Saddle Fitting

You Do What?

A horse’s confirmation changes with age, season, and work schedules. The saddle that fit in the fall, may not in the spring. An improperly fitting saddle can cause pressure points, muscle fatigue and soreness. Poorly fitting saddles can also affect the position and balance of the rider. An off-balance rider can affect both the rider’s and horse’s well-being. So saddle fitting is an important part of a horse’s – and the rider’s – health routine.

Tip: Saddle pad fit is an important part of saddle fit. A poorly fitting pad can cause soreness and painful rubbing. A good saddle pad will allow heat and moisture to escape from your horse’s back. The pad should be curved along the top line to mimic your horse’s back and fit into the gullet channel to avoid putting pressure on the spine. It should also match the shape of the saddle and flaps, and be large enough so that your saddle panels don’t sit on the pad’s outside seams or welting.

 

So what do I do?

As a saddle fitter, I check the saddle’s overall fit, balance and stability. I can often reshape saddle panels so that they conform to your horse’s unique muscular and skeletal structure, and athletic ability.

First, I view your horse’s conformation and check his back for any lesions, sore points, or unusual hair growth that might indicate a poor fit. I test to the 18th rib for soreness and note any flinching or shying. The horse’s behavior during my review tells me a great deal.

Next, I inspect your saddle for:

  • Soundness and symmetry of the tree
  • Evenness of the panels and gullet width
  • Wear and tear

With the saddle on your horse, I check:

  • Withers clearance
  • The angle of the tree at the points (tree width)
  • Panel pressure and contact
  • Balance, saddle steadiness and other elements that reveal good and bad fit

 

Customizing fit

Most of my work involves “reflocking” – reshaping the wool or fiber inside the saddle panels. I do this work right at your barn. I reflock in such a way that the saddle custom fits the horse, adjusting for the horse in motion. If the panels are exceptionally compacted, I can replace all of the flocking. Sometimes reflocking will not solve a particular fitting problem. I can often recommend corrective pads to improve fit so that you can continue to use the saddle.

 

Foam and wool stuffing

Some saddle panels are filled with foam instead of wool. Many foam panels conform to structures on the bottom of the tree (for instance, where the back of the sweat flap is fastened to the tree and the stirrup bars) which then cause pressure points on the horse’s back. Foam panels can often be converted to wool flocking so that the fit is more precise. Alternately, I might recommend specially designed pads to solve common fitting problems caused by many foam panel saddles.