How to Find the Perfect Saddle Fit: A Rider's Personal Guide

Posted by Fabtron
October 16, 2023

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes that looked absolutely fabulous, but after wearing them for a day, you regretted every step? I've been there, and let me tell you, choosing the wrong saddle is a lot like that, but way worse. Over the years, I've had my fair share of saddle mishaps, from those that pinched my thighs to others that made my horses downright grumpy. Let's dive into the world of saddle fitting and avoid those “shoe regret” moments, shall we?

1. Understand Your Horse’s Anatomy

During my early riding days, I had this chunky pony named Pippin. He was as wide as he was tall. Fitting a saddle for him was an entirely different game than for my sleek thoroughbred, Daisy. Always start with the basics: is your horse round with little wither or slender with a prominent wither? Knowing their anatomy is step one.

2. Feel the Spine

One breezy afternoon, while attempting a new saddle on Daisy, I noticed her flinching. A closer inspection revealed the saddle was pressing on her spine. Yikes! Always ensure there's adequate clearance over the horse's spine; it's essential for their comfort.

3. Check the Channel Width

Remember Pippin? His broad back meant he needed a saddle with a wider channel. Your horse's back shouldn't touch the saddle’s inside panels. This prevents pressure sores and other discomforts.

4. Evaluate the Points

During one of my training sessions, a fellow rider pointed out that Daisy's saddle wasn't resting evenly. The front points should sit behind the shoulder blade, allowing free movement. A saddle that impedes this can lead to an unhappy horse and poor performance.

5. The Wither Clearance Test

Once, after a long ride, I noticed a nasty rub mark on Pippin's wither. Heartbreak! Always ensure that you can fit about three fingers between the wither and the saddle. This prevents chafing and promotes airflow.

6. The Swing and Rock Test

Ever sat on a wobbly chair? Imagine that, but on a horse. Your saddle shouldn't rock back and forth or swing side to side. I learned this the hard way during a canter lesson where my saddle decided to go sideways. Not fun!

7. The Balance Check

During an equestrian camp, an instructor gave me a golden nugget of wisdom: "Your saddle should feel like a comfy armchair." Check if the deepest point of the saddle seat aligns with the center. You shouldn't feel like you're sliding forward or backward.

8. Girth Positioning

Ah, the notorious girth! I recall this one saddle that seemed perfect, but the girth straps positioned the girth too far back on Daisy, causing it to slide. Ensure the girth sits in the groove behind the elbow, allowing free leg movement.

9. The Rider’s Feel

You're part of this equation too! A saddle might fit your horse perfectly but leave you achy and sore. Remember that pair of shoes? Yeah, it shouldn’t feel like that. Test the saddle out; it should distribute your weight evenly and not pinch or press.

10. Get a Second Opinion

Sometimes, we're too close to the problem to see it clearly. I can't count the number of times I've had fellow riders or trainers give insights I'd missed. Consider getting a professional saddle fitter or an experienced rider to give their opinion.

11. Regularly Recheck

Horses, much like us, change. They gain or lose weight, muscle up, or age. That saddle which fit Daisy perfectly during her racing days wasn't the best when she transitioned to a leisurely lifestyle. Regularly check and adjust as needed.

12. The Dynamic Test

Finally, a saddle shouldn't just be judged while your horse stands still. I remember a saddle that seemed perfect until Daisy broke into a trot, and everything went haywire. Ensure you assess the fit during all gaits, noting any shifts or discomfort.

Wrapping up, finding the perfect saddle fit is part science, part art, and a whole lot of patience. But believe me, when you find the one, it’s pure magic. It transforms your riding experience, ensuring both you and your horse are comfortable, happy, and ready for countless adventures together.

So, saddle up (pun intended) and embark on this journey to find the perfect fit. May your rides be comfortable, your horse content, and your equestrian bond stronger than ever.

Happy riding! 🐴❤️