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Common Saddle Fitting Questions

1. How can I tell if my saddle fits?
  • Determination of proper saddle fit requires evaluation of the horse (e.g., age, anatomy, biomechanics, conformation issues, health), the rider (e.g., height, weight, age, riding level and expertise), the saddle (e.g., construction, placement, and suitability to horse and rider), and the interaction of all three (e.g., achieves a harmonious partnership and facilities communication).
  • Evaluation should be done by a professional saddle fitter, but the rider can look for clues. If the horse and rider are comfortable and perform well, the saddle probably fits properly. If the rider struggles to hold position and balance or the horse exhibits pain, behavior problems, lack of concentration, or resistance to work, the cause may be a poorly fitting saddle.
2. How do I measure my horse for a saddle?
3. I’m experiencing lower back pain during and after riding. Could this be caused by my saddle?
  • A saddle that doesn’t fit properly or that is in need of reflocking may cause lower back pain.
  • If the saddle seat is too small and the blocks are substantial, it can cause the rider to hollow her back which may result in lower back pain.
  • If the saddle sits low in the rear due to a tree that is too narrow or compressed flocking, it causes the rider to strain to sit up straight, which may cause lower back pain.
4. My leg keeps coming over the block. How can I alleviate this?
  • Often, this is caused by the seat size being too small and the leg being too close to the block. A longer seat may solve this problem.
  • The twist of the saddle may be too wide causing the rider to pop out of the seat, rather than sitting down around the horse.
5. How can I tell if I need shorter or longer flaps?
  • Ideally the saddle flap should come half way down your calf muscle. One inch more or less is acceptable, but more than that may require a customized flap.
6. How can I stop my saddle from sliding forward?
  • One of the most common causes of a saddle sliding forward is an improperly tightened girth. You should place the saddle in the correct position and tighten the girth snugly enough for you to mount the horse (preferably from a mounting block). Walk two 20 meter circles, one in each direction, then tighten the girth again. Warm up at the walk and then tighten the girth one more time before you begin to trot.
  • If you are using a girth that has elastic, try switching to a girth with no elastic. The give and take action of the elastic can cause the saddle to slip forward.
  • Try a non-slip pad, such as the EQuest Grip Pad. A non-slip pad sticks to your horse and your saddle, holding better as the horse’s back gets warmer. It works best when used directly against the horse and the saddle with no other pad.
7. How do I measure the seat size of my saddle?
  • The seat on most saddles is measured from the center of one of the buttons on either side of the pommel (front) diagonally to the center of the cantle (rear).
8. How do I know what tree size I need?
  • The tree sizes are measured differently for each brand of saddle.
  • Most English brands of saddles use the medium, wide, extra-wide system, whereas other European brands use centimeters. A professional saddle fitter can assist you in converting centimeter measurements into their medium, wide, extra-wide equivalents.
  • Generally speaking, the tree size is the measurement between the bottoms of the two points of the tree. However, the points of the tree in each brand of saddle are different lengths. Shorter or longer points result in different measurements, so a 32cm tree in one brand does not necessarily fit the same way as a 32cm tree in another brand.
9. What is an adjustable tree? How does it work?
  • An adjustable tree allows you to manually change the tree size to accommodate changes in the width of a horse’s back. Some riders favor an adjustable tree for a horse that is growing and developing.
  • A single saddle will not necessarily accommodate different horses by simply adjusting the tree width. Other factors, for example whether the horse’s back is curvy or straight, also contribute to saddle fit.
  • Adjustable trees are not constructed to withstand frequent movement (i.e., adjustment) and can become weak or “freeze.”
10. How can I tell if my saddle needs to be reflocked?
  • ALL wool stuffed saddles require reflocking annually as the stuffing settles. Like in bed pillows, the stuffing in saddle panels moves, compresses, and yields to continuous pressure. Reflocking the panels restores balance, symmetry, proper fit, and comfort for horse and rider.
 Following are a few of the common symptoms of a saddle in need of reflocking:
  • The saddle falling to one side may be the result of uneven flocking.
  • The rider tilting forward may be the result of compression of the flocking in the front of the panels.
  • The rider tilting backward may be the result of compression of the flocking in the rear of the panels.
  • Looking at the underside of the saddle, you should be able to run the palm of your hand evenly down each panel that sits against the horse and not fall into any hollows.
11. Who should reflock my saddle?
  • Your saddle should be reflocked only by a professional saddle fitter who is trained and skilled in reflocking.
12. What should I do if my saddle needs to be reflocked and there are no saddle company representatives or professional saddle fitters in my area?
  • You can send your saddle along with a wither tracing to a professional saddle fitter, but the results will never be as accurate as having an in-person consultation with a saddle fitter.
  • You can send your saddle to the saddle manufacturer or to a professional saddle fitter to have it reflocked back to factory standards.

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