It may be ugly, but it works!
I swear I'm not a tackaholic. Well, I probably would be if I could afford to be, but honestly the reason I have gone through two bridles, three saddles and three girths in three years is Gus. He's the freaking Goldilocks of horses: everything is too hard, too soft, too stiff, too big, too small, too flexible, too something.
The bridle issues were easily resolved by giving up my drool-worthy, anatomically-designed, outrageously expensive Swedish dressage bridle for a plain-Jane padded monocrown snaffle with flash. The saddle saga was solved by the Prestige D1 Zero with its incredible shoulder freedom and super narrow twist. I am not sponsored by Prestige nor have any relationship with them, so believe me when I say this saddle is truly amazing. In the past six months four of us in our barn have switched to this model and every single horse has noticeably improved in their way of going, while the riders all say they are better balanced and feel more connected with the horse. A fifth barn-mate is trialing one right now.
The last puzzle piece is my never-ending quest for the right dressage tack is the girth. I started out with a very expensive, state-of-the-art British model, designed specifically for horses with a forward girth groove on whom saddles tend to slip. While it seemed ok for a while, over the past year Gus grew increasingly cranky while being saddled, and started to get small rubs. So I switched to a lovely Canadian made dressage model that claims to self balance. Again it seemed a huge improvement at first, but Goldilocks began to express his dissatisfaction after a month or so. I still love this girth, but think the elastic on both ends allows too much movement of the saddle, at least for my delicate 17+ hand flower of a horse.
In desperation I followed the advice of Liz at Bahr Saddlery, who fitted our Prestige dressage saddle. For a horse with Gus' fit issues, she highly recommended the revolutionary No Pressure Girth, also from Prestige. I was dubious and reluctant, mainly because it is so unusual looking. Ok, let's be honest, it's ugly. The girth consists of a circular padded donut, which rests against the horse's belly, distributing the pressure over a much bigger surface area than a traditional girth. I'm sure there's lots of science behind it that I don't understand, but for whatever reason it really does seem to work. Gus is happy and comfortable, moving freely and lifting his back, while the saddle stays in place without moving side to side or pulling forward.
We've had one on trial at our barn for a few weeks and so far I've been impressed, impressed enough to order one for myself. Fingers crossed that Goldilocks decides this one is "just right."
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About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.