Make sure your saddle fits (Part 2)

An indispensable guide to finding a saddle that fits your horse prepared by horse, rider and saddle fitting expert, Ken Lyndon Dykes.

Signs of an ill-fitting saddle
Hair rubbing off when it's not the usual moulting time, baldness. White hairs which indicate the blood circulation has been cut off for lengths of time due to pressure Soft blisters, hard painless lumps Saddle sores and girth galls Horse is short striding, hollow-backed, resistant, he may go lame

Horse uncomfortable and unwilling to do certain things under saddle, e.g. jump, go downhill, make transitions Showing signs of disliking the saddle, e.g. laying ears back when you approach, swishing the tail, biting or kicking when it's put on or girthed up.

Regular checks
You should regularly check whether your saddle fits, even if your horse is not exhibiting the signs described above. Horses change shape all the time and what fitted once may not fit now and some horses are amazingly stoical about tack that doesn't fit. Ken recommends that you get a qualified saddle Fitter to check your saddle every six months. The checks a saddle fitter would make are described later in this article, he or she should be happy to show you exactly how they are done.

There are other simple tests that indicate a saddle's fit. Try soaping your saddle well, then riding your horse in it, without the numnah, before you groom him. The marks on the underside of the saddle will indicate how much of your saddle's bearing surface is actually in contact with the horse's back. Talcum powder dusted on the panels, or sweat marks will give you similar clues. If the markings on the horse's back are uneven i.e. not in the shape of the saddle's panels then you could have a problem.

The saddle itself should be symmetrical the two sides exactly the same. It should have broad, soft, smooth panels, not lumpy with old flocking, or over stuffed so they are like rolling pins which will sit painfully on the horse's back.  The gullet should be wide so that it does not impinge on the horse's spine.

With the saddle girthed, can you lift the back of the saddle? If you can, it's likely to move when you ride, which will be extremely uncomfortable, if not painful for the horse.

Next instalment:  Saddle fitting checks.

Back to Part 1