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Does my saddle fit?


By Trish Joyce

Does my saddle fit my horse? 

Many people ask the question “does my saddle fit my horse?”

An incorrect fitting saddle can be the cause of so many problems. Ponies and horses react differently to discomfort. Some respond straight away and others over a period of time. Some of the behavioural actions can be from pigrooting , rearing to just leaning on your hands or hollowing out their backs and going stiff in the neck. I wanted to share with you how hard it has been to find a saddle for LH Lily Puss and Oaks Volta. Never before had we encountered so much trouble finding that perfect fit. Many of us have an incorrect fitting saddle but do we all know what to do? What are your options? So many riders use raiser pads, not often do we see the saddle and one saddle blanket. 

Both our horses possess very different conformation, on arrival just over 12 months ago Lily was very over weight. She had a flat back which meant all the saddles slid sideways nothing sat on top without moving on way or another.

sliding saddle on lil star Trish Joyce

Over time she lost weight, I keep a close eye on her condition because being an older horse she shows two hollow divots either side of her wither. I do ride her often therefore pay close attention to her weight making sure there is good coverage over her back. We started with using a breastplate and a raiser pad. This tended to just force the saddle to stay centre and placed pressure on her chest and in return she would bear down on my hands go very hollow in the back and not feel relaxed at all, therefore coming above the bit all the time. Her ears were not forward most of the time she just seemed unhappy to me. The aim of riding is to feel and see some slight improvement not matter how miniscule. Unhappy horses will not improve and learn. Yes having the right bit is just as important as the saddle fitting but in this blog I am just covering the saddle.

Showing where the divots are each sie of the wither

Saddles are definitely not what they once were. There was a time when they looked plain with a basic shape using leather of what we would say is good quality not thick not thin. When you oiled /conditioned it the leather became supple lasting a very long time. Raiser pads were a rarity. I am sure some could never be worn through. Then the synthetic approach took a shine and many loved the idea being waterproof plus the easiness to maintain, no oiling conditioning was required even the stirrup leathers were synthetic. Team Joyce still proudly own three all-purpose types one for Wes 17 inch, Sarah 16 inch and Tiffany 14 inch. The only part that wore out was the points on the saddle and the holes on the stirrup leathers the actual saddle is still in good nick. I use Sarah’s on LH Lily Puss but have made some simple modern changes to it – to find out read on. Then the phase of the close contact saddle came in with no knee panels, cut back very short with hardly any seat. These were not very favourable in our camp. Today there are so many brands and the differences lay in the shape, leather and stitching quality. They have moved to bulkier thicker leather showing off fancy contours which has become very appealing to the eye. The new type of Synthetic saddle now has suede to make them more fashionable.

Oaks Volta has two huge muscles either side of his wither and he does not like to feel any pressure across that area. All the saddles we tried seemed to look like elephant ears poking out. The saddle should follow the curves of your horse and sit naturally in the correct place on their backs.  The seven saddles we own all different brands revealed the same problems. They did not follow the contour of his shoulder at all. Temporarily we used a Junior Showjumping saddle sized 17 inch, it was as close as we could find. The length was also a very important factor because he does not have a long back therefore a normal 17 ½ inch would sit to far back on the loins. Volta’s reaction was a little different to Lily’s he would not want to stretch his neck, become jammed in behind the bit, not canter underneath himself and poke his nose out two strides from the fence.

Ok so after revealing all our dilemmas what to do? We are savvy horse people right? Surely we can fix these two issues easily like all our other horses. We have been around horses all our lives. Visit our web site to read the results:  http://lalshaven.com.au/fitting-saddles/



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