Tips for Fitting and Using Your New Harry Dabbs Saddle
Most new saddles made to template should just be able to be popped on the horse & ridden away to start the bedding in process. Occasionally if the horse has changed shape during the manufacturing time it may be that we need to adjust the saddle slightly.
These hints will help give optimum performance from your new saddle & it should give you years of comfortable service!
1. Sit saddle on horse with just a normal thin saddle blanket.
2. Slide stirrup leathers on bars (where using Dabbs Leathers make sure the ‘raw’ edge of the folded calf leather is facing towards the back of the saddle.) This avoids rolling the raw edge out on the stirrup bar. Try not to pull them up whilst sitting on the horse to adjust as this can cause extra wear on the soft leather.
3. Girth up evenly each side one hole at a time alternating sides to keep an even pressure. If possible have the back strap a little tighter, not the front (this avoids extra pressure on the front /shoulder of the horse) You may use front & back strap or the back 2 straps on jump saddles if this sits correctly on your horse depending on horse.
4. Always use a girth with elastic on both ends (preferably triple thickness, as this avoids over tightening due to too much stretch) Never elastic one end – this causes uneven pressure on the saddle flocking & tree, can cause uneven settling of flock and even twisting of the tree longer term. It also causes more pressure on one side of the horse & can be a great contributor to ‘girthiness’. Ask about our Ergonomic girths which are preferable to use on these saddles.
5. The girth should sit in the girth groove with the straps pointing down – not being pulled forward – if this is the case you will need a forward cut ergonomic girth.
6. Do up the girth one hole at a time both sides – start on the first hole & adjust alternately up one hole each side. DO not over tighten. You will need to do up the girth one or two holes during the first 20-30 mins as the wool settles.
7. The flaps will stick out when they are new, they will very quickly settle & mould down to your leg & your horse. After a few rides you will notice that you don’t ‘notice’ your saddle any more!
8. Be vigilant in the first few rides to make sure that the saddle is sitting straight. Keep checking. This will enable the wool to bed in evenly. Horses sometimes move unevenly and can throw the saddle left or right if they push more with one hind leg than the other or are crooked, rotating the torso This can be evident in a new saddle when the flock is very soft & can throw the saddle. Try to sit evenly – even seat bones.
9. If your horse has muscle wastage or has been ridden in a tightly fitting saddle, use a sheepskin underneath. Check any sheepskin halfpads don’t have a seam around the back that the saddle will sit on. This will cause uncomfortable pressure on your horse. Ensure the flat part of the pad is wide enough to accommodate all the saddle. Many are not. A plain piece of sheepskin with a good pile is far preferable. We also like the Acavello gel or Prosorb pads for this purpose.
10. When the saddle is sitting on the horse check the balance – is the middle of the seat the lowest, flattest point? If in doubt take a photo & txt it to us to check!
11. Ride away in a straight line – no tight circles – in walk & then trot for at least the first few hours – 3 rides of 20 mins is not enough! Avoid steep hills! Add in canter when you feel the saddle has stabilised – allow at least a good 4-6 hours riding time – preferably more before cantering & jumping.
12. Apply a light leather oil (we recommend Rapide range from Saddlery Warehouse) to the girth straps and undersides of saddle – light application to the panel, more on the flaps, light application to the topside. I usually apply to the pommel & cantle but avoid the actual seat, using only a light conditioner/beeswax type dressing to this area. The girth straps will soften up beautifully with a few applications. REMEMBER! A dry saddle will wear! Keep your leather moisturised as you would your face! Any dry patches will rub & wear so watch areas under stirrup leathers & bottoms of flaps carefully. Apply same oil to girths & leathers to keep supple. (My first pair of Dabbs leathers are 12 years old now & still in everyday use!) Dont allow them to dry out. Leather should be soft & supple not dry hard. This also keeps your saddlery safe – dry leather can crack, split & break! Remember to remove dirt / sweat with a soft cloth which has been dampened in warm water – no ‘saddlery cleaners, or all in one ‘cleaner/conditioners’ or washing up liquid!
13. If you feel that your saddle is sitting a little low in front please advise us. It could be time for a flock adjustment. In the short term you can use a small shim either side at the front, a folded towel across the front, or a shim pad – care with these again – watch for seams.
14. Lastly horses can get sore when they start to be able to move under a new saddle – take your time & give your horse some bodywork whilst he is adjusting to new muscle movement. Remember they are using new muscles & will change! This can lead to them being muscle sore so please be aware.
15. These tips should get you going until we check fit for you.
Any questions please ask!