SADDLE FITTING – FAQ
Who should I get to fit my saddle?
Your saddle, new or second-hand, should be fitted by a MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF MASTER SADDLERS. Their first consideration will always be the horse. This may mean that you need to adjust any preconceived ideas you may have about your own preferences in relation to make and design.
Should I use a pad or numnah?
There are some circumstances where it is necessary to use pads, risers, or numnahs. If you must use a numnah or gel pad the saddle fitter must be informed at the time of the original enquiry - and always before the saddle is fitted. Adding a numnah under a saddle which fits well without it is akin to putting thick insoles into shoes that fit perfectly without them.
Can I share a saddle between horses?
It is recommended that each horse should have its own saddle. Though at times this isn't practical, using the same saddle on another horse for a short period of time should not cause any problems (if the saddle fits). However just as a pair of shoes adapts to the wearer's foot, so the saddle adopts the contours of the horse. Which means that you will always have a better fit if each saddle is used on only one horse.
Will my saddle fit my new horse?
Saddle manufactures have recognised the need for adjustable saddles by today's modern rider, so saddlery's are filled with saddles that can be adjusted to suit the many different backs of horses. This adjust-ability is limited though, while it may be possible to adjust your existing saddle to fit your new horse, there is no such thing as a saddle that fits every horse, so the advice of a qualified saddle fitter should always be sought.
How often should I have my saddle fitted?
Your horse changes shape regularly. The frequency of these changes will relate to his age, training, management and so on. Try to develop an eye to recognise these changes. Viewed on a daily basis, the changes may seem inconsequential but over a period of just a week or so they can be surprisingly substantial. Have your saddle checked - and any necessary adjustments made - regularly.
How often do I need to condition/oil my saddle?
'Feed' your leather saddle carefully. Insufficiently treated the leather will dry out. Fed too much, the dressing will not be absorbed and the saddle will be unpleasantly sticky - possibly marking your clothes, or worse, causing the saddle stitching to rot. The regularity with which the saddle requires leather conditioner or oil relates to usage, weather conditions and so on.
How important is it to have your young horse fitted?
The young horse must be fitted especially carefully. His - or her - back is 'virgin territory' and very precious. Great care must be taken to avoid any damage that may cause problems later in life. Young horses should never be lunged in any old saddle ('it doesn't matter - no-one is going to ride in it'). The young back is particularly vulnerable and a swinging/bouncing saddle that doesn't fit - and may even be damaged - can be the cause of veterinary problems that may be irreversible. Recognise, too, that some young horses develop at a substantial rate and the saddle that fitted well only a short time previously may need adjustment.
Is it ok to mount from the ground?
Mounting from the ground should be avoided when ever possible. Mounting from a mounting block should not be restricted to the less-than-athletic! It is infinitely better for the horse's back and guards against the saddle tree becoming twisted - quite easy to happen if the saddle is regularly used as a lever, and your stirrup leathers becoming stretch ed on one side.
If the panels of my saddle are uneven will this cause problems?
Great attention must always be paid to the condition of the saddle flocking. Irregular/uneven/lumpy flocking can cause pressure points that may seriously damage the horse's back. Severe irregularity in the flocking can cause the saddle to sit to one side. Correct flocking provides a cushioning effect that helps to reduce trauma. Over stuffed, the saddle will be hard, will not adapt to the horse's back and may cause pressure sores or sensitivity.
My saddle is tipping me forward.
The saddle must always be level when viewed from the side. Anything else compromises the horse's comfort and welfare. 'Up-hill' the rider will sit too far back. 'Down-hill the rider will be encouraged onto the fork.
What is meant by gullet clearance?
When viewed from the front and rear the saddle gullet must always provide adequate clearance - both before and after the horse is exercised. This means that it should never touch the horses wither and be at an adequate height to keep the saddle/rider level.
My horse has fallen on my saddle, is it ok?
It is important to ask the saddler to check any saddle in use when a horse falls. 'Hidden' damage may be substantial - broken/cracked trees can be difficult to detect. Likewise, if the saddle falls from the saddle rack or is dropped it should be checked over by a qualified saddler.
The stitching on my girth points is worn do I need to get them fixed?
Weak, worn, or damaged stitching on any part of the saddle should be repaired instantly. Saddles should be checked every time they are used; equal attention should be paid to girths and leathers.