Saddle Fitting Guide
The Purpose of a saddle is to take the riders weight off the spine of the horse and distribute that weight
over the muscles along the back of the horse. Saddle fitting can be better understood if you keep this
basic principal in mind.
1. Saddle Placement
Saddle Placement: A Saddle should be placed two to four fingers behind the end of the horse’s shoulder blade. This allows for freedom of movement of the shoulder. Many riders place saddles too far forward causing horses discomfort and lessoning their ability to perform.
2. Wither Clearance
There needs to be adequate clearance between the pommel of the saddle and the horse’s withers. Ideally we would like 2-3 fingers clearance but on some horses with high withers that is not always possible. If a saddle is closer than two fingers then it will have to be closely monitored and re-flocked more often. If a saddle has no clearance at the withers it is probably too wide, or needs re-flocking, and should not ever be used on that horse.
3. Saddle Balance
A saddle needs to sit level on a horse’s back. If the saddle is out of balance, then the lowest spot will carry most of the rider’s weight. This creates pressure spots which can lead to back soreness and limit the horse’s abilities. A level saddle can sometimes be the hardest part of saddle fit for the untrained eye to see.
4. Angles and Points of the Tree
The angle of the points of the saddle need to match the angle of the horses muscles that they rest on. The points are located in the front of the saddle, under the flap, in the small, oval pocket towards the top of the saddle. When a saddle is too narrow the points aim into the horses back and cause excess pressure. When a saddle is too wide the points flair out and all of the pressure is concentrated on the topmost part of the points.
5. Even contact Along the Panels
The panels need to make even contact all along the horses back. Many saddles that are too narrow bridge in the middle making no contact at all. This requires the rest of the saddle to carry all of the rider’s weight. Some saddles are too curved front to back and this puts too much weight in the middle of the saddle and can lead to rocking.
6. Gullet Width
The saddle needs to have adequate width through the channel to ensure there is not any pressure on the horse’s spine and connective tissue. Three to four fingers width is adequate for most horses.
7. Panel Angle
The angle of the panels needs to match the horses back. On flat backed horses it is common to have the angle in the back be too steep for the horse. This puts extra pressure on the outside of the panel sometimes having a sharp edge digging into the horse. Often this can be corrected with proper saddle re-flocking.
A saddle shouldn’t rock excessively front to back. Usually this is a sign of a saddle that is too wide or too curved for the horse. Sometimes a horse anatomy causes rocking and a thorough evaluation and re-flocking can lesson this problem.
9. Saddle Length
a saddle should not go beyond the 18th thoracic vertebrae, which is the vertebrae corresponding with the last rib. Past this vertebra is the lumbar region, which is the weakest part of the back.