SADDLE FITTING ADVICE
In order to assess your horse please provide me with two pictures and a template as shown below.
You can send the information and pictures by e-mail to email@example.com or by post, to my address as shown on the contact page, or use the form which is accessed from your chosen "Saddle Purchase Box " to send your details.
Make sure your horse is standing on square or level ground:
FIRST PICTURE - Taken from the nearside showing the top line and shoulders.
SECOND PICTURE - Taken from the rear showing the back and withers.
Taking a Horse’s Template.
Ensure the horse is standing still and square on firm level ground.
You will need either a flexicurve or a straightened wire coat hanger. An A4 pieces of paper with your name, address and contact numbers, and the horse’s name. You will also need the near and off side, clearly marked on it.
You will need to take three templates - the wither, the back and the spine.
The Wither Template
This should be taken 5cm behind the shoulder blade, carefully mould the flexicurve to the shape of the horse’s withers. Once this has been completed transfer the flexicurve to the paper making sure you keep the curve to the correct near side and off side on your paper. Now carefully trace the inside of the measure onto the paper giving the exact contours.
The Back Template
The Back Template should be taken 23cms behind where the wither measurement was taken. This should coincide with the location of the last rib on the horse and thus denote the extent of the saddle support area. Once taken transfer this to your paper.
The Spine Template
This should be taken from the withers to the last rib, again mould the flexicuve to the shape of the spine and transfer onto the paper marking clearly which is the wither end.
Having completed all the templates check they are correct by repeating the procedures.
A guide to seat size
The seat size is measured in a straight line from the saddle nail at the head to the centre point of the cantle.
Seat sizes are as follows as a guide
16” to 16 ½” child to small adult
17” to 17 1/2” adult
18” to 19” large adult
To get the rider's correct seat size you should ideally be able to place 3 to 4 finger's width between yourself and the cantle of the saddle. The saddle should be purchased large enough for the rider to be able to stay away from the rise of the pommel.
Trying the saddle
The horse should be assessed for soundness and his/her back checked for any injuries or other problems, a saddle cannot be fitted and tried on a lame horse.
Once you have selected the saddle it should be tried on the horse to assess the fit of the saddle, then be ridden in by the rider.
With a new saddle it may initially look a little raised but should looked balanced when viewed from the side, used saddles have usually be worn in already.
The saddle should be assessed in halt on a flat surface for the riders seat size and general fit. Ideally walk the horse for 4-5 minutes to allow the saddle to settle then work the horse in trot and canter on both reins also over jumps if necessary.
The horse should move freely and you should have at least two finger's clearance between the saddle and the withers.
The panels should be in direct contact with the horse's back along either side of the spine.
Saddle Fitting Essentials
Your saddle, new or used, should be fitted by a member of the Society of Master Saddlers, my first consideration will always be the horse.
Wherever possible each horse should have its own saddle.
It may be possible to adjust your existing saddle to fit your new horse, but the advice of a qualified saddle fitter should always be sought.
The saddle must always be level when viewed from the side, anything else compromises the horse's comfort and welfare. 'Up-hill' the rider will sit too far back. 'Downhill the rider will be encouraged onto the fork.
When viewed from the front and rear the saddle gullet must always provide adequate clearance - both before, during and after the horse is exercised.
Great attention must always be paid to the condition of the saddle flocking. Irregular/uneven/lumpy flocking can cause pressure points that may seriously damage the horse's back. Correct flocking provides a cushioning effect.
It is important to ask the saddler to check any saddle in use when a horse falls. 'Hidden' damage may be substantial - broken/cracked trees can be difficult to detect.
Your horse changes shape regularly, these changes will relate to his age, training, management and so on. Have your saddle checked at least every three to six months and any necessary adjustments made.
The young horse must be fitted especially carefully, care must be taken to avoid any damage that may cause problems later in life. Young horses develop at a substantial rate and the saddle that fitted well only a short time previously may need adjustment.
If you use a numnah or saddle pad it is always advisable to use natural products for example cotton or wool as these are more absorbent.
Unlevelness, even slight, in your horse's gait especially behind can cause the saddle to move/gyrate thus possibly exacerbating the existing problem.
Mounting from a mounting block is better for the horse's back and guards against the saddle tree becoming twisted, quite easy to happen if the saddle is regularly used as a lever.
When mounting the rider's weight should always be lowered gently into the saddle, never 'thump' or 'bang' down.
If you insist on mounting from the ground be aware that the stirrup leathers should be changed from side to side regularly to avoid the near side leather becoming longer or stretched.
Weak or defective stitching on any part of the saddle should be repaired instantly.
Saddles, girths and leather should be checked and cleaned every time they are used, additional leather feed may be required depending on usage, weather conditions and so on.
Saddles should be carefully stored on a well-made saddle horse or rack, in a dry secure environment.
Most equine insurance can be extended to include theft of tack, some policies even include accidental damage.