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Horse Articles :: Fitting a Horses Saddle

Ten Top Tips on Saddle Fitting

1. Wither Clearance -
The gullet of a saddle must clear the withers but not be so narrow as to pinch the horses back.

The ideal clearance needs to be 2-3 fingers between the saddle pommel (gullet) and horses withers. Anything less is risky and if no clearance the saddle must not be used.

2.To check you can look down the gullet and see light at the other end, place the saddle on the horse, girthed up, but with no numnahs or pads and then look to see if you have this clearance.

3. The Gullet Width -
The gullet width (when seen from underneath the saddle), should be about three inches in width all the way down the pommel to the cantle.

4. Saddle Balance -
The saddle needs to sit straight, i.e. not dipping down at the front or back. To check this, once you have put the saddle on the horse, look and see if where the rider sits the saddle is sitting horizontally.

The saddle balance needs to be checked again by a person on the ground with the rider on the horse and the horse standing on level ground.

5. Saddle Seat Position - The seat of the saddle must be positioned so that the rider is placed over the horse's center of balance.

The location of the horse's center of balance depends on a combination of speed and collection of the horse. If the horse is standing or just walking the center of balance is just behind the heart girth and below the withers.

If the horse is trotting or cantering, the center of balance moves forward & if galloping or jumping the center of balance moves even more forward. If the horse is highly collected the center of balance will be further back regardless of gait, than if the horse is in an extended frame.

6. The Length of Saddle -
A saddle should not go beyond the 18th thoracic vertebra, which attaches to the horses last rib, beyond this is the lumbar spine, which is the weakest part of the horses back. If you feel the ribs on your horse and work your hand backwards, until you can feel their last rib, then run your fingers up this rib till you reach the spine - that is the point where the saddle must not go beyond.

7. The Panels -
These need to be smooth and make even contact along the horses spine so distributing the weight of the rider evenly. An uneven fit increases pressure points and soreness.

With used saddles when you are saddle fitting you need to check that the panels are still in good condition and don't need re-flocking etc.

8. Movement of Saddle -
When riding, the saddle should not move backwards or forwards or rock up and down. To help see if this is happening when saddle fitting, it helps if you have someone standing on the ground, watching to see if the saddle moves while you walk, trot and canter past them.

9. Tree Size - The tree size, which dictates the width of the saddle and height of the gullet is one of the most important factors when fitting saddles.

A tree that is too narrow, is more of a problem than one too wide, as it will push the points of the saddle tree into the horses back and eventually cause muscle wastage/atrophy, which long term will result in a hollowing in the horses back either side of the spine around the shoulder area.

It can be tested easily by looking at the sweat pattern on the horses back after work. The sweat pattern should have even sweating along the panels, except for the points of the tree points, which will cause round dry spots in the area of sweat.

10. Saddle Placement - When saddle fitting a saddle should be placed two to four fingers behind the end of the horse's shoulder blade.

About Author
Sarah Bell is passionate about happy healthy horses that are kept and looked after, with their health and well being as a main priority.










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