There is no doubt that over recent years the versatitlity and temperament of the Traditional Gypsy Cob is making it increasingly popular and as a Saddle Fitter, perhaps because this is one of my specialist fields, I am seeing more and more of them in my daily work.
It would be wrong to say that all Traditionals are the same when it comes to saddle fitting and clearly every horse needs to be fitted as an individual, but it would be true to say that the vast majority that I see present the same challenges. Typically they would be very short coupled, they may have a huge front and a huge rear but the bit in the middle doesn’t allow a lot of room for a saddle! The shape of their backs rises up towards the croup creating a rising angle where the back of the saddle would sit, they have very low withers and last but not least they are wide and can be very wide!!
A common misconception is that the saddle just needs to be wide enough and for this reason many people are buying saddles with a changeable gullet system believing that this will ensure that the saddle will fit both now and into the future. While the width is important it is every bit as important that the saddle is made using a saddle tree which fits the horse. The tree is the frame the saddle is made on and in simple terms a wide flat backed horse needs a wide flat tree that follows the contours of the horse’s back. Unfortunately there are very few saddle makers who make saddles on this type of tree. When a saddle using the wrong tree is fitted the likely consequences are a horse with a sore back, poor performance and a saddle which either slips forwards or to the side. When the right tree is used this allows the riders weight to be evenly distributed over the bearing surface of the horse’s back.
As gypsy Cobs are seen as good weight carriers there is often a conflict about the size of saddle the rider needs and the seat size a short coupled cob can accommodate. We get over this by producing a range of saddles built on the right saddle trees with extra width in the seat. The extra width cleverly reduces the length of seat the rider needs to be able to sit in the optimal position and therefore distribute their weight more evenly.
I have always believed that every horse or pony in ridden work deserves a saddle that fits and as a consequence we can now produce saddles for every discipline for the traditional Gypsy Cob.