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A Brief Guide to Saddle Fitting - Part 4
Buying a new or second hand saddle and thinking of fitting it yourself? Or perhaps you are going to let your yard 'know-it-all' fit your saddle for you? Maybe the yard owner?
It is impossible to overstate the importance of a correctly fitting saddle. An ill fitting saddle can cause permanent damage to your horse's back, as well as serious behavioural problems. Remember that this applies not only to a new saddle but also to a saddle that you may have had for ages. When did you last have it checked? Does it still fit?
Saddle design will invariably have two primary considerations. First and foremost, will be the
horse’s welfare; with the rider’s comfort and stability being only a secondary consideration.
To ensure the horse’s welfare, the saddle must lift the rider off the horse’s spine and
distribute the rider’s weight evenly across the horse's back without giving rise pressure points. Pressure should
not be allowed directly on the spinal cord of the horse, nor on the system of ligaments that run parallel to the
spine. That is the primary design function of any saddle, although there are many variations and much argument
about this is best achieved.
Generally, with most Western and English saddles, this is achieved by the tree.
Essentially, this is the rigid skeleton around which the saddle is constructed and this is shaped to keep the
weight clear of the wither and spine. It is vital, therefore, that the saddle and tree fit the horse
correctly. Too narrow a tree may pinch at the wither, cause the saddle to sit on the horse’s spine itself or
even fail to distribute the weight evenly. Too wide a tree will allow the saddle into contact with the spine
at the wither.
How many of us have seen riders sitting lopsided, for example? Imagine what that is doing to the
The secondary consideration in saddle design will be the rider’s stability and comfort and much
will depend on the discipline being undertaken. The requirements for a dressage saddle will differ greatly from a
jumping saddle, for example, as will a Western show saddle and barrel racing saddle. But whatever the discipline,
the saddle design must put the rider in the correct position, assuming the correct stirrup leather length. The
rider’s seat should naturally fall in the ‘balance point’ of the saddle and the saddle flap must ensure that the
rider’s knee is clear of the horse. This same principle applies across all disciplines and all saddle designs but
the relevant design will differ according to the position the rider needs to be in for that discipline.
Let’s look at an English jumping saddle and a dressage saddle to illustrate the
differences in design brought about by the rider’s optimum position. The jumping saddle will be designed to
accommodate the rider in jumping position. The saddle flaps extend forward to take into account the shorter
stirrup leather length required and the consequent extending of the rider’s knee position forward and the seat
or ‘balance point’ will be further back with a slightly higher cantle than normal.
A dressage saddle, on the other hand, looks entirely different because of the different riding
position. The saddle flaps do not extend forward because the stirrup leather length will be longer and the rider’s
leg will be straighter as a result. The seat will be further forward with a lower cantle.
Subject to the overriding principle of spinal clearance and weight distribution, the design of
the saddle will, therefore, differ according to the riding discipline and this perhaps explains the popularity of
General Purpose or ‘GP’ saddles for most of us! It is vital that you have the correct saddle, of course, and also
that you have it regularly checked by a saddler to ensure that it fits your horse properly.
In our next article, we will look at buying and fitting a saddle.
(c) Second-Hand-Saddles.co.uk 2010
Understanding Your Horse’s Saddle – Part 1
It goes without saying that a correctly fitting saddle is essential for the welfare of both horse and rider. An
incorrectly fitting saddle can lead to behavioural problems and even lasting damage to your horse’s back. It is
very important, therefore, for you to have your saddle professionally fitted by a Master Saddler and also regularly
checked thereafter. Do remember that not only will your horse change shape over time but the flocking will also
settle and change the fit of his saddle.
In this the first of a series of 5 articles on equine saddles we will cover the basic parts of
the saddle so that you will be familiar with the terminology used by your saddler. In subsequent articles we will
look at saddle design and functionality, buying and fitting a saddle, saddle problems and buying a new or second
hand saddle online.
So, a brief guide to the basic parts of the saddle:-
The ‘tree’ is the rigid skeleton of the saddle. Usually made from wood or plastic it forms the
frame around which the saddle is constructed. It will determine the size and fit the saddle too.
The highest point at the back of the saddle, it forms the back of the seat. It can be either
high or low depending upon your preference.
The highest point at the front of the saddle, it sits over the horse’s wither.
The saddle flap is a substantial piece of leather extending down from under the seat and against
which the rider’s leg rests. The shape of the saddle flap will vary according to the discipline for which the
saddle is designed due the differing leg position of the rider in, for example, dressage and jumping. Fitted to the
saddle flap will be a ‘keeper’ to hold back the end of the stirrup leather.
The knee roll is positioned along the leading edge of the saddle flap and is designed to assist
the rider in bracing his or her knee. The line of the knee roll will also vary according to the discipline for
which the saddle is designed. You will also find knee rolls attached with Velcro for easy adjustment.
Again, sitting under the saddle flap, thigh rolls are designed to assist the rider in
positioning their lower leg.
A small leather flap behind the saddle flap designed to cover the stirrup bar (to which the
stirrup leathers are attached) and stirrup leather buckle.
Girth Straps and Buckle Guard
Straps, usually three in number, positioned behind the saddle flap on both sides and to which
the girth is attached. The buckle guard will slide down to cover the buckles of the girth when in position.
This is a very short guide to the main parts of the saddle. There are other features of specific
designs of saddle not covered here, although we have included the main parts common to most if not all designs of
In our next article in the series we will look in greater detail at saddle design and
functionality with specific reference to the distribution of weight. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a
comment below or email us with a question. Don't forget our forum too!
Copyright: Second-Hand-Saddles.co.uk 2009
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relating to equestrian saddles. Please visit the forum, sign up, and get the discussion going!
The forum can be used to exchange views, ask for advice or just to tell us about your horse or
Please also feel free to use the comment section below or, if you prefer, just email us for
About Second Hand Saddles
We have brought together the largest selection of second hand saddles in fully searchable
listings available for sale right now online at amazing prices. We guarantee that you will not find a wider
selection of second hand or used horse saddles at lower prices anywhere!
Equestrian saddles come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and we pride ourselves that
we offer listings of just about every type of second hand saddle imaginable. Having said that, in the unlikely
event that you cannot find the exact second hand saddle that you are looking for, please feel free to use the
‘Search’ facility above.
We have listed our second hand saddles in the following categories: Dressage Saddles; General
Purpose or GP Saddles; Show Saddles and Jumping Saddles. We have also included second hand Western Saddles for
those interested in Western riding. Please simply visit the relevant page on the left hand toolbar.
You will also find specialist listings of Endurance Saddles as well as Australian Stock
All of our saddles are available in leather but we have also included searchable
listings of second hand synthetic saddles for those looking for the low maintenance option. Synthetic Saddles are
generally lighter too and most come with adjustable trees for easy fitting. Look out too for synthetic saddles
fitted with Cair panels. These are filled with air and are much softer on the horse’s back. Wintec Saddles are the
most popular synthetic saddles (with or without Cair panels) so we have a separate page for them!
STOP PRESS! We have also now included listings of second hand Pony Saddles for those seeking
tack for their children’s pony!
Finally, a word about saddle fitting. It is vital that a saddle correctly fits your horse and
the best advice is always to have a saddle professionally fitted by a Master Saddler. Leather Saddles can be
re-flocked or adjusted to fit most horses and many synthetic saddles can be fitted with different tree sizes to
suit most horses. The easy alternative, of course, is Treeless Saddles, but otherwise do please ensure that someone
who knows what they are doing fits your saddle specifically to your horse or pony. An incorrectly fitting saddle
can do lasting damage to your horse or pony’s back!
We hope that you will find what you are looking for at our site. We offer second hand saddles of
every shape and size and to suit every budget all available for sale on eBay today. In the meantime, please take a
moment to check out the video below for further guidance on saddle fitting.