Level Seat – Have you ever ridden a bike with a loose seat?
It matters doesn’t it? On a saddle, the seat must be level when viewed from the side and the rider must be placed in the center of the seat. The horse and the rider both need a level seat! If the seat is not level or the lowest point is incorrectly placed, the rider will be out of balance and will be unable to help the horse or ride correctly. This increases the risk of injury to both the rider and the horse. Believe it or not the rider may be totally unaware of the problem – until it’s too late.
Another fact to know is that a saddle that is too narrow will sit up too high at the cantle since - the tree is too narrow to follow the contours of the withers. The rider’s weight will be pitched toward the cantle and the rider’s legs placed forward, one of the most common rider faults. Stay in sync with your horse by paying close attention to these situations. If the saddle fits well but needs significant restuffing, it will also slope down towards the cantle. A saddle that is too wide will tip forward or down at the pommel, pitching the rider forward and the rider’s legs back behind the vertical. This is not comfortable for the horse or the rider.
The positive results of learning more about your animal is prevention, intelligent innovation, and the well being of your horse.
The following method will allow you to determine the levelness of the seat. Pretend to roll a marble from either the cantle or pommel towards the center of the saddle. The marble should stop in the center of the saddle, not towards the front or rear. If the marble rolls towards the front, the saddle is probably too wide; if it rolls to the rear the saddle may be too narrow. The marble rolling to the rear can occur if the saddle is made with the center of the seat placed too far to the rear.
Rider Fit – Have you measured your rider lately?
Imagine being hired for a new job and uniforms are provided. You are not asked for your body measurements before you receive your generic sized uniform. Yes, you are a size 10 but you have exceptionally long legs and you have a long waistline. Technically the uniform fits but it’s a bit too short and does not allow for extended movement. There are alternatives available to adjust the fit of your uniform and they begin with measurements. Once taken, the necessary adjustments can be made to alter the fit. The uniform is not the problem. Similarly, if a saddle does not fit the rider, the rider becomes the saddle fitting problem.
In saddle fit, the most common fault is having the seat too small for the rider, forcing them to sit at the back of the saddle. Even if the saddle fits well, this puts excessive pressure on the horse’s back concentrated at the rear of the saddle. There is a correct way to determine seat size. Measure the rider from the hip joint to the knee. The rider’s knee should be at the center of the knee roll in an English saddle. When the rider has a long thigh and a small buttock it’s more difficult because the large seat needed for their leg is too large to sit in. The solution is to have a properly designed custom saddle that would add a block of foam at the rear of the seat. Or riders could try to do that in their own saddles using a seat saver with foam sewed under the back part.
On western saddles particularly, the ground seat is made too wide for the rider’s legs to drop comfortably down to the side. The wide ground seat places the legs the same way riding bareback does. The thigh is pushed out to the side so the knees cannot lie against the horse’s side. This rolls the pelvis back and prevents the correct use of the lower leg, forcing riders to brace with their legs out in front of them. It is almost impossible to find western saddles with a correct ground seat for the rider. Your best advantage is industry specific knowledge. It sounds fancy but it’s really just learning more about little things that matter.
A critical component to the comfort and balance of the rider is the position of the stirrup bars and/or placement. Stirrup bars placed too far forward will cause the rider’s legs to drift forward, leaving them in a chair-seat position. The next time your instructor yells at you to keep your legs back take the time to analyze the saddle fit in particular the stirrup bars and placement. You may not be the problem. It may be the saddle fit.
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