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I am already certain my saddle fits because...

By: Galadriel Billington

9:29PM Aug 25, 2006

"I'm already certain my saddle fits because..."
  • the sweatmark is even
  • there's enough clearance in front
  • my horse lets me saddle him
  • my horse's back doesn't hurt
  • the wither tracing matches
  • my trainer told me so
  • my buddy told me so
  • the guy at the tack store told me it would
I've heard all of those and more. Almost every time the saddle in question did not actually fit. In my experience, 3 out of every 4 saddles don't fit the horse they're on. The other 1, the one that does fit, is often an accident. It's important not to rely on guesses, advice from well-meaning people, or incomplete assessments you may find online or from friends. A trainer or tack shop owner is often not the right person to ask about saddle fit. You wouldn't take your car to a body shop to have your transmission overhauled...you wouldn't want a dentist to operate on your knee...why accept advice from someone who doesn't have the education and experience of a real saddle fitter?

There are a lot of incomplete or even erroneous "guides" to saddle fitting out there. Often people are exposed to one or two concepts in saddle fitting, seize on these, and use them for any saddle on every horse. There's a lot more to it than one or two "checks." Chapter 5 discusses a number of ways to evaluate your saddle's fit; you can look for the most obvious problems. However, the absolute best option is to have your saddle evaluated by a saddle fitter.

When one or two ways of checking seem to agree that your saddle fits, many people will leave it at that. Saddles are expensive, good ones much more so. People don't want to hear that their saddle may not fit. Denial is much easier and less expensive than looking for a saddle which really fits. That denial can destroy the health of your horse's back, make it impossible for him to move correctly under saddle, and reduce his working life by making him retire early.

However, having your saddle checked can be easy and inexpensive. It's much less costly than buying specialty pad after specialty pad trying to "make" the saddle fit when it does not. You can't change the shape of the tree; if the saddle doesn't fit right on your horse's back, then it doesn't fit! If your horse is uncomfortable, the discomfort he feels is also leading to permanent damage in his back. The more you ride in a saddle that doesn't fit, the more damage you do to your horse's back.
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2006 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.