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Guide to Saddle Fitting

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When fitting a saddle to a horse, it is important to ensure proper clearance and contact points to prevent discomfort and maintain balance. Here are some key considerations:

  • Allow 3-2 fingers clearance between the underside of the pommel and the horse’s wither, as well as clearance on either side of the wither. The saddle should not touch the wither or spine to avoid causing sensitivity issues.
  • Ensure spine clearance along the gullet channel, ensuring no contact with the spine throughout.
  • Check wither clearance with and without a mounted rider, as the rider’s weight can affect the proper fit. If the saddle is too narrow, it will sit too high over the withers, giving a perched feeling. Conversely, if it is too wide, it will be too low and unbalanced, lacking sufficient contact.
  • Consider the width of the saddle. Saddles come in various widths, including adjustable options for horses that may change shape over time. The correct width will ensure even contact between the panels and the horse.
  • Ensure the tree points (the front part of the saddle) sit behind the scapula to allow freedom of movement and prevent interference or shoulder damage. The tree points should also run parallel to the horse’s body shape for optimal contact.
  • The length of the saddle is crucial. It should not extend past the horse’s last rib onto the lumbar region to avoid causing pain and discomfort. Short-backed horses may require saddles with shorter panels or panels that curve upward to relieve pressure.
  • Balance is important in a well-fitting saddle. The cantle and pommel should create a flat line, although dressage saddles tend to have higher cantles. A balanced saddle leads to a balanced seat for the rider, promoting correct alignment and stability. An imbalanced saddle can make the rider unstable and cause discomfort for the horse.
  • The panels of the saddle should make even contact along the horse’s back. Check for pressure points, lumps, or bumps by running your hand underneath the panels. Bridging, where the panels lose contact with the horse’s back, is a sign of a poor fit and can create pressure points. Specialized saddles with shorter or curved panels can help address this issue.

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