Saddle Ignorance

I remember within the first few months of blogging I was shocked by everyone posting about how crazy saddle shopping and saddle fit was.  I also remember thinking ya’ll were crazy people.  I sat in exactly one saddle most of my time riding and guess how many I looked at while shopping?  Yup-just the one.  It went on ponies, TB mares, fatty warmbloods, and whatever else I threw a leg over that day.  Needless to say I never understood what everyone was talking about!

Now I’m curious and nosy about others’ experiences.  Did I just miss something down the line?  Or perhaps the hunter/jumper world is less concerned about our saddle fit being as exact as other disciplines?

Or maybe my saddle is magical and it will live forever, and I will never have any problems with future rides?  Because that’d be stellar.

But really-anyone out there riding along with the same saddle forever?

Dee is the first horse where the fit has been iffy.  She was round as an exercise ball when I started riding her.  (It got old fast, slowly sliding off one side or the other during my rides)  I imagine now that’s she is more fit I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it.  For the time being it’s easier to pop her real momma’s Bates on her and head off.


Awkward photo FTW–But with her borrowed Bates.  Ariat coat=still my favorite.


34 thoughts on “Saddle Ignorance

  1. I didn’t have much trouble fitting my horse, I had a hard time finding a saddle that fit ME! I’m long’ish and mostly leg so had to get an 18″ with long flaps. It took quite a few tries to figure that out. I’m fairly thin, but not skinny, for being about 5’8″ so I suspect that caused the mental block for me that I didn’t need a saddle larger than an 18″. Now I have two 18″ (Antares and Beval) saddles and thus far haven’t had issues with them fitting any of my 4 rideable horses.

    • That’s so great they fit all 4 of yours! I toe the line on my knee getting close to the edge of that flap, but I’ve got real long legs too. I hope that it can continue to fit me and whatever horses I come up with down the line because shopping for saddles seems extremely nerve wracking!

  2. I am curious how people stand on this. I am somewhere in the middle. The saddles I use generally fit everyone pretty well. I have one that I like that is not the best fit. I am going to try a shimmable pad to try and bridge the gap.

  3. I wasn’t too worried about saddle fit until my horse went from not walking under saddle to happily walking just by changing the saddle. Obviously not every horse is dramatic as mine but a well fitting saddle makes a difference for both the horse and rider.

  4. I haven’t experienced bad saddle fit, though it happens. My personal opinion is that those who have less disposable income (like myself) tend to settle for okay not ouchy fits rather than get an amazing fit for your horse. Getting a professionally fit saddle is a dream of mine. *sigh* If only.

    • I do think it’d be so neat to have a pro come out and fit whatever horse I have in the future. My bank account would hope that my current saddle is perfect for them too and I can keep it until it falls apart. But realistically I know my luck will run out sometime.

  5. My jumping saddle is magical and fits nearly everything. (It absolutely doesn’t fit a mutton-withered obese QH, but what does?) It’s an Ainsley XC Pro National, and it fits all the TBs, the warmbloods, and the reasonably fit QHs.

    My dressage saddle, however, fits Gina fairly well, and fits Moe with some padding. It doesn’t fit anyone else very well at all. The Sommer I have on loan from work, however, fits a much wider variety of horses.

    I’m glad I don’t have saddle fitting woes, although I guess I’m in a pretty good position to find a new one without a lot of hassle! 😉

  6. Until Stampede I floated along happily just finding saddles to fit me and getting a medium tree. I am certain all of those horses I was riding couldn’t possibly have been a good fit with what I was riding in but no way to really know. I think most horses can be ridden with a saddle that fits moderately well but some are just more sensitive or have a medical issue that causes saddle fit to be even more important. I just happen to have one of those horses with a medical issue that makes saddle fit extremely important. I will say that with the average horse that is okay with going in anything sometimes seeing them go in a well fitted saddle is eye opening.
    Otherwise saddle fit really interests me after my experience and I would love to become a certified saddle fitter someday even if just for my own education and for helping friends.

    • Once you become a saddle fitter, you need to come offer your wisdom to me! And great point-it could be less about the saddle being lucky and more about the fact that I’ve had generally agreeable or easy to fit horses in my recent history. I’m guessing teenage me didn’t know enough about saddle fit to notice it then.

  7. My pessoa fit several horses be it, pony, qh, or tb all decently with a sheepskin half pad. Except my mare. While it sat fine on her back, it pitched me forward. Which really sucked as she already tends to he downhill. My CWD has been on lots of the horses at the barn, and again none of them seemed bothered by the fit. I have had a much harder time trying dressage saddles on my mare, I think the way they fit requires a little more precision for the horse and rider to achieve the right position. But I’m budgeted and even switching to the CWD was a huge deal, at a very used price.

  8. My saddle is the same way. I’ve ridden countless horses in it (including over 100 miles) and have never had a problem. Best of all, it was a gift to me so it was free! I will never let it go!

  9. My very first saddle was a Collegiate Convertable Gullet SR Event that fits pretty much anything with a little help. My second saddle was a County Connection that had been custom fit to Atlas before I bought him. I used it for 6 years before I had a fitter look at it, when she went “OMG this doesn’t fit at all!!” Turns out taking a year off from doing dressage and being at a barn that wouldn’t feed your horse properly makes you lose top line like crazy. After that, I had to get a saddle that would fit his shark wither, and that was less of an ordeal than I thought when my instructor found a used Schleese.

    I bought my new County Fusion last year for Atlas with a MN tree and skid row panels (to create wither clearance). He passed away two months after I got it and I thought I’d have to sell it and get something different for my next horse, not knowing it would be Faith! She is a wide tree with hardly any withers, but honest to God that Fusion fits her BEAUTIFULLY. The short panels which gave Atlas’s withers clearance actually makes up for her chub and lack of withers. And my fitter, who I trust dearly, said it needs just a touch of flicking but otherwise fits perfectly. I could have cried, I was so happy!!! It has fit nearly every horse I have put it on, it’s a bit like Sisterhood of the Traveling pants to be honest!

  10. I have been pretty lucky. With my jump saddle I found one I loved, and basically made it fit my horse… I find that with shimmable pads, and wool flocking, you can get things to fit reasonably well… at least that has been my experience

  11. I’m cracking up about Elise’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants/Saddle comment. You are a blessed person. I have had many saddle woes. I have even noticed a difference in how I sit/ride based on how my pad is situated/shimmed or different pads. Like the Princess and the Pea. I broke up with my saddle and it’s currently on ebay. LOL! Here’s my “Dear John” letter to it. I now have a much better (for me) saddle.

    • I do remember at one point having this giant wool pad under my saddle for a bit, and it made me feel a bit “all over the place”. But honestly, this saddle just keep plugging along. I love your letter lol! Glad you found the perfect fit 🙂

  12. It might be a UK thing. Having a saddle fitted by a saddler over here is practically the law to the majority of horsey folk!

    But you sound like you’ve been lucky with your saddle! I’ve had Scottie over 2 years and already on saddle number 2 with us potentially needing a new one over the next year as the saddler didn’t like how it fits around his withers, although it was fitted by a master saddler and doesn’t appear to be causing him a problem. She just thinks she can find something what fits better.

    But a proper fitting saddler is so important. Especially for dressage/showing to show off your horses movement to their best. I would never ride in a saddle on my boy what hadn’t been fitted by a highly recommended saddler!

    • That is so fascinating!! Obviously when I bought the saddle (over 10 years ago) I did care that it fit the mare I was currently leasing. And that was important. But somehow it just continues to fit well, that is, until my current ride. In the future I’d love to keep this saddle, but understand that a future “keeper” horse for me might need a pro to fit them. Which I’m a-okay with. I also wonder if it’s due to having lesson saddle fitters available in my area? I can only think of one gentlemen who is even available to look.

      • Its probably a big culture thing. There’s a fair few saddle fitters around here so easy to get someone to look. But then I only like using master saddlers as they have more qualifications and will do a better job.

  13. I have the impression that the H/J world is less specific about saddle fit, and tends to get basic saddles that are made to fit with padding, but that is a purely anecdotal impression.

    For me, it comes down to the tree, and whether the shape of the tree is a match for the underlying structures of your horse’s back. I tried probably 10 dressage saddles before I found one that worked for us, and it has continued to work well with flocking adjustments over the years. I don’t remember it being terribly stressful, possibly because I had an all-purpose saddle that was working just fine in the interim, but it did take some time.

  14. Magic saddles certainly do exist! My bestie has one that has fit everyone right up to her current horse with no problems. He only objects because he’s a drama queen, and with some corrective padding he doesn’t have a problem.

    Sometimes I think that the more “technical” we try to get with our saddle fit the worse of a job people do. It’s certainly true for some horses I know! Maybe it’s because every horse is an individual and what works well for one isn’t going to suit the other, or someone’s riding style works well in one saddle but not in another. Regardless, it’s clearly made space for a very lucrative industry to emerge fitting, re-fitting, flocking, re-flocking, and shit-talking saddles and the work of other fitters!

  15. For as much as I’ve bitched about saddle fit, I basically keep using the same one. It has been a problem with fit bc my mare would become sore without the right shims or padding or tree size or whatever.

    One of my coaches tho points out that all of the big name eventers just use the same saddles on all of their horses. He doesn’t seem to care. I’m not as convinced that saddle fit is meaningless (obvi lol) but I’m also trying to avoid hyperventilating about it

  16. The two horses I’ve owned have been about as opposite in shape as you can get, so I knew a new saddle would be in my future with Miles. I shopped a bit, but it wasn’t that bad once I had the budget to get what I wanted. What’s hard is finding used when you don’t really know what you want or need.

  17. I had a decent older Kieffer that worked great for many horses for a long time. Then, it started causing some minor issues with the horse I was riding at the time, so I started learning more about saddle fit. It is a dark, dark rabbit hole to go down…there’s so much to learn and suddenly the world seems rife with ways a saddle can cause problems! But I did learn a few useful guidelines, like making sure the width between the panels is nice and wide (at least 3 fingers, preferably 4). Being also rather tall and leggy, it can be tough to find the right saddle to fit me AND the horse.

  18. I think Olivia may have a point, but I do also think it depends on the type of saddle. My first saddle was a pretty standard Steuben. It did have knee rolls (the only “extra”), and was I think a medium to medium-wide tree. It fit everything. It maybe needed a wither pad of some sort on some guys, but generally stayed out of the way. I only finally upgraded because I had some extra cash, and all the padding was gone, plus the tree had stretched over 20 some years and was definitely more of a wide. I think with the more utilitarian saddles (like the standard Steubbens) the fit is made to be pretty universal so that it’s pretty good on most horses. When you get into fancier saddles, they’re usually made to be more of a custom fit, which is where you can run into trouble. Especially with the fancy french saddles, they don’t really have any “off-the’rack” saddles. Each saddle is made from a diagram of a specific horse’s back, and therefore the saddle just won’t fit as many horses well.

    I do think saddle fit is really important, and I’ve seen the kind of difference a good saddle can make for both horses and riders, but I also think that it’s possible to find a happy medium that works well enough for a lot of horses.

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