Product Review: Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Cinch

Recently while cinching Jim up in his western saddle, I looked at him and wondered if there was a better cinch for him than just the straight cinch. After speaking with my trainer, we came across the Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief cinch. Available in synthetic or leather and then a felt, neoprene or fleece liner, I chose a black leather cinch with white fleece for Jim. Then I eagerly awaited the mail.

 

The cinch arrived in good time and unboxing it, I was surprised with a hat that had come along with it! Pretty cool plus! The fleece is very soft and the leather is supply and smells great. It has a roller buckle on one end and comes with a good diagram of how to use it.

 

I rode Jim in it the next day and he loved it! After walking him around a bit, it fell right in place. He definitely enjoys having the fleece on his skin instead of neoprene rubbing. It also looks sharp. I absolutely love the shape of this cinch and Jim enjoys it too! He rode very nicely in it and it frees up his elbows and shoulder very well.

The only downside is a small negative to the fleece. I rode in an 85 degree + day in the northeast. It was very humid and Jim had sweat a lot. After riding, I made sure to rest the cinch upside down off from the saddle to dry out the fleece since it did get quite wet. However, Total Saddle Fit does sell replacement liners so if I ever want to switch out the fleece, I can without losing the cinch! That is a nice feature I’m sure I’ll use sometime in the future.

Total Saddle Fit has these cinches for western, dressage and English saddles. The two English versions are even sold at Dover Saddlery. It was a bit expensive ($130 without the fleece, $169 with the fleece), but the quality is there and I’ve already recommended it to a number of friends! I can’t wait to log some more miles in this cinch.

(Disclaimer: I purchased this cinch with my own funds.)

A winter of work

It’s been a long, dreary winter. In New England, we have had the strangest few months – with small storms bringing freezing cold and ice amid mild temperatures. I think I have become a pro on the “penguin walk” across sheets of ice both at home and at the barn. We haven’t had tons of snow this year, mostly just ice and freezing rain. Where we board Jim we very fortunately have an indoor arena. I know a lot of equestrians are not blessed with an indoor, but it is definitely worth it when it comes to New England weather.

At the start of the winter back in November, we placed Jim in training 2 days a week with our barn owner. We had a few specific short-term goals along with some long-term goals for our 2019 show season and beyond. Our short-term goals included a complete rework of how we lunge Jim. A year ago, our lunging consisted of a horse who liked to tear around like an idiot, burst out from you when you sent him out, and a horse that tried to break away from you when you went to change the chain set up while changing directions.

Another goal was to teach Jim how to balance himself both while lunging and under saddle. Although very broke, he liked to throw his nose up in the air and go way above the vertical. He rode very hollow and was very heavy on the forehand. He didn’t have much of a concept of engaging his hindquarters and stepping through.

Traffic was another key that Jim needed some work. He can work very nicely around other horses, but sometimes, oh sometimes, those ears went back and the attitude came out. With show season quickly approaching again, that wasn’t going to cut it – especially when it comes to warm up arenas.

Another smaller goal was to put some showmanship and ground handling buttons on him. He actually knows quite a lot in this department, but there’s some finishing work to be done.

And we have our long-term goals which include expanding our dressage knowledge, putting a flying change on him and working on more lateral work.

It’s been four months of training. We have had our setbacks and we have had some amazing progress. I actually love watching Jim learn. He sometimes takes a week or so and has a setback, but once it’s over, comes back even stronger.

One of our main goals – lunging – has come a long way. While it’s not perfect and probably will never be since some of it is just him, we can handle him much better and lunging has turned into teaching moments and not just “go run around like an idiot.” He’s actually not allowed to canter on the lunge line. Lunging work is for paying attention and working his brain. He’s taken to the new lunging rules very well.

Another goal that is coming along nicely is Jim learning how to balance himself. He has actually started to consistently round (when I use my legs!) He’s begun to understand what we are asking of him. He has also muscled up a lot. I can’t wait to take some new conformation photos in the spring!

While we still have some goals in the works, I’m very happy about our winter progress. But the most important part is how much fun we have been having with him. He lights up our life. From letting us put gloves on his ears and take funny photos to how much enjoyment we get riding and pampering and loving him, he has become part of the family. Having fun is what our sport is all about. If you’re not having fun, your passion will die. Every time you go to the barn and every time you put a foot in the stirrup, you should enjoy what you’re doing. The confidence we have been gaining (especially me) working with Jim has been fantastic. And I have my village to thank who are there for us all along the way.