Good Saddle Fitting is important
Saddles affect both the performance of the horse and the way you ride. Ill-fitting saddles can result in sore backs for horses and uncomfortable seating for riders. This means that a good fit is essential in ensuring the best experience for all involved. Here are 20 important things to keep in mind when getting your saddle fitted.
20 Saddle Fitting Tips
1. It is essential that you have the correct information when saddle fitting. Your saddle, new or second-hand, should be fitted by a Qualified Saddle Fitter. When choosing your saddle the first consideration should always be the horse. This means that you should keep an open mind and that you need to adjust any preconceived ideas you may have about your own preferences in relation to make and design.
2. If you use a numnah or gel pad the saddle fitter must be informed at the time of the original enquiry – and always before the saddle is fitted. Adding a numnah or gelpad under a saddle which fits well without it is akin to putting thick insoles into shoes that fit perfectly without them.
3. Each horse should have its own saddle. Just as a pair of shoes adapts to the wearer’s foot, so the saddle adopts the contours of the horse to enable best performance and maximum comfort.
4. It may be possible to adjust your existing saddle to fit your new horse – but the advice of a qualified saddle fitter should always be sought. Check with your local Saddleworld store and arrange a saddle fitting with one of their experienced saddle fitters to get it right.
5. Your horse changes shape regularly. The frequency of these changes will relate to his age, training, feed, paddock terrain, management and so on. Try to develop an eye to recognise these changes. Viewed on a daily basis, the changes may seem inconsequential but over a period of just a week or so they can be surprisingly substantial. Have your saddle checked – and any necessary adjustments made – regularly. Saddles are like cars in that they need to have a service, call in to your local Saddleworld store and check out their 15 point saddle safety check.
6. ‘Feed’ your saddle carefully. Insufficiently treated the leather will dry out. Fed too much, the dressing will not be absorbed and the saddle will be unpleasantly sticky – possibly marking your clothes, or worse, causing the saddle stitching to rot. The regularity with which the saddle requires ‘dressing’ relates to usage, weather conditions and so on. Talk to the team at Saddleworld to see which product best suits your saddle whether it be oil or crème.
7. The young horse must be fitted especially carefully. His – or her – back is delicate 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 anyway – and may even be damaged – can be the cause of veterinary problems that may be irreversible. Recognize, too, that some young horses develop at a substantial rate and the saddle that fitted well only a short time previously may need adjustment. Discuss these important details with your saddle fitter.
8. The standard general purpose saddle is a compromise and can never fulfill the needs of individual disciplines as well as saddles designed specifically for dressage and show jumping.
9. Unevenness, even slight, in your horse’s gait – especially behind – can cause the saddle to move/gyrate thus possibly exacerbating the existing problem so make sure that your horse is healthy before the saddle fitter visits you.
10.Smart caring horse riders use mounting blocks. 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 and the offside saddle panel being flattened and the nearside stirrup bar being bent – quite easy to happen if the saddle is regularly used as a lever.
11. For maximum comfort for horse and rider when mounting the rider’s weight should always be lowered gently into the saddle – never ‘thump’ or ‘bang’
12. If you insist on mounting from the ground be aware that the stirrup leathers should be changed from side to side regularly to avoid the near-side leather becoming longer/stretched.
13. Saddles should be carefully stored on a well-made saddle horse or rack. Never position saddles where they can be knocked off the rack. Appreciate that lifting a saddle onto a very high rack can damage your own back – and often results in the saddle being stored lop-sided. Make sure that the saddle rack doesn’t dig in to the saddle panels so as to leave an imprint.
14. Great attention must always be played to the condition of the saddle flocking. Irregular/uneven/lumpy flocking can cause pressure points that may seriously damage the horse’s back. Severe irregularity in the flocking can cause the saddle to sit to one side. Correct flocking provides a cushioning effect that helps to reduce trauma. Over stuffed, the saddle will be hard, will not adapt to the horse’s back and may cause pressure sores or sensitivity. If you are unsure get your saddle fitter to check it out on your horse.
15. The saddle must always be level when viewed from the side. Anything else compromises the horse’s comfort and welfare. ‘Up-hill’ the rider will sit too far back. ‘Down-hill the rider will be encouraged onto the fork.
16. When viewed from the front and rear the saddle gullet must always provide adequate clearance from the base of the gullet to the top of the wither – both before and after the horse is exercised. Adequate clearance varies depending on whether the saddle is jumping or dressage.
17. Most equine insurance can be extended to include theft of tack. Some policies even include accidental damage. Important considerations – but do read the small print ‘exclusions’ carefully before signing up.
18. It is important to ask the saddler to check any saddle in use when a horse falls. ‘Hidden’ damage may be substantial – broken/cracked trees can be difficult to detect.
Likewise, if the saddle falls from the saddle rack or is dropped it should be checked over by a qualified saddler.
19. The size of the stirrup irons should be checked when a different rider exercises the horse. Irons that are either too small or too large can be the cause of serious accidents. When the stirrup iron is too tight the boot may become wedged,if the stirrup iron is too loose then the riders boot may slip through the iron. We recommend the use of Toe stoppers as they prevent the chance of the boot slipping through! We have them in all our stores.
20. Weak or defective stitching on any part of the saddle should be repaired instantly. Saddles should be checked every time they are used; equal attention should be paid to girths and leathers.
Bonnetts Saddlery can help
Hopefully, these essential tips will help you understand how to better ensure that your horse has the freedom of movement to perform to their full potential. If you have any concerns, or simply wish to purchase or fit a saddle, feel free to visit Bonnetts Saddlery for assistance.