Saddle Fit

It’s not a question of fitting you or your horse—it’s a question of fitting you and your horse.

Every ride reflects a working partnership between you and your horse, and the wrong saddle can be a real deal-breaker. Although it’s certainly natural to want your new English saddle to fit you well, your first consideration must be your horse’s comfort and safety.

A poorly-fitting saddle can do permanent physical damage to a horse, and even the gentlest of creatures can turn downright nasty at the prospect of facing yet another ordeal. One horse that you never want to ride is a horse that doesn’t want to be ridden.

Honoring Both Sides of the Partnership
Proper saddle fit relies on a compromise that favors the horse a bit more than the rider. Even so, it still needs to honor your needs. A saddle that fits your horse like a glove but causes you pain is not a good compromise. Your goal is to find a saddle that you can both use without the risk of pain or misadventure.

The Myth of the Magical Saddle
Achieving the correct saddle fit may not be the simplest of tasks, but it’s not nearly as complicated as some riders believe. Thanks to the recent surge of interest in proper saddle fit, some folks have embarked on a well-intentioned but misguided pilgrimage for the one perfect saddle that fits both man and beast to a T in every respect.

That would have to be a magical saddle indeed, one that automatically adjusted to every change in its owner or wearer. Factors such as diet, exercise, and aging continually affect a horse’s fat and muscle content, and our eyes, mirrors, and scales tell us that our human dimensions are subject to a similar process. In a broader context, even two horses of the same breed are not identical, so anyone who rides more than one horse cannot expect a single saddle to be perfect for every occasion.

The Real Deal
These are the major areas of importance in fitting a horse:

• Wither clearance
• Unrestricted shoulder movement
• Good overall match between shape/size of the saddle and shape/size of the horse’s back
• Proper balance for even weight distribution

A properly fitting saddle will satisfy these basic requirements for horses of the physical type that you ride. If you regularly ride one horse or different horses of roughly the same conformation and size, one saddle (and perhaps several saddle pads) will serve you well. If you normally ride horses of markedly different conformation or size, you will need to use more than one saddle. Otherwise, one or more horses will definitely suffer.

Click on the links below for more detailed saddle fit information:

Fitting the Horse
Fitting the Rider
Fitting the Female Rider
Signs of Poor Saddle Fit