Saddle Fit and Red Shoes

I thought it was a good time to revisit this since it is an often recurring question every person on my sales team gets asked when they are working in the field with clients. “What does the red shoe mean that you have in your ads? I see it at almost every show you guys are at displayed at your booth.”

(For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the red patent leather pump in question, it is part of our branding and we actually have a shoe in our booths – it’s very visually arresting and always stimulates conversation!)

The red shoe is actually the brainchild of my marketing department and was originally conceived to make a point. I actually have worn the red shoes when I come in to do presentations at various events – at the USDF Annual Trainer’s Conference, at the Global Dressage Forum North America, and also at Equine Affaire. It is always a good icebreaker to see me stumbling in on them – wearing thick white socks and my usual clothes, but these bright red shoes on my feet. They are actually size 16 men’s red patent leather pumps, and my wife managed to buy them on a transvestite website. Obviously, they don’t really fit me – and that is the point!

Schleese Saddlery Dressage Model the Prelude!

Too many times people follow fads because of what their friends do, their stablemates do, their trainers recommend, or the opinions of a chatroom population dictate is “IT”. The saddle of the moment, the breeches of the day, the training methods of the week. I give you that people generally (for the most part) will have your best interests at heart, but sometimes there may be a hidden agenda. Some trainers are the recipients of ‘sponsored’ saddles which they get for free and which of course they need to recommend. We are all in business, and it’s understandable that everyone needs to make a living and do what’s best for them – but unfortunately sometimes the horse has to suffer because of this rationale.

Just because something works for you, looks good on you, fits you (as, for example my wife’s red patent leather pumps are among her favorite shoes!) does not necessarily mean it will work for someone else. Obviously – the red shoes make it difficult to walk for me, don’t really fit me, and look absolutely ridiculous on me. Same with some saddles – they may work for your friend/trainer/stablemate and fit their horses beautifully, but this is no guarantee that they will work for either you or your horse.

Conventional thinking was always “I really don’t care that much if the saddle doesn’t fit me, as long as it fits my horse”, but the truth is that if the saddle doesn’t fit you as the rider first (and the rider is generally much more difficult to fit properly than the horse), your discomfort in the seat will translate down to the horse and impede the performance level for both of you. So don’t fall into this trip – get lots of opinions and try out lots of alternatives, certainly – but then do what is right for you and get what works for you and your horse!

You can actually watch the summary of everything I have said in this blog on our Schleese YouTube Channel – or you can go directly to the video “Red Shoes and Saddle Fitting” (the video is a little over 3 minutes long). For fun then watch the blooper reel (which is truly hilarious).