- Saddle Fitting
Only a few years ago the vast majority of horse owners displayed little interest in ‘saddle fitting’. It was only when their horse displayed behavioral problems or became sore that they called in the services of a saddle fitter and even then, it would be somewhat reluctancy.
Things have changed and for the better, today the riding public has far greater awareness of the important part the saddle plays in terms of welfare, comfort and success.
A well-designed, well-made and well-fitting saddle is an excellent tool. A saddle that is poorly designed or one that has inherent manufacturing defects, or one that doesn’t fit well is at best a hindrance, at worst, a disaster in the making.
Problems caused by an ill fitting saddle:
- Pinching, rubbing, pressure sores.
- The saddle could be rocking, positioned with an up-hill seat or a down-hill seat, pressing on the withers or spine.
- Effects the horse’s way of going to compensate for the discomfort.
- Muscle wastage and atrophy, not just under the saddle but the whole body can become affected.
- Behavioural problems such as bucking, rearing, cold backed, dislikes being saddled, head tossing, refusing to make upward transitions or jump, short choppy strides to name just a few.
So whether you are using an old saddle or a new saddle you should think about how it fits you and your horse and have it fitted by a Society of Master Saddlers’ Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter. A Qualified Saddle Fitter’s first
consideration will always be the horse.
Adding several pads under a saddle which fits well without it, is like wearing thick insoles into shoes that fit perfectly without them.
Each horse should have its own saddle. Just as a pair of shoes adapts to the wearer’s foot, the saddle adapts to the contours of the horse. Ill-advised riders use one saddle on several horses (“it cuts down on tack cleaning”... “I ride better in that particular saddle”...) without pausing to consider possible consequences this saddle can have on the horse.
The young horse must be fitted especially carefully, their back is ‘virgin territory’ and very precious. Great care must be taken to avoid any damage that may cause problems later in life. Young horses should never be lunged in any old saddle (‘it doesn’t matter – no-one is going to ride in it’). The young back is particularly vulnerable and a swinging/bouncing saddle that doesn’t fit and may even be damaged can be the cause of veterinary problems that may be irreversible.
Recognise too, that some young horses develop at a substantial rate and the saddle that fitted well only a short time previously may need adjustment. The standard general purpose saddle is a compromise and can never fulfil the needs of individual disciplines as well as saddles designed specifically.
Unlevelness, even slight, in your horse’s gait, especially behind can cause the saddle to move/gyrate therefore possibly exacerbating the existing problem.
Mounting from a mounting block should not be restricted to the less-than-athletic! It is infinitely better for the horse’s back and guards against the saddle tree becoming twisted which is quite easy to happen if the saddle is regularly used as a lever.
When mounting the rider’s weight should always be lowered gently into the saddle, never ‘thump’ or ‘bang’.