As we prep for riding season, it is important that we check our tack to make sure it has survived the winter without any cracks or other damage. Now is also the time to ensure your saddle still fits your horse properly.
Saddle fitting is an ongoing endeavor. As your horse ages, builds up or loses muscle tone it all effects how the saddle fits. The easiest way to think about saddle fit is by comparing to a human shoe size. Let's say you where a size 7 shoe. If you try to put your foot into a size 6 shoe, it doesn't work no matter what you try; and if you add more socks it only makes the problem worse. If you try to put your foot into a size 7.5 shoe, it is possible to make it work and be comfortable with some extra socks to fill in the space. Slightly larger is better than smaller in the world of saddle fit. The nice thing about a larger saddle is it gives you room to adjust the padding according to how your horse's body changes with time and condition. Also note that you the rider must be comfortable too. If the saddle seat is too small you will be uncomfortable which will affect your horse. If the saddle seat is too big, you'll be sliding around and it will be hard to maintain your balance which will also affect your horse.
Key Points in Fitting Saddles
- Find the right size or go with a larger size (saddle should mirror horse's body shape as best as possible).
- Saddle is balanced front to back and side to side (how well the saddle is made, is the tree broken, all determined off the horse).
- Saddle fits the horse first, then it must also fit the rider.
- Young horses change more frequently as they are growing and building muscle tone, so you will need to check your saddle fit more often.
- Losing weight or gaining weight will affect saddle fit.
- Position of the saddle - the best is behind the shoulder blades to ensure your horse can move without being pinched or constricted.
- Saddle sits on the horse balanced front to back, and side to side. Meaning the saddle does not ride up or down hill and does not lean to the left or to the right.
- Saddle length is correct. Too long of a saddle can dig into a horse's lower lumbar spine or even the false points of the hip and cause hair loss and muscle pain and stiffness.
Work with a saddle fitter in your area for best results. The more saddles you have available to try, the more the likely you'll find the right combo for you and your horse.