I hope you find my “Diary” entries to be informative and thoughtful. I’ve been fitting saddles for horses and riders for about nine years, and during this time I’ve fitted over 5,000 saddles on almost that many horses. It has been a humbling experience. But along the way I’ve gathered some insights that may help riders, trainers, veterinarians, equine body workers and other saddle fitters deal with the challenges of proper saddle fit.
In sharing my insights, as well as those of the equine professionals that I interview, I hope to give you a deeper understanding of the interaction between rider, saddle and horse that will make your horse happier, your riding more successful, or your clients more understanding.
Saddle fitting has long been an art, and I am thankful to Gary Severson, aka “The Saddle Doctor,” for teaching me the skill of saddle fitting. Then along came Dr. Joyce Harman, a veterinarian who has conducted original research on saddle fitting, and to her I am thankful to have learned that saddle fitting is also a science. The road to knowledge is filled with starts and stops; a properly fitting saddle starts with sound, demonstrable fitting techniques and continues with intuition and insight that can only come from experience and trial.
Put multiple trainers or veterinarians in a room, present them with a problem, and you are likely to get as many solutions as there are people present. Hence, I hope this Diary serves as a spur to thought and discussion to increase our understanding and knowledge of proper saddle fit. I wish it were easy. When we first met, Dr. Harman told me, “I’ve fitted a saddle that I thought was great, and the horse hated it. I’ve also fitted a saddle that I didn’t like, and the horse loved it.” Thus, this Diary is intended to explore the challenges and successes of saddle fitting. While I will often assert, I will just as often ask. If you have a difference of opinion, or don’t understand the point I am making, I hope you will write and tell me so. If you agree, but have something to add, I want to hear from you as well. I will do my best to provide our readers with a representative sampling of your responses.
Finally, I want to add my thanks to the wonderful folks and experts at the Society of Master Saddlers (UK). I’ve enjoyed my relationship with various members of the Society and, as a cheeky American, I am delighted to see that the Society, in spite of its “hidebound” traditions extending back hundreds of years, is still interested in learning and sharing its knowledge with the rest of the world.
The Saddle Fitter, Inc.