The Secret To A Happy Horse And Rider
Proper saddle fit has become quite a hot topic. That’s a positive development since poorly fitting saddles cause problems for both horse and rider. However, the increased emphasis on proper saddle fit has caused many people to go on a quest for the “perfect” saddle for their horse.
Let us take some pressure off. There is no such thing as the perfectly fitting saddle. A horse’s conformation changes throughout its life, and even throughout the year as their exercise level and nutrition varies. Buying a saddle to precisely fit a horse at a moment in time often results in a poorly fitting saddle at a later date.
The good news is that it’s not necessary to have the “perfect” saddle for a horse to have a comfortable fit. Proper saddle fit isn't an exact science. Think of the working cowboy. Could he afford to buy a different saddle for each horse he rode? Not on cowboy wages. And yet, if his saddle caused soreness for the boss's horses, he wasn’t a working cowboy for long. He needed a high quality, well-built saddle designed for the physical type of horses he rode. That's proper saddle fit.
That’s what you need, too. With a suitable quality saddle and a variety of saddle pads, you should be able to ride many horses of the same physical type. Such a saddle should comfortably clear a horse’s withers, allow for free movement of the shoulders, be the proper length and shape for its back, and be well balanced to provide good weight distribution. That's proper saddle fit. If you ride horses of different breeds or significantly different sizes, then you'll need to invest in multiple saddles.
Guidelines for achieving proper saddle fit:
You'll find more helpful information on saddle fit at the HorseSaddleShop and also with this video series produced by HorseCity.com and Martin Saddlery: Chaptert 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4
Veterinarian and saddle fit expert, Joyce Harman has an excellent DVD, Western Saddles: Pain-Free Fit, and book, The Western Horse's Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book, that take you through the basics of saddle fit for the western saddle in an easy-to-understand approach. Using several different type horses, Harman demonstrates and discusses good and bad fit. We recommend the DVD for anyone looking to better understand western saddle fit.
While proper saddle fit is not an exact science, if you follow the basics explained in this section, you'll find that both your horse and you will have less aches and pains and more enjoyment of your riding hours. Proper saddle fit is definitely achievable.