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Relatable Ronnie: the perils of the saddle-purchasing decision-making process

Ronnie is having his patience sorely tested. He knows that Penny is doing her best, but REALLY?! She has been trying every sort of numnah and pad on him, and taken lots of advice, but to no avail. The upshot is that Penny needs a new saddle, or rather, Ronnie does!

First stop is a return visit to the saddler who is an old friend. He fitted the saddle Ronnie currently wears. At the time, Dan and Penny agreed that this was a temporary fit while Ronnie muscled up and grew into his mature shape. This time, Dan advises Penny to call on the services of a registered master saddle fitter and gives her a contact number. Saddles have moved on since Dan and Penny first met. They fondly reminisce about the ‘one saddle fits all’ approach. Now saddles are technological masterpieces, one for each phase of competition, and one for each horse, and the choice is mind-boggling!

Penny phones the registered master saddle fitter and speaks to a very helpful manager. She hurries out to catch Ronnie and photograph him from every angle. The Husband helps her upload these onto an email and whizz them off, with a fulsome description of Ronnie’s breeding, shape and age. She adds the same about herself — 5ft in her wellies, but omits her age. She feels no saddle fitter will take her seriously if she admits to being over 50.

Ronnie is a very sensitive soul, he doesn’t like saddle fittings, and isn’t afraid to show it. This, in turn, makes Penny nervous, she worries about looking like the worst rider in the world, in front of a master saddle fitter. She enlists the help of The Friend to come and lend moral support.

The day arrives. Ronnie is groomed and polished. The registered master saddle fitter arrives spot on time. He is jovial as he walks up the yard to inspect Ronnie, who immediately stands with all his legs stuck out, and his tummy slung as low as possible — mostly to demonstrate to Penny that the pole exercises she seems so fond of are a waste of time. Ronnie is immediately made to stand up — he smirks, he has rattled her already.

“Well! He’s a funny shape,” the registered master saddle fitter declares, his jovial smile dimming a bit. He sucks through his teeth. “Very high withers.”

Penny is a little perplexed — surely he was expecting this from the photos?

“Right, let’s measure him.” The registered master saddle fitter becomes efficient and measures Ronnie all over. Ronnie has the measure of him, however, and always puts a hind leg out, just enough to make a point. Penny has at last achieved the perfect position when The Husband arrives and startles Ronnie. The registered master saddle fitter is not at all jovial now.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” The Husband offers in his amiable fashion.

At length, the master saddler walks back to his van and Penny follows to help carry all the possible saddles. She tries not to look too dismayed when only three are selected.

The worst bit is now at hand, Penny gets onto the first saddle and enters the school, she has updated her internal model from trying to look like Anky to trying to look like Charlotte. She knows this is a hopeless cause, but ‘visualisation’ is an important technique to master. Ronnie is visualising a donkey. Penny forgets about Charlotte and reminds Ronnie to do his job properly. He sighs and gives in. Two laps of the school are sufficient to convince both of them that this is not the saddle for them. Penny is relieved. At least it’s a clear cut decision.

The second saddle is in place, with much face pulling from both the registered master saddle fitter and Ronnie. Happily The Friend arrives and the master saddler’s jocularity miraculously returns. The Friend usually has this effect on people. Penny rides in the school again. This time she doesn’t have to worry about looking like Charlotte, since the registered master saddle fitter is talking animatedly to The Friend, both of whom are sipping coffee which The Husband has produced, along with a plate of biscuits.

This saddle is a joy — for Penny. Ronnie shortens his stride and puts his ears to the side. Penny calls out to the registered master saddle fitter, who glances up and commands her to keep going: “He’ll get used to it.” Ronnie is very concerned that Penny is being so slow to understand him. He shortens his stride again and his ears go back further. Penny gets the message and dismounts.

The third saddle is more successful. Ronnie points his toes and Penny relaxes, even though the saddle is tipping her forward a bit. The registered master saddle fitter comes back to life — he can see that Ronnie is moving well. He knows Penny will buy what suits Ronnie. He senses a sale. Penny dismounts. Stuffing is adjusted. Penny remounts. She can’t decide if it is better. Her blood pressure is astronomical. She will have to make ‘The Decision’.

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The registered master saddle fitter assures her that this is “The only saddle that will ever fit a horse with such a difficult shape”. Ronnie is affronted. Penny is hovering on the brink of an eye-wateringly expensive purchase.

“It has to be comfortable for you too,” The Friend pipes up. The registered master saddle fitter looks at her with new eyes.

That night in bed, unable to sleep, Penny is highly relieved that she didn’t buy the saddle. She knows she will have to go through the whole process again but… who to ask? That is the burning question. It threatens to keep her awake for yet another night.

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