Despite a lot of time and effort, four things worried me: my horse's trot stride was short and choppy, he would not trot straight choosing to trot on 3 tracks more often than not, the saddle always tipped to one side and his back was often sore. The other challenges are that Tolero is extremely broad and asymmetrical which makes fitting even more difficult.

I've known Dinah for years and when we met up again she mentioned that she was looking for case studies for her saddle fitting course and that she had a thermal camera. Although I had just spent close to R12k on a saddle, I decided to offer my horse and saddle as a guinea pig to see if we could get to the bottom of the saddle/back problems. Nobody wants to hear bad news - especially when it comes to their horses. I am the same. I ride for pleasure and because it keeps a part of me sane. Not being able to ride is terrible. But, when Dinah came and spent hours doing a detailed back profile and checking my new saddle, I felt reassured that I was on the right track. With the thermal imaging we were able to see where the saddle was putting pressure and after hours we realised that the new saddle I had bought was not suitable for my horse and I returned it and got a refund because it was clear from the imaging that the saddle was not symmetrical.

It's been a hard road. I haven't ridden for months to give my horse a true break from badly-fitted saddles (and remember I had been using saddle fitters all along) and to give him a chance to build up the correct muscles through long-reining with Dawn Jones. Together with Dinah, we have tried over 17 saddles on Tolero. Some were ok, some were absolutely not suitable and we had one or two possibilities. Being able to do a thermal image after riding was enormously helpful. I also really appreciated that Dinah was happy to work closely with Dawn to help find the best fit. Horse professionals are often defensive about their turf and areas of expertise, but I have enjoyed the open and honest debate that we've engaged in. I've also learnt a lot. While working with Dinah, I did get other saddle fitters out to show me what they had. One came for 15 minutes, whacked a saddle on, told me to go for a 10 minute ride and expected me to give them the answer there and then. I think Dinah has spent a minimum of 10 hours with me and my horse. That's commitment that I really appreciate. So does Tolero.

I am thrilled to have eventually found a saddle that both Tolero and I am happy with and have starting to enjoy riding once again.

Karena - Tokai - Aug 2013

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