LAUREN'S SADDLE FITTING TIPS.
Lauren Coxhead SMS QSF MSFC
Independent Master Saddle Fitting Consultant
Please let it be understood that 'Saddle Fitting' is a skilled task and we highly recommend you use the services of a fully qualified 'Saddle Fitter' or at the very least seek the advice of an equine professional.
Sadly many horse owners and riders negate the need to use a qualified professional and we have produced these notes to help at least reach a basic fitting standard purely in the best interests of our equine friends.
The choice to follow these tips is yours and yours alone. Again we strongly advise you use the services of a fully qualified 'Saddle Fitter'.
BASIC SADDLE FITTING TIPS
Before putting the saddle on the horse you should check the general symmetry of the saddle. If viewed from underneath, the panels should be evenly flocked and the gullet perfectly straight. Viewed from the front the pommel to the cantle should show no twists or un-eveness.
The stirrup bars should be at the same height.
To check the tree rest the cantle against you and pull the pommel towards you. A flexible tree will allow a small amount of give. There should be no twisting and definitely no crunching.
Beware if the leather seat of the saddle has become wrinkled. This maybe due to a broken tree or just some stretch in the leather.
Place the saddle on the horse higher than normal up on the wither area. Pull the saddle back into 'position'. Repeat this several times and you will feel where the saddle naturally settles.
With the saddle in position you can now complete the following checks.
Look at the horse from the side. Feel where his shoulder blade finishes, in front of the knee roll. The saddle should stop about an inch short of the shoulder blade.
From the side again feel your horse's ribs. Find his last rib. This is the last supporting area for the saddle. The saddle should not extend beyond this and preferably not to it either.
Viewed from the side the centre of the seat should be level, or parrallel to the ground. Another way to envisage this is to take a pen and let it sit across the saddle at the lowest point, this is where the riders seat bones will be and the most weight. If this is towards the back of the saddle or the front, the saddle will rock and the rider will be tipped. The pommel and cantle will be approximately level, although a slightly higher cantle in a GP saddle is the norm. *NOTE all saddles move a little at the back - seen in rising trot - you have to judge what is acceptable.
Wither clearance is judged from the front of the saddle. Stand by your horses neck and without a rider onboard, you should be able to put 3-4 fingers width between wither and saddle. Too low on the withers may mean the tree is too wide. However, this is not so important as the fact that there is clearance. High withered horses may need cut back saddles and a horse with no withers or very flat withers may have a greater gap. The important thing would be clearance and no un-even pressure at the points.
Stay at the horses neck and look at the points of the saddle. This is where we measure the width of the saddle. On either side of the wither the saddle points should not be so tight as to wrinkle the skin or sit pommel high. This means that the tree is too narrow.
Looking from the back of the horse, you should notice that the flocked panels of the saddle sit evenly on your horse's back and are in full contact along this face, not just on the inner or outer face. These panels should sit either side of the spine and not on it at any point. There should be light visible through the gullet to show clearance the whole way through, although dependent on the curve of your horses back you may not see his wither, just light coming through from the front. Generally the broader the panels, the more weight distribution so increased comfort for the horse. Narrow panels will increase pressure.
As if that wasn't enough to think about, now do it all again with a rider on board!
So every horse and saddle has it's quirks and these are just the very basics of getting your saddle fitting in the right ball park. Anything out side of these parameters could mean that your saddle does not fit.
I do hope these notes have helped. The above are just tips. If you you feel like you need some more guidance then feel free to contact me.