Why should I have my saddle checked?
Having your saddle fitted is an important part of horse ownership. An ill-fitting saddles can cause no end of issues, both physical as well as behavioural.
Has your horse started bucking, napping or rearing recently? Has he started to stop out jumping?
Does he throw his head up in the air on upward transitions? Does he look grumpy when you bring your saddle out? Bite you as you’re girthing up? Spin around as you mount?
All of these can be symptoms of ill-fitting saddles or signs that your saddle needs to be checked by a saddle fitter.
What does a saddle fitter do?
A decent saddle fitter will come to your yard and assess you and your horse. They will look at your horses’ confirmation and movement (you will usually be asked to walk and trot up with your horse in hand, so if you are unable to do this, make sure you have a helpful friend with you).
Then the saddle fitter will check your saddle over. The tree, straps and flocking will be checked and they will make sure they are symmetrical. The saddle fitter will take a template (basically a trace of your horses shape) to keep a record of their width. It’s useful to keep this to compare to future ones.
Only then will your saddle fitter try the saddle on your horse, and assess how it looks.
The saddle will be girthed up, and any pressure points felt for. The fitter will assess the width, the length, the shape and how the panels fit.
Sometimes at this point the fitter might adjust the saddle. If all seems ok, you will be asked to ride.
Saddle fitters need to see you walking, trotting and preferably cantering too. In some situations this is not possible, eg in the case of an unbacked horse. If you are a nervous rider, it can help to have a friend around. Remember the fitter is there to judge your saddle fit, not your riding!
Saddle fitters qualified to do so can usually reflock and adjust saddles on site.
By Poppy Webber, saddle fitter at PeeWee Saddlery, Long Sutton – available for saddle fittings in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.