9 Things You Should Know Before You Buy Any Saddle
Updated: Mar 19
Malik and I love sharing with you the things that work and the things that we have learned. You can't teach experience but you sure can share it!
This saddle information is not a sales pitch to sell a specific saddle, while we do have a favorite, that is not the topic today. What you are about to read is for every saddle, every horse and every rider. Education is the most important! I truly and genuinely believe that there needs to be a lot more education about saddle fit. Below you will find the basic foundation that every horse owner should be aware of. My wish is that every horse owner that reads this passes it on to another and has the desire to learn even more and dig deeper. This is just the beginning. The facts below are all based on years of knowledge from research, science and technology.
This was written to open more eyes and guide more people to ask more questions, to be more aware. Our horses work hard for us and being educated is an asset to both the horse and rider. The purpose of a saddle, any saddle ( Dressage, Jumping, Racing, Endurance, Specialty Saddle, or Western Saddle) is to fit both the horse and rider, correctly, balanced and for both to be comfortable.
Malik and I enjoy riding hours at a time, for us that means our tack is extremely important because we ride miles and miles in one ride. If you want to know if your tack is just perfect, put it to the test with distance and hours. If you have no rubs or sores and he is just as comfortable at the end as he was at the beginning, AND you are just as comfortable too, then you know you've got something right. I have spent so much time on this topic and I have taken this long to share my experience because I wanted to learn more and get more questions answered. I finally feel like I can lay it all out.
Why is Saddle Fit So Important?
A long term ill-fitting saddle takes a huge negative toll on a horses entire body as well as the human sitting in it. Just a few things that can happen with continued use of a poor fitting saddle; damage to shoulder cartilage, impingement of the spinal processes and or ligaments, permanently pinched and numb nerves, and in many cases can end a career. These things can also affect a rider in much of the same way. Back issues, knee and hip soreness. More on this below.
You may now be wondering how often to have a saddle fit evaluation. Bodies change all the time and depending on what kind of work your horse does will determine how fast and often the change occurs. Age also plays a large roll in body fluctuation. Based on my experience and research, the minimum to have your saddle re-checked and fitted is twice a year. Depending on what my horse and I do, I choose to have it done more frequently. The key here is to know your horse and to be aware of the changes.
I hear too often people say that they have a hard horse to fit. Then struggle and spend months looking for the perfect saddle. I am here to tell you that EVERY horse is hard to fit if you aren’t looking at a saddle that is "custom fit" to the horse and "custom fit" to the rider. There is a NO “one size fits all” or even a “few sizes fits all” saddle. Every horse and human is unique. There may be similarities but every body is very different. There are now companies out there that make custom fitting easier than ever before.
Riding should not hurt and there are still too many people and horses suffering in silence! Men and women are built differently. Doesn't it make sense that saddles should accommodate the differences? Do you know the differences between a female and male saddle fit? Click Here for More
As I mentioned above, saddle fit is not just about fitting the horse. Human bodies are just as unique as horse bodies. Horses feel the discomfort we have in the saddle. Let me explain a few saddle terms and function. Have you ever heard of the term "twist"? It is the part of the saddle between the upper inner thighs. Here is a great explanation.
"Women generally have less space here than men and their muscles tend to be located all around the leg, not on top and behind, like men. This means women are “automatically being pulled apart at the hips; their legs are being pulled outward.” They collapse at the hips to escape pain and shoot their legs forward. To achieve the classic shoulder-hip-heel alignment without discomfort, women use two seat bones plus the pubic symphysis (a joint between the pubic bones) almost like a tripod, whereas men can balance on their seat bones alone.
Solution: Because women’s butt muscles (glutes) are higher, extra cantle padding helps the rider from falling into a chair seat. Extended stirrup bars will help place the rider’s leg into the proper position (most women have longer upper legs than lower legs and this will help them to fall ‘naturally’ into the proper, balanced spot.) Your saddle should have proper twist for your specific requirements; if it is too wide it will never allow you to sit comfortably." - Nocole Kitchener
I did not choose to talk about this to bash or point out the not so good. I did however choose to talk about it to give some basic tips, and some key things I have learned along the way. I know for myself, I was so grateful that someone took my hand and said “come with me, let me show you”. Because in doing so my entire world changed! Owning a horse is a huge responsibility, in time and money, and we owe it to them to be educated and to be able to have or get what they need.
I am familiar with too many saddle companies to mention here and I continue to learn about more almost daily. However, I have found one company that I keep going back to because of the education they make available to the public, for free. It blows my mind in more than a few ways. Be sure to watch the videos because they talk about pressure points and explain how it affects the entire body. Out of all the companies I have contacted and continue to contact, the ones that are new to me as I come across them, I have yet to find anyone sharing saddle education like this.
Please know that saddle fit is a huge topic and in each point below there is much more detail to be explored. I have attached many video links and articles to go along with each point, in addition a resource section at the end. There is only so much you can put in one blog post.
Without further delay...
I would like to share Schleese “9 Points of Saddle Fit”.
These are the key things to know about saddle fit, taken directly from their website
(to give credit where credit is due):
English Balance Video: Click Here
Western Balance Video: Click Here
English Wither Clearance Video: Click Here
Western Wither Clearance Video: Click Here
English Channel/Gullet Width Video: Click Here
Western Channel/Gullet Width Video: Click Here
English Full Panel Contact Video: Click Here
Western Full Panel Contact Video: Click Here
English Billet Alignment Video: Click Here
Western Billet Alignment Video: Click Here
Girth/Cinch Placement Article: Click Here
Girth/Cinch Gulls: Click Here
English Saddle Length Video: Click Here
Western Saddle Length Video: Click Here
Saddle Length Article: Click Here
English Saddle Straightness Video: Click Here
Western Saddle Straightness Video: Click Here
English Tree Angle Video: Click Here
Western Tree Angle Video: Click Here
Tree Angle and Tree Points Article: Click Here
English Tree Width Video: Click Here
Western Tree Width Video: Click Here
Choosing The Right Saddle Pad
Since this blog is entirely about saddle fit, we will touch on saddle pads. The most important thing and ultimate goal is to get the tree fitted properly for your horse, so no special pads are needed. This article touches on several situations and saddle pad remedies Click Here
English Saddle Fit
English Saddle fit series to read: Click Here
English Saddle fit series to watch (Videos): Click Here
Western Saddle Fit
Western Saddle fit series to read: Click Here
Western Saddle fit series to watch (Video): Click Here
The difference between English and Western Saddles: Click Here
Saddle trees and why they are created differently Click Here
Saddle Fit Expert Guide: Click Here for PDF
Saddle Pain and Male vs Female Saddle Fit Video: Click Here
Are you a Woman Riding in a Saddle Made for a Man? Video: Click Here
Why Female Riders Struggle with "Chair Seat" Video: Click Here
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