Saddle Fitting Beginner’s Guide: Top 3 Signs Your Saddle Doesn't Fit Your Equine
Saddle shopping is not an easy road to navigate, especially if you are new to the equine world or like most, not a certified saddle fitter or specialist. When looking for a new saddle they should have hazard cones and maps to guide us to the perfect fit, but let’s be honest liver pools and trailering can be enough of a daily challenge. If you are on the saddle hunt or are weary about your current saddle and its fit for your horse there are 3 Top Signs that can indicate an incorrect saddle fit.
1. Wither Clearance
The clearance (gap, space, gullet clearance however you choose to reference it) is crucial for a well fitted saddle. Before placing the saddle on the horse's back, simply use a baby pad or square pad, no additional padding such as: a half pad, fleece pad or gel pad. Once you are finished tacking up, tighten up the girth and before you get on is where you will check the clearance. Standing on the side of your horse place 2-3 fingers between the withers and the underside of the pommel (gullet). A well fitted saddle will provide a 2-3 1/2 fingers “width” creating a comfortable and balanced ride for both horse & rider.
2. Saddle Rubs
In reference to sign number one, saddle rubs will occur if the wither clearance is too low. White marks begin to show on the top or sides of the withers, which makes young sparky seem as though he/she is getting those “with old age comes gray hair” symptoms. In reality, it is the cause of the saddle tree rubbing and/or applying pressure on the horse’s withers, which if not corrected can make any horse want become a professional bronco.
3. Performance Difficulties
While sign number three seems obvious it can be one of the more difficult signs to see and feel. If a horse’s performance regresses with no other clinical signs of a lameness, injury (or other issue), he/she could be reacting to an ill fitted saddle. When a saddle fit is not correct it can place pressure on the shoulder muscle of the horse, also known as the deltoid. When this muscle is restricted a horse can have difficulty with collection and extensions on the flat, rounding over obstacles and/or gait transitions.
Now of course with sign number three there can be a range of factors that create this outcome: Temperament, level of lessons/competitions (or lack thereof) to age; because stubborn yearlings and growing pains are just a given when it comes to horses.
Phew! That was probably a lot to take in and that was the shortened version... which is why having a saddle specialist to guide you through the mountains of saddles is key to finding that perfect saddle fit for both you and your horse.