Imagine for a moment that your horse could select your socks and shoes for the day. He decides to dress you in your most expensive pair of brand new dress shoes (because they are well made) and pads them with thick woolen socks (in case they are not broken in yet). Could you effectively work the entire day? Do you think you’d have problems, get cranky, think your horse was an idiot, and eventually toss the shoes as far as you could throw them?
A great looking and seemingly functional saddle doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your horse or the rider. A good saddle fit is as important as, and similar to, a good shoe fit in a person. Would you buy a shoe that was smaller and fit tighter simply because it was made well? Even though humans are basically the same, they come in all different but similar sizes, shapes, and lifestyles. Horses come in different breeds, sizes, and are used for different activities.
When fitting a saddle for the horse and the rider, pay close attention to the following items to determine whether or not you have a good saddle fit.
- The structure of the saddle.
- The position of the saddle on the back.
- The contact of the bars or panels against the horse's back; absence of bridging.
- There must be enough rocker and twist to the bars to conform to the horse’s back (Western).
- Determine whether the panels are wide enough for good support (English).
- Determine whether the gullet is wide enough to clear the spine completely (2-1/2 to 3 inches) (English).
- Is the gullet the correct width and tall enough to clear the withers (Western)?
- Check the fit of the tree to the horse's back, especially across the withers.
- Does the saddle sit squarely in the center of the back?
- Is the seat level?
- Check the placement of the girth.
- Pay close attention to how the rider fits in the saddle.
- Check the position of the stirrup bars or stirrup placement.
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