Saddle Fitting Guidelines

Next time you suspect your horse has a sore back, don’t call your vet, call your saddler! The major cause of sore backs, discomfort and poor performance is an ill-fitting saddle. In most cases, this saddle can be re-adjusted to fit the horse and relieve any discomfort for both horse and rider.

A saddle which does not fit affects the free movement of the horse and greatly diminishes the rider’s control. A well fitted saddle is like a comfortable pair of shoes – not too tight, not too loose, just right. Each horse is unique in its build and deserves to have a well-fitted saddle.

The following are important factors used in fitting a saddle correctly to any horse:

  1. The saddle tree must fit the horse in the hollow behind the shoulder.
  2. The entire panel must touch the horse’s back.
  3. There should be at least two fingers of vertical space between the withers and the gullet of the saddle after it is girthed tightly.
  4. The saddle should be level from side to side and carry the rider naturally in its deepest part. The rider should not feel as though he is riding up or down hill.
  5. The horse’s back should be well worked and firmly muscled, since even a well fitted saddle could possibly cause soreness on an unfit horse.
  6. The person fitting your saddle should be qualified and must be willing to guarantee his work.

as appeared in Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar