Saddle fit is the next most important fit to a successful partnership. You cannot ride in balance and your horse cannot give his best unless your saddle is>
1/ Correct fit for your horse / pony.
2/ LEVEL to carry your weight with even pressure over the whole bearing surface.
3/ Big enough ( not cramped ) for the rider to be able to adjust to points of gravity at different paces to be balanced.
4/ Not swing!
The biggest mistake is fiiting too wide! The horse may have white hairs showing, (Bistering by movement. Saddle too wide will cause swinging. He may also have bruising either side of spine with swinging of the saddle. Hair may be rubbed behind saddle. Also he may have damage to his cartiledge on the bone (back of shoulder) where the weight bearing of the saddle is on the forehand, and the points of tree sit more than 2" below topline of shoulder. TOO WIDE saddles, as also can too narrow saddles cause tension and muscle wastage behind shoulder > a correct saddle will fall into this hollow and must be made level. If you want this topline to come back, you must raise TEMPORARILY the saddle to be level with rider on board. level weightbearing action and exercise will return these muscles to level 'normal' Topline and flatter weight carrying surface. With immediate difference in performance of your horse. However these weight bearing muscles do not recover on their own i.e by being turned away! Tension front of the horse's weight bearing muscle will cause restriction in loin, rump and tracking up. In cases of bruised spine horse will carry tail to one side. Horses that do not track up, are heavy on forehand, unable to do nice transition to canter, rush fences will 95% have incorrect saddle. They may also get long / short term lameness (pedelostosis, navicular, strained tendons) from carrying all riders weight on their front legs! I have been fitting for 40 years and have experience and researched remedial fits that puts 25% more value on a horse in 2 hour session. As a very experienced fitter I (cannot) take a master saddlers certificate, Because I am a mobile fitter and use saddle makers who will not affiliate to SMS 50% of the uk saddle makers do not need the SMS
Saddle fitters. WHO TO CALL There are 5 basic widths of saddle for the horse and 15" to 20" for the rider ( So will your saddler turn up with 3 and insist one fits! It may fit the horse but how can you decide what your options might be? ) There are 2 Master Saddlers courses one of 2 days duration and one of 4 days duration only open to affiliation of master saddlers. Being mobile is a criteria they will NOT accept yet the best place to try saddles is at home with a large selection available. You should only call out a fitter that is recommended by someone you know and offers choice! There are several non-affiliated fitters in this country that are very good. There are equally Qualified Master Saddlers who have no idea or no real experience. Master Saddlers make english saddles but not all saddle makers want or need to affiliate. Non affiliated saddle makers have been employed to make some of the top names saddles in the country. There are saddle makers that make excellent, sometimes better quality saddles in other areas of the world. Some are outstanding value for cost and quality. Some English Saddle Makers make excellent Quality saddles that need no affiliation fees or badge as every one made is snapped up. Master Saddlers organisation is concerned with quality of product for which they give a badge, They should concern themselves with making saddles and not with fitting!
So to recap Do you want to improve your riding? Is your saddle level this must be in a "weight bearing" profile With your weight ( horses do have flexible backs) and after all the panel is only a mouldible cushion protecting against a precisely engineered tree designed to distribute weight evenly! If you think it is pinching? ( Dropping in front and too wide!). Have the tree end points fallen to more than 2 1/2 inches below top line of his "shoulder" conventional tree or 1 1/2" close contact tree design. when you are mounted and the horse is he tracking up? There is still much more than this, to getting it right for a partnership and only experience letting you experience a better way of going on a correct saddle is your best way forward. Trying with experienced help to prove to yourself you and your horse can move better is the only way to really Know! copyright J Smith