Saddles Guide Part 4 - A Guide to Fitting New and Second Hand Saddles
A Brief Guide to Saddle Fitting
The starting point is always to remember that a saddle that does not fit your horse correctly
can cause no end of problems. Not least behavioural problems if the horse is in pain, but an ill fitting saddle can
lead to permanent damage to the horse's back. In fact, it is impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring
that your saddle fits your horse properly. This applies not only to a new saddle but it is vital to check your
current saddle regularly.
In a traditional English leather saddle the padding or flocking is made of
wool and this becomes compressed over time, thereby altering the fit of the saddle. Best practice is to check
this at least annually and if in doubt, have the fit of the saddle checked by a professional. Check the
padding and if feels firm to the touch, then it is becoming compressed. This can alter entirely the fit of the
saddle. You may find that a saddle that used to fit perfectly, now pinches your horse at the wither or perhaps
is no longer evenly distributing your weight across the spine.
Does your horse 'nap' when you first venture out? Have you thought that he might be in pain?
Let's face it, you wouldn't be too keen to go out wearing a heavy rucksack that rubbed and caused you pain, would
you? Before you check anything else, check the fit of the saddle, or get it checked by a professional.
So, now we come to fitting a new saddle. The best advice must be to get your saddle fitted by
someone who knows what they are doing. And we do not mean the 'yard know-it-all'! You know who we mean...every
livery yard has one. They will tell you they know all about saddle fitting and take over.
Ignore them! Saddle fitting is a highly skilled discipline and takes years of training to learn
properly. Think about it, would you try to shoe your own horse? No, and you should not be fitting your own saddle
either! It really is as simple as that.
The saddle must clear the horse's wither and, at the same time, clear the width and length of
the horse's spine. You ought to be able to insert not less than two fingers between your horse’s wither and the
pommel of the saddle. Note that a saddle can clear the wither and yet pinch at the shoulder at the same time. Does
your's? The saddle must be in balance from the pommel through to the cantle (ie front to back) so the deepest part
of the seat is always central and level when being ridden. Can you guarantee that you are sufficiently sure of what
you are looking at to make those decisions, bearing in mind the consequences?
Many people ask whether this applies to fitting a synthetic saddle as well. 'I am buying a
Wintec with Cair panels, do I need to have my saddle fitted professionally? The short answer to this is 'yes'.
Wintec include a saddle fitting guide on their website here but the final paragraph makes it clear that "...you seek the advice of a professional saddle fitter, so that you may be assured that you have achieved an
optimal fit for you and your horse."
Enough said perhaps? Well you would have thought so. But how many times will you and do you see
riders at your yard fitting their own saddle? Or even the well-meaning yard owner doing it for them? Next time,
please remind them of the damage they may be doing to their horse!
(c) Second Hand Saddles UK 2012