Saddle Fit: Fitting the Horse

The purpose of proper saddle fitting is to find a saddle that is comfortable for both the horse and the rider. But which of the two is more important? Fitting the horse, without a doubt.
Let us look at how to fit your horse to the correct saddle.

Physical characteristics that influence saddle fit include:

  • The withers’ shape – The horse’s withers should be level with, or slightly above, the rump’s highest point (or croup). When picking a saddle, withers that are higher or lower than this should be taken into account.
  • The Back’s Shape – Certain saddles can be uncomfortable for a horse with an excessively thin or flat back. When a horse’s back is “downhill,” with his rump higher than his withers, the saddle can slip forward, causing pain.
  • The back’s length – The skirts of the saddle can dig into the backs, loins, and kidneys of horses with shorter than typical backs.
  • The shoulders’ prominence – An ill-fitting saddle can restrict movement and force the shoulders against the tree bars in large-shouldered horses. The saddle can ride forward onto the shoulder blades on thin-shouldered horses.

Guide to Saddle Fitting

Place the saddle on the horse’s back at the withers and slip it back into place while the animal is standing on level ground. This is a critical stage. Some saddle fit issues are caused by a saddle that is positioned incorrectly rather than a poorly fitting saddle.

When properly positioned, saddles are meant to match the anatomy of the horse. If the saddle is placed in front of or behind this location, both the horse and the rider may experience bodily problems. The saddle should be put on the horse’s back such that the cinch falls about four inches behind the elbow in proper saddle posture. Riders frequently place the saddle too far forward, causing discomfort, saddle sores, and restricting the horse’s movement, as well as placing the rider out of position. A saddle that is too far back puts the rider’s weight on the horse’s loins, which is uncomfortable and restricts movement. When these issues are misdiagnosed as a saddle fit issue, the saddle is not to blame.

Examine The Withers Clearance

Between the withers and the gullet, you should be able to stack two or more (but no more than four) fingers (with no saddle pad).

Examine Your Shoulder Clearance

You should be able to slip your hand between the fleece lining and the horse’s shoulder without difficulty (with a saddle pad). You should be able to perform this with a rider in the saddle as well.

Make Sure The Skirt Fits Properly

The skirt should not reach past the horse’s loins and should follow the curvature of the horse’s back.

Check Your Balance

Take a step back and take a side view of your horse. The fork should not be higher than the cantle, and the flat portion of the seat should be level. The back of the saddle should not rock up when tightened.

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