Her big beef with my saddle was the way the billet straps are rigged.
They're not like normal saddles, not even like regular dressage saddles, I imagine. There's only two straps and they're rigged so the front one comes straight off the point of the tree, basically, and the back one is a "Y" shape so that one end of the "Y" comes off the back of the saddle and the other comes from somewhere in the middle of the saddle. Theoretically, you might think it'd make for more stability...but with the way the "pocket" for Kieran's girth is (right behind his elbow, basically), that "Y" has the net effect of tugging the saddle forward (we've talked about that here before, I think).
So after she checked out the saddle, she put it on him with no padding and girthed it up like normal (on the "grumpy pants" note, he made a couple of sideways looks and sort of laid his ears back but that was it. More on this later.) and then we went into the ring and she watched me riding away from her and around turns at a walk and a trot. Even after just those couple of minutes, the saddle shifted way forward so my knees were on his shoulders, basically.
So I got off, and she changed it so that just the back billet strap was doing the actual job of holding the saddle on (the fronts were buckled but not so tightly they were really doing much). I got back on. Same thing, walking and trotting again. This time, I was weirdly thrown forward. It was strange for me just how different the saddle could feel from such a (relatively) minor change.
So, get off and this time she has the front strap holding the saddle on and the back just buckled. Now it's still a little weird for me, but obviously much better for him and the saddle's staying in place better. She has us do w/t/c in a big circle around her both directions.
One more time, she goes and gets a standing wrap pad thing and folds it up and places it under the front of the saddle. Same girth situation as previous. W/T/C again around her and...it's just about perfect. It was weird because for once I felt like the saddle was actually staying off his shoulders and were it belonged.
Anyway, she's going to fix the back billet strap so it's still "Y" shaped but instead of the strap being sewn in, it will be on a D-ring and will settle into place where it ought to be for the saddle to work best for him. Or at least, that's the idea.
It was definitely an interesting experience.
Oh, and on the girthiness thing. It's funny, he makes the faces when he's standing in the aisle first getting tacked up. Tightening the girth before I get on in the ring? All that taking the saddle on, redoing up the girth we were doing in there? Nothing. I was hardly even holding on to the reins to make him stand there. That's making me lean toward it being less likely to be a physical cause.
Found a picture of similar rigging on another of Duett's saddles:
But see how that one has something that allows the back billet to kind of slide? Mine is sewn in place. And my front strap is actually popping out pretty much over where the knee block would go instead of behind it like this one. (I took my knee blocks off).