Having my own debilitating saddle fit issues as I brought horses up the levels and not finding I have dedicated years to finding and analyzing how saddle fit affects a horse’s disposition and willingness to work has led to important discoveries about horses and saddles.
1) Horses change! Either because of the natural growth process or the training program your horse is in (or not) affects the shoulder angle, confirmation of the saddle fit area and changes in the topline. Saddles will always need to be adjusted as the horse changes, especially in the tree width and angle, the even distribution of the horizontal panels which can ultimately affect the balance of the saddle for horse and rider. Horses are often not symmetrical and it takes a clear understanding on how to keep a saddle centered on the back of your horse.
2) If your goal is for your horse to have a comfortable, relaxing, supple ride with a desire to go forward and willingness to engage their backs then proper saddle fit is a must. It is unfair of us to expect a horse to use itself with maximum efficiency and expression of movement if our saddle is blocking and hindering the very thing that we desire (in other words conflicting the aids!).
3) If your desire is to have your horse be light and responsive to your weight and leg aids, you as a rider must be in the optimum position and balance to allow yourself to give your aids correctly and a saddle that allows your horse to respond with no tension.
This is describing my pursuit in a brief way but two very important aspects I have found seem to have the most priority. Correct measurement and tracking of the changes in your horse, routine maintenance and evaluation of the fit of your saddle, qualified trained professional who understands what correct saddle fit is, coupled with and understanding of the interaction between horse and rider while in motion.
If one understands the relationship of tree width and angle to a horse’s shoulder angle you realize how important it is to have a saddle that can be customized in the gullet plate to continually keep the width and angle of the tree matching the horse’s shoulder angle. This can be the number one issue of saddlefit (there are others) that takes away the horse’s desire to move forward and express themselves with full range of motion because it blocks the movement of the shoulder. Flocking alone can not change the width/angle of a tree, it may make the rider feel more in balance but can make it even more uncomfortable for the horse.
This discover has led me to have an opinion as to which saddles available are the most responsive to these issues and have the options in the design that allows the saddle to be adapted to the ever changing horse or even if you want to use your beloved saddle on a different horse.
There are a multitude of choices on the market, all proclaiming that they are the greatest, most technical and advanced product on the market and unless you have done years of research you wouldn’t know if their claims are true or not.
The only one that knows for sure is your horse! Most horses are letting us know in one way or another that they are unhappy about their saddle. It is important to find a trained professional saddle fitter who understands how poor saddle fit can affect your horse, chooses a saddle that has the adaptability to accommodate the changes in a horse and most of all one who can listen to what your horse is saying.
After experiencing first hand the negative affect of poor saddle fit on my horses and getting an education what it truly is that allows a horse to be ridden in comfort I’ve made it my mission to help trainers, riders and horse owners avoid the mistakes I made. My other goal is to help them to protect their horses and allow their horses to be ridden in relaxation, resulting in greater harmony between horse and rider.