Buying a saddle is a big investment and making sure it fits you and your horse correctly is crucial for his welfare. Along with your vet and farrier, your saddle fitter plays an integral part in your horse’s management team, all of whom are there to help keep your horse fit, healthy and able to perform at his best.
Building a good relationship with all of these experts is essential as they all play a part in equine welfare and performance. Not sure what to expect during your saddle-fitting appointment? Click here to find out.
Why is correct fit key?
Prolonged riding in an out-of-balance saddle can have a serious welfare and performance impact on both you and your horse. Any change in your horse’s shape or posture, whether it’s positive or negative, will influence the fit and balance of your saddle. This highlights the importance of having regular saddle fitting checks at least two to three times a year — more can often be required.
Why might a saddle stop fitting?
It goes without saying that your horse changes in condition, posture, and conformation depending on his fitness and time of year. It’s also important to note that changes in condition and posture may happen in a very short space of time. Things like travel, competition and stress can all have an impact on your horse’s condition.
Signs of a poor fit
When your horse isn’t performing as you would like, the finger of blame is often pointed at the fit of your saddle. While it is important to have regular saddle checks as changes do happen, it’s also important to note that other factors may influence the fit of your saddle.
Saddle fit can be affected by:
- Foot balance – your saddle can become less stable towards the end of your horse’s shoeing cycle
- Tight muscles through exercise
- Veterinary issues, such as ulcers or low grade lameness
Any change in shape or posture of your horse will affect saddle stability, positioning and balance. You as the rider can also gain or lose weight, and this can affect your position and stability in the saddle. All these changes can have a negative effect on both you and your horse with your saddle dropping at the front or rear, rolling side to side, or slipping to one side on one rein.
Any of the following could indicate to you that your saddle needs to be looked at:
- Struggling to maintain a good stable position
- Upper body is tipping forwards
- Collapsing to one side
- Unstable lower leg position
Listen to your horse
If your horse’s behaviour or performance changes, it may mean that your saddle has gone out of balance, but these indicators can be caused by many factors other than just your saddle. So yes, get your saddle checked, but it will be worth chatting through your concerns with your vet and farrier too.
These indicators could be:
- Loss of performance
- Heavy in the contact
- Uncomfortable in his work, especially in lateral work or transitions
- Not wanting to stand still for mounting or when he’s being tacked up
Other pieces of tack
It’s not just your saddle that you need to consider. The girth and saddle pad also need careful fitting, and your saddle fitter can offer advice in these areas too as all of these pieces of tack need to work together. Read how your saddle fitter can help advice you on other pieces of equipment here.