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I get a lot of inquiries about why a customer’s Bates or Wintec saddle seems to bounce a bit or leans them in the wrong direction. As a saddle fitter and conformation analyst, I love what the CAIR panels do for the comfort of the horse. They can subtly change shape in the areas that need them without any help from me. They allow the saddle to ride cooler than wool and no matter how good of a flocker I am, I can’t see everything once the saddle is clamped down. As any good fitter will attest, the wool may move a bit after a few rides or settle faster and thinner than we anticipated, requiring a re-fit.
Some owners ask to have the saddle flocked to stop the bounce/lean issue. The CAIR panels were not designed to bounce, tip you forward or backward. If you are encountering this, it is a fit issue. If the back bounces up, reduce the gullet plate size and/or shim the panel. If you are tipping forward, the plate is too wide. If you are tipping backward, the plate is too narrow. The panels can be shimmed in the newer models and that can really make a difference in the fit.
A customer came to me wanting a new saddle and I suggested an M. Toulouse to get into her budget and fit requirements. She had ridden a friends saddle on her OTTB and made this statement: “I can’t have a Toulouse, they throw me forward.” There is not a good manufacturer in the world that designs a saddle that leans you forward, backward, or bounces, it is always a fit issue. Now that Bates has added a basic line of leather saddles with the CAIR panels, I can offer them to clients that I used to send to other makers. The Arena series has all the HART benefits (that’s their buzz word for the CAIR shimmable panels and the adjustable gullet systems) in a leather saddle in some nice basic styles at an affordable price. If you aren’t comfortable adjusting your CAIR saddle, find someone who is, it can save you a lot of trouble!
Before you have the back-saving benefits of the CAIR panels removed, get the saddle fitted properly.