When your saddle fitter is visiting, make sure you have your horse groomed before he arrives. You’ll also need a suitable place to ride, and remember to have your girth and saddle pad to hand.

Building a picture

The initial assessment of your horse is, ultimately, the most important part of a saddle fitting. This is when your saddle fitter will chat to you about your horse — his age, level of fitness, what disciplines you do, any health or lameness issues and anything else that may indicate saddle fit issues. They will also ask for him to be walked and trotted up in-hand and make some assessments of your horse’s conformation and feel along his back checking for any heat, lumps or reactions to touch.

Next, they’ll spend some time taking templates of your horse’s withers, back and spine using a flexicurve. They’ll also take your horse’s girth measurement.

All this information is noted down and helps to build up a picture of your horse to help the saddle fitter do his job, and gives them valuable information about where your horse might have changed shape and what adjustments may be needed to rebalance your saddle. Your saddle fitter will refer back to these notes when he comes back and checks your saddle in the future.

Saddle up

Your fitter will check to see that the saddle panels sit evenly along your horse’s back, whether there is adequate clearance at the wither and that the saddle allows the shoulder to move freely. From what they see, any alterations will be made to the flocking in your saddle to rebalance it.

Once this is done and your saddle fitter is happy with the changes, it’s time to tack up and ride. The saddle fitter will want to see you ride in walk, trot and canter on both reins. While you’re riding, they will be making assessments on how the saddle is fitting now you are on the move. They will also ask for your feedback on how the saddle feels and how your horse is going.

If you are all happy — that’s it, you’re all done and ready to go.

Future checks

Remember that buying a saddle is a big investment and making sure it fits you and your horse correctly is crucial for his welfare. Horses can change shape, so be alert for signs your saddle fit isn’t quite right and get it checked.

Even if all seems fine to you, it is still well worth spending the money on regular checks from a qualified saddle fitter — six monthly ideally — to keep you and your horse sound and comfortable for longer.

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