Is your saddle the right fit?
Saddles - they're the most important factor of most riding disciplines (aside from the horse!), but they're often overlooked when it comes to proper fit and maintenance.
So why is it important to make sure your saddle correctly fits your horse and you as a rider? And what are some of the factors you should be thinking about when you choose the right saddle for yourself?
Jess from Performance Saddlefits ACT & Southern NSW has been helping riders across the region find the perfect saddle for years, and is passionate about educating riders about the importance of a correctly fitted saddle for their horse's health and comfort, and for their own progression in their chosen discipline.
We caught up with Jess to find out her top tips and advice when it comes to saddle fits.
First questions first - why is getting a saddle fitted correctly to your horse important? It might seem obvious, but plenty of people don't do it, so it's worth asking!
Yes, absolutely, great question! Saddlefit is so important for not only the horse but the rider as well, and a lot of people think that if they have the saddle fitted to the horse then that’s ok. But they need to take into consideration that it must fit them as well, as it can cause unbalance in the saddle which in turn has a negative affect for the horse and his way of going.
Saddles are built around a hard and rigid tree and they have a gullet which sits directly behind the back of the scapula (shoulder) of the horse. If the gullet is too narrow it can clamp down behind the scapula and chip away at the precious cartilage, causing enormous amounts of pain to your horse. If left, it can render your horse lame as once the cartilage is gone, it is gone forever as it cannot rebuild itself.
Another main key point to watch out for with a saddle is the flocking - hard, uneven and lumpy flocking can cause pressure on points along your horses back which usually leaves the horse to hollow out in his back to escape from the pain.
What are the key aspects of a saddle that need to be right for you as the rider, irrespective of your riding discipline?
The seat of the saddle needs to be comfortable for the rider but have a forward balance point so that the rider is sitting as close to the strongest part of the horse's back and also their balance point so the rider doesn’t end up ‘behind the movement’ of the horse.
The twist needs to be correct for the rider - the rider will advise what suits them, they must not feel like they are being ‘split apart’ in that area!
The knee blocks should suit the rider’s length of thigh so they don’t block the rider’s leg and prevent the rider from giving clear aids to the horse.
There are many other features of the saddle that must suit the rider and the horse, too many to mention them all here, but I do go in depth with each of the features when I conduct saddlefit assessment with clients.
What are the questions you ask new clients when determining what type of saddle will be right for them, prior to a fitting?
What discipline/s do they want to do with their horse is the first thing I need to know. Then I have a look at the horse and rider conformation and then I determine in my mind what I think will suit. Then they can test ride saddles to see which is most comfortable and supportive for them.
What are some of the common issues you see when saddles fit incorrectly?
Horses that are in pain is the main thing I see when saddles are not fitted correctly. I see horses that are unhappy under saddle, bucking, rearing, girthy and refusing to go forward, just to name a few issues. As you can appreciate, this can lead to a dangerous situation for the rider if they do not get their saddle checked.
How can Performance Saddlefits ACT & Southern NSW help?
Performance Saddlefits ACT & Southern NSW travels across these areas educating horse owners about the importance of saddlefit for both horse and rider. I aim to educate riders in an easy to understand format so they will know what to look for when they feel that their saddle is not quite right or if they happen to change horses in the future.
I can assist with existing saddles the client may have or I have a range of demo saddles for clients to try should they wish to have a saddle custom made. I love helping riders in designing their dream saddle!
Everyone I meet becomes a part of the Performance Saddlefits ACT & Southern NSW family, I enjoy seeing them and their horses comfortable under saddle and achieving their riding goals, this is particularly important to me.
If you are interested in learning about the importance of saddlefit for you and your horse and having a saddlefit assessment with me, don’t hesitate to get in contact either via my Facebook and Instagram, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0421911249.