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Ellis River Riders Versatility Trail Challenge - July 25, 2020

So you need a little background before I talk about this trail challenge thing! Throughout 2020, I put some time and effort into riding Ellie's dam, Rejoice. She never had consistent training when she was younger and then she spent several years just being a broodmare, so while I did not (and still do not) have any lofty goals for this mare, I did want to enjoy her as a pleasure horse. Mostly because she is safe and sweet and seems to enjoy getting out and about.  she is the BEST trail horse and will go anywhere I ask! being all majestic, I guess But when I first started riding her the fall of 2019, I realized I had my work cut out for me LOL! She didn't understand my seat, she was used to being completely ridden off her face/bit (owner just before me rode her in a tie-down/draw rein combo), and had zero half halt. Like we called it a 1/16th halt haha. early April 2020 I took my time, reminded her about how inside leg to outside rein works, and never used any devices on her. I

Snappy Earns a New Saddle

Seven years ago, it took me forever to find the dressage right saddle for Dreamy.  I tried many different saddles and eventually settled on a Stubben Juventus which I adore!  I made it work well enough for Snappy last year with a Mattes pad and a lot of cringing, but she is built downhill and I knew the saddle really didn't work for her.  With Dreamy essentially retired, I knew it was time to get the Stubben looked at for Snappy.  Ashley Hutchinson of Whole Horse Works came out last week and evaluated the fit on both the dressage saddle and my other Juventus which is a jumping saddle.

Because of her downhill build, the dressage saddle was sitting too low in front.  However, because of her wither shape and large shoulders, there was no way we could go with a smaller width tree (it is a 31 cm, medium wide) because then it wouldn't fit.  While the back gussets work well for her shape, she really could use front gussets.  Of course, the saddle is designed so there was no more room in the front for much more wool.  She did get the lumps and bumps out and did add a smidge more wool in the front, but there was no way to add enough to make it actually fit.  I asked if she could create gussets on the front, but she felt she couldn't.  So, we used the Mattes pad with front shims to get the saddle nearly perfect, but it just isn't going to work long term.  I knew that was going to happen.  :-(

The Juventus jumping saddle was actually a better fit for her and needed the flocking adjusted.  For now, I can use it because I ride more often in the dressage saddle anyway.

So, then it became a "so, what has front gussets and will work better for this horse?" question I pose to Ashley.  She is a big proponent of DK saddles, but I had no idea about them until she suggested it.  The basic idea is that the DK saddles are built on a flexible tree that adjusts from extra narrow to extra wide; the actual tree itself is designed to be adjustable without the need of different size gullet changers.  And instead of wool, use Flair air panels.  Each of the four panels can be inflated/deflated to create a perfect fit, unlike the CAIR panels on a Bates, for example. The tree points are much longer than most saddles, and I want to say Ashley told me the ends were nine inches away from the withers, therefore eliminating the typical pressure points and atrophy on the side of the withers.  Because we know horses are asymmetrical, the DK system can help fit any horse.  

Now, I know there are several opinions out there about all different brands of saddles, and the air panels of the DK are not liked by everyone.  I personally think this is going to work well for my horse.  And best of all, because I am not going to have Snappy in my life as my main riding horse forever as I one day hope to have a young horse to train up, I can use this same saddle for a new horse.  

DK saddles sell for $6000, which is WAY out of my budget.  Like not in a million years in my budget LOL!  In searching for a used one, I was advised to purchase a 2008 or newer, as that is when DK Saddlery's owner, Danny Kroetch, changed the tree design. Because the DK's are made in Canada, Ashley recommended I try to find one there, as the exchange rate is quite favorable.  My search so far has proven to turn up nothing appropriate.  The saddle is either too old for what I want or has wool flocking (meaning a saddle fitter took out the air bladders and put wool in).  This is fine if that is what you want, but because I am looking for the adjustable air panels, I would have to pay $$ for the wool to be removed and air bladders put back in.  While Ashley can do this, it just made the saddle more expensive and the exchange rate no longer mattered.  I kept finding saddles and sending the serial number to Danny, who I spoke with for a while when I first decided to try Ashley's suggestion.  I have stumbled upon a DK Freedom that looks like it will work perfectly and is a great deal.  So hopefully as soon as it arrives from Michigan, I can have Ashley out again and we can make it work!  Fingers crossed!!


  1. I hope it works out. I've never liked riding in the CAIR panels, I just don't find them comfortable for me and I feel removed from the horse, but I know a lot of people really like them.


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