How to tell if your saddle fits | Kate Ballard, Society of Master Saddlers

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KATE BALLARD: So saddle fitting
and the correct saddle fit is very important
in our horse mastership. We are the advocate
for our horse. A correctly fitting saddle
will give your horse longevity with muscles
and joints. If you are to imagine wearing
a pair of shoes two sizes too big or too small
you would experience discomfort. So it is essential that we do
our very best to ensure that the saddle fits
the horse’s back. We’re here with Casimo, who is a 15-hand
German Riding Pony. I’m going to show
you the parameters of where the saddle should sit
on the horse’s back. The saddle sits
between the eighth thoracic vertebrae and the 18th. The eighth thoracic vertebrae
is found two fingers behind the back of the scapula
so we can see the scapula here. So we go two fingers
directly upwards. Two fingers. This is the eighth.
The 18th is the last rib. So if you feel your horse’s
side working your way back you come to the last rib
and they come up at this angle. They don’t go straight up.
They come up this way. So, this is our bearing surface;
8th to the 18th. So we’re going to take just
a quick look at some different saddles on Casimo
to give you an idea of what’s right,
what’s not right. When you’re trying
the saddles at home, have your horse on as level
ground as possible. Here we can see we have T8
and 18 when we put the saddle on the horse’s back. Good boy.
We do it without a saddle pad. So the dots are covered up. The tree of the saddle
is actually the points of the tree are buried
under here. But you can locate them by these
two nails. These two nails go straight
through the point of the tree. That wants to sit at T8.
So if we lift up we can see — the sticker is underneath there. So the saddle is behind the back
of the scapula allowing the motion of the scapula
to swing. As you can see, this is actually
too long for him. We’ve gone past the green dot. So this would could potentially
cause discomfort here in this area with the rider’s
weight on it, which is where the horse’s
kidneys are. Another example of what
we’re looking for when we are fitting our
horses with saddles is the width. Locate T8. The points of the tree located
where the two nails are. This comes right
on the money at T18. However if you draw imaginary
line between my two fingers, it’s running downhill. So when we come and stand
at the withers and look this saddle is actually
too wide. We want to get three fingers
stacked on top of each other between the wither
and the lowest point under the gullet. So I can
just barely get two. So, it’s too low in front,
too high in the back, and it will cause
a rocking motion. So that is a sample that’s too
wide for your horse. Another saddle. The point of the tree
located where the nail is right underneath at T8
sits nicely behind the scapula. What we don’t want to do is have
the saddle too far forward. We have great clearance here at
the wither. Three fingers stacked on top. So the wither to the lowest
point of the gullet and two fingers either side
to allow for your horse to turn. Come to the last rib and go up. And there we are right
on the money where the green dot is. The last thing we want to check
is to lift the sweat flap and look under here
or feel. You want to make sure
that that panel is bearing all the way along the contours
of the horse’s back. The deepest part of the seat
is in the middle over the center of gravity
which is usually between the 12th and 13th rib. So the rider would be
nicely balanced. It’s a great balance this way.
With a close contact saddle, a mono, a jumping saddle the flaps
are more forward cut but this is just here
for the rider and it moves. This is completely flexible. This is where the bearing
surface starts is the where the point of the tree. So point of the tree
locate the nails. What we see here
is the saddle is too short and it’s sitting uphill. This will create the rider
to sit at the back of the cantle and cause
pressure here at the back. And what usually happens
is the saddle will ride forward because the
rider’s weight is not in the middle
of the seat. When we look at the front
of the saddle too it is very high. We can almost drive
a bus down the front. I can literally get my whole
hand down the front so because it’s high
and it’s low in the back, if we lift the sweat flaps
and look under here, what we actually
have is bridging. Bridging is where the panel
in the middle of the saddle doesn’t make contact
with the horse’s back and we get something called
four-point contact. Where we have contact here
at the front and at the back and nothing under the middle. Again we’re looking where
the points of the tree are. Feel to the last rib,
follow it up, and this saddle is way too long.
It’s actually nicely balanced. The seat — the deepest part is in
the middle of the seat but we are we’re too long here.
Last jumping saddle locate T8. You can always slide the saddle
back till it doesn’t want to slide anymore. The nails go straight through
the point of the tree. We locate it here
behind the scapula, come to the last rib, follow that rib up right on the
money at T18. This is a nice little fit
for this horse. Three fingers clearance. We have two fingers either
side and the deepest part of the seat is in the middle.
And that’s a nice balance. So I hope that these small
guidelines and tips have helped you assess your saddle at home
on the horse’s back without pads. The next step would be to watch
the horse and rider together as a pair. If you need more information
or have more saddle questions, SmartPak’s Customer Care team
is always willing to help. Give them a call anytime
or visit Have a great ride.


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