Saddle fitting - frequently asked questions
Q. Is it true some makes of saddles just won't fit some types of horses?
A. Absolutely. One of the worst things that happen is that a customer rings up and says 'I want this model in that colour'. We'll have it in stock because we have 800 saddles in stock but we say 'please keep an open mind, let me bring Keiffer, Stubben, Cliff Barnsby, Jeffries, Uncle Tom Cobley! Let me bring a big range of saddles based on the description you've given and we'll find the one that's right for you and your horse.'
If you demand a particular saddle, Sod's Law says that'll be the one that doesn't fit. If you want a certain brand, we hope it will fit but we don't want to be in a position of selling you something because you've seen it in a catalogue or your friend's got one, if that isn't the one that fits. At the end of the day, that's the difference between a saddle seller and a saddle fitter.
Q. Are there any particular saddle brands that are more suitable for certain types of horses?
A. Most certainly. It won't come as a surprise that German saddles tend to fit Warmblood and German horses quite well and English saddles tend to fit English rangy thoroughbred types quite well. It doesn't mean that German saddles won't fit some English horses and English saddles won't fit some German horses very well but it is certainly often the case.
You can't say one make of saddle suits every horse, that's rubbish. What is of tremendous advantage for fitting is an adjustable tree, I don't mean a 'nut and bolt' adjust, I mean saddles like Keiffer which have infinitely adjustable trees that we can adjust using an infra-red machine we have, which gives us a lot of flexibility.
Q. Do you fit the horse first and then the rider or vice versa?
A. The horse first. Before we go to visit a client, we ask for a full description of the horse, as accurate as possible, details such as age, type, how much wither, kind of work being done; then we ask for the saddle required, dressage, GP, jumping and so on and the height and weight of rider. Bearing on those, we'll choose saddles in that realm, we have about 800 to choose from!
What we want to avoid is having more than one and a half pounds per square inch of pressure being transmitted to the horse's back through the panel. If you can't come back a long way because of the horse's last rib, you've got to come down the side.
Once we have all the relevant details, we pick out maybe 20 or 30 saddles that fit into the profile they've given us. We also take some wider and some narrower saddles in case the horse owner's description isn't very accurate, then we very rarely can't fit a saddle straight away.