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Saddle fitting course/moan about fitters

Hazkirbo

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Joined
5 November 2017
Messages
171
Location
York
Moany bit: Sick to my back teeth with saddlefitters. I never have any luck with them, had 3 different people out and they’re all corrupt IMO.

Now got problems with my current saddle, which is a whole other issue. Got SMS involved (who have been so helpful, so maybe there is hope!!), however someone on my yard seems to have had a bad experience with the one that SMS have approved me to use for said case against current saddle.

For every saddlefitter I read 2 positive things about, there seems to be 1 negative opinion of them also. Given my previous experiences with saddlefitters, I’m incredibly weary of them. Hope I’m not the only one that feels this way!!

Questiony bit: Because of all this I’d be really interested in doing a short saddle fitting course. I know basics, but would really like to feel confident in what I’m doing, and only have to get a saddler out when my saddle needs reflocking. SMS courses aren’t much use as you need to be working in the industry, and I am merely just an owner. Anyone know where to turn?
 

BlackRider

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Joined
26 September 2011
Messages
3,084
I've had issues with saddle fitters over the years, and had people tell me a saddle fitted when it didn't.

In the end I bought a FLIR1 thermal imaging attachment, took pics of my horses back before and after riding to check for hotspots, which showed as I'd suspected the saddle wasn't right.

I'd also used a port lewis impression pad in the past - when I had my doubts, which again showed an issue.
 

FFAQ

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Joined
17 June 2015
Messages
352
I'm beginning to wonder if saddle fitting might be one of the hardest equestrian professions. I've never met a single horse owner that hasn't mentioned their mistrust of saddle fitters and the can't ALL be bad, surely? Thinking about it, there are so many variables when it comes to saddle fitting, and a lot of them are affected by each other- the rider and their straightness, the horse's back health and straightness, hoof balance, discipline, numnahs, even tooth balance. I'm sure there are loads more that I haven't thought of too. It seems to me that the gold standard ought to be for saddle fitter, body worker, trainer, dentist and hoof professional all to be involved and communicating with each other to discuss how best to help the horse. Sadly, that option is often too costly for the owner, or the professionals don't think about collaboration!
 

canteron

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Joined
15 October 2008
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2,860
Location
Cloud Cockoo Land
No BUT I have just had a saddle made for my horse as he is difficult to fit. I took the view that while hideously expensive, having multiple try’s with different saddles is even more expensive and additionally damaging to the horse. ( I hope to keep this horse forever).
Anyway, the saddle maker made sure the tree fitted the horse before deciding on what I needed from the saddle - she will come back every 6 months and check and if I think the horse has changed shape being able to check the tree shape is very reassuring - and now I know the tree shape I can try and buy a second hand one for another discipline.
 

Hazkirbo

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 November 2017
Messages
171
Location
York
I'm beginning to wonder if saddle fitting might be one of the hardest equestrian professions. I've never met a single horse owner that hasn't mentioned their mistrust of saddle fitters and the can't ALL be bad, surely? Thinking about it, there are so many variables when it comes to saddle fitting, and a lot of them are affected by each other- the rider and their straightness, the horse's back health and straightness, hoof balance, discipline, numnahs, even tooth balance. I'm sure there are loads more that I haven't thought of too. It seems to me that the gold standard ought to be for saddle fitter, body worker, trainer, dentist and hoof professional all to be involved and communicating with each other to discuss how best to help the horse. Sadly, that option is often too costly for the owner, or the professionals don't think about collaboration!
I’ve never had a bad fitting experience necessarily, but had one saddler that was naff at contact and I got fed up of never hearing back from her. Second saddler advised of the saddle I needed, but wouldn’t take my old one in PX so said I couldn’t purchase outright. Asked if I could get from a different company and she’d still fit, she said yes then changed her mind when I’d bought it!

I used the company I purchased from to fit the saddle, but decided against using them as they were out of area for me and would’ve charged £80. Got another fitter who says my new saddle is faulty, but now won’t testify for me or write up a full report. Very fishy or bent if you ask me. Got in touch with SMS (hence the whole approval thing) who have advised a master fitter who will go out. I was updating someone on my yard of the whole situation and said they had an awful experience with said master saddler!

After this experience I’d rather just take a few days course and trust myself.
 

Hazkirbo

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Joined
5 November 2017
Messages
171
Location
York
No BUT I have just had a saddle made for my horse as he is difficult to fit. I took the view that while hideously expensive, having multiple try’s with different saddles is even more expensive and additionally damaging to the horse. ( I hope to keep this horse forever).
Anyway, the saddle maker made sure the tree fitted the horse before deciding on what I needed from the saddle - she will come back every 6 months and check and if I think the horse has changed shape being able to check the tree shape is very reassuring - and now I know the tree shape I can try and buy a second hand one for another discipline.
I did originally have a custom-made saddle, but my horse changes shape too often and needed a changeable gullet.
 

ElleSkywalker

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Joined
9 March 2011
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9,119
Location
Tiny farm some where in UK
There are some books written about saddle fitting that in lieu of going on the actual course could be useful? Kay Humphreys and Ken Lyndon have written a couple. They should give you a rough guide of what you are looking for. Also floating about on you tube I think is a clip from Andre Bubear showing the basics of saddle fitting.

In slight defence of QSF and in no way directed at the OP but a lot of complaints I hear are due to the owners not following advice. Many times I've heard things such a a 'I had it specially made two years ago and it doesn't fit' as mentioned above a good fitter will want to see it a few months after fitting then 6 monthly, which as we know doesn't always happen, so I'd take any complaints with a pinch of salt.

Also it is very possible for a horse or person to change shape entirely in 6 months, think trying to get in summer jeans in mid winter, or after you've hit the gym for 6 months and have muscles you didn't before. I've had it my self with a brand new saddle fitted after a period of bringing horse back into work. Checked few weeks later than 6 monthsater and it no longer fitted. Annoying yes but the fitter doesn't have pre cognition and didn't know how much work we would do or how the horse would change and could only fit the saddle to the horse and rider combination they had before then.
 

soloequestrian

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Joined
14 January 2009
Messages
2,341
I've used Balance saddles for years and did their TRF training a while ago. The organisation has a very horse-focussed approach, basically you ask the horse if it likes the saddle and then check it's okay for the rider. They try to give a lot of responsibility for 'fit' to the riders - the system is very flexible in terms of shimming saddles according to any changes in the horse's shape. Perhaps have a look at them - https://www.balanceinternational.com/. There isn't any pressure to use their saddles either - at the moment I'm using their system with a Heather Moffett saddle for one horse because she's a tricky shape.
 

oldie48

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Joined
15 April 2013
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5,283
Location
South Worcestershire
I've used the same saddler for 20 years (master saddler) and the only time I've had a problem is when the horse has changed shape These days I don't have a regular 6 monthly check but look at the saddle on the horses back without a pad and just do some basic checks. I'll have a look at the Andre Bubear vid as I am always keen to improve my knowledge. I think I've been quite lucky though as most of our horses have been pretty straightforward to fit.
 

Red-1

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Joined
7 February 2013
Messages
9,347
Location
Yorkshire
I am not a saddler but know the basics and my horse tells me if the saddle is not to her approval. I have had 5 saddles in 2 years for her, not that I got it 'wrong' all the time, it is that she was still 4 when she came and she has changed a lot!

I am hoping that this is it now (she is almost 7!).

When I was still teaching, I saw a number of 'problem' horses who had had their saddles 'checked' by qualified saddlers. Blasted circumstances had injured riders, hurt horses and led to many confidence issues.

If the saddle is not OK, it is often easy to see. After a 'saddle check' I rarely see a saddle touching the others, but often see saddles that are too tight at the front, that bridge, that are too curved for the horse and rock and that are too long. These are all things that an educated owner could ave identified with the help of a Youtube video!

I used to have a Port Lewis pad, but sold it because my eye and the horse could tell me what was acceptable and what was not. The horse is the best guide.

I once took part in a Saddle Research Trust research day. It was with the pliance system but I could tell then immediately if a saddle would have high pressure points just by the demeanour of the horse.

Trust the horse. Many people think horses are 'naughty' but in my experience horses just do what they find easiest to do.
 
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pansymouse

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11 May 2012
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2,502
Location
Amesbury, Wiltshire
I use Kay Humphreys and have learnt a huge amount about fitting and saddle construction from her. I've had quite a few other fitters out before I found Kay and have to say there's some very ill informed to frankly useless people out there marketing themselves as saddle fitters. SMS fitting qualification is by no means an indication of quality or competence.
 

Leo Walker

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19 July 2013
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11,953
Location
Northampton
I use Kay Humphreys and have learnt a huge amount about fitting and saddle construction from her. I've had quite a few other fitters out before I found Kay and have to say there's some very ill informed to frankly useless people out there marketing themselves as saddle fitters. SMS fitting qualification is by no means an indication of quality or competence.
Kay is a good fitter, but I've had issues with her which could potentially have caused me a lot of money. Another friend has had much bigger issues with the saddle never actually fitting at all.

So its a minefield. The only person I'd have been happy to recommend doesn't do it anymore. I am heartily glad that mine drives and doesn't need a saddle!
 

Kaylum

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Joined
29 May 2010
Messages
4,074
My friend had this problem. I see your in York OP, she is also in the Yorkshire area and has had so many problems. Had one custom made, within the first week she knew it was wrong for the horse. They said it wasnt, her physio had a look at it and said its totally the wrong type for the horse. She got her money back luckily.

Next one (who had a waiting list) came out. Sold her a saddle again horse unhappy.

Next one came out tried to sell her a different saddle, but it wasnt right.

Another saddle fitter and her and her horse are happy and has been back for reflocking.

What I am saying is trust your horse. Never be pressured into anything and custom made is not always best. Make sure you are aware of their terms and conditions. She has had major problems with his bad and even got him xrayed for kissing spines as this can be caused by a badly fitting saddle. We all know a horse can change shape but these saddles didnt fit from day one.

Very expensive lesson learnt from all of this. Trust your horse.
 

flying_high

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Joined
5 February 2016
Messages
777
No BUT I have just had a saddle made for my horse as he is difficult to fit. I took the view that while hideously expensive, having multiple try’s with different saddles is even more expensive and additionally damaging to the horse. ( I hope to keep this horse forever).
Anyway, the saddle maker made sure the tree fitted the horse before deciding on what I needed from the saddle - she will come back every 6 months and check and if I think the horse has changed shape being able to check the tree shape is very reassuring - and now I know the tree shape I can try and buy a second hand one for another discipline.
I am confused by the above. Now you know what tree size and shape your horse is you can buy secondhand for other disciplines? If your horse can fit standard off the peg saddles, then doesn't that mean there wasn't a need for the original saddle to be made to measure?
 

Widgeon

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Joined
30 January 2017
Messages
610
Location
N Yorks
When I was looking for a saddle last summer (York area) I found it incredibly hard to find anyone who would fit and / or sell anything other than a brand new saddle of a specific make, whereas what I really needed was someone who would bring a van full of different makes, including some second hand ones, and fit the one that best suited the horse. It was a nightmare. Perhaps next time I should just give up on riding and take up driving!
 

canteron

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15 October 2008
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Cloud Cockoo Land
Ok, so I have had made a dressage saddle made on a specific tree in a specific width, etc. I would also like a gp saddle - but can’t afford another bespoke saddle. BUT every saddle from this saddle maker has a ID number, so if one comes up I can check with them as to suitability and buy second hand knowing it should be fine subject to condition and a bit of flocking!!
This takes a lot of the lottery of buying second hand?
Hope that is clearer.
 

Kaylum

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29 May 2010
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4,074
OP have you tried Patrick Wilkinson. He is the best we have found, honest and wont sell you something that doesnt fit.
 

sbloom

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14 September 2011
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4,100
Location
Suffolk
I had mixed but limited saddle fitting experiences before becoming a fitter and had no idea they had such a bad rap. When I was training, and in the first few years, I found I was regularly inwardly rolling my eyes at saddle fits, at some other fitters, and thought I'd save the world (iykwim). Well, it's more complicated than that, as others have said. I've now been a fitter for 11 years and am still learning as we all should be. There are many models of how to fit a saddle; even within companies such as the one I fit for we have individual preferences as to how we fit, which models we prefer, how we'd fit a given horse. We fit wider and flatter in the rails than most fitters because that's what we believe is right for the horse and for its back.

It's a really complicated area but I will say it takes a team to produce a happy comfortable horse - work WITH your fitter, don't expect a perfect fit forever, or even all the time. Horses change in unexpected ways, and some DO need another saddle . If your fitter has tried to keep your current saddle working (to help your finances) then don't get snippy if it ends up doing harm, it's a fine art and sometimes it's not possible to 100% predict what will happen. However if you're told you need a new saddle, or more regular checks, or to use a certain type of pad or girth, then listen, and do it, but if you don't want to , discuss with your fitter.

I would encourage all of you to have your fitter and back person work together as a team, it's expensive to have both out at once, and sometimes the logistics on times and dates is a killer, but it's often worth it when you hit a problem. And if you've been happy with your fitter for 1, 2 or more years, then have they really done something wrong or is there just a minor glitch in the road that needs solving?

We're all human, we all (mostly) are in this for the good of the horse, and are passionate about what we do, but equally we have to earn a living and can't just switch saddles out, lose money, hand over fist because horses have changed shape, or you didn't go back to the fitter within a reasonable period of time to ask for their help in fixing a problem.
 
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ponynutz

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16 December 2018
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64
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England
Ask your local riding school or someone who previously worked at one - they have to meet certain standards so are normally qualified and non-corrupt. I asked my riding instructor who used to work at the local riding-school.
 

Ouch05

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Joined
4 October 2012
Messages
116
I am lucky I have an excellent saddler who actually called me today to say me saddle was ready (went away with her to be reflocked) she will check it watch me ride and check again. I have purchased two saddlers from her one second hand one new (over the years) and the other two saddlers I have she checks for me they were purchased years ago before I moved to this area by my previous saddler who again was excellent.

I the pony has physio every 6 weeks as he is a very tense TB the physio tells me if she notices certain areas are sore that is when I call her for a saddle check.
 

Orangehorse

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25 November 2005
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10,435
Kay Humphries is really hard to get hold of and I'm not sure she travels much now. I bought a saddler from a lady who had done her saddle fitting course and it has been fine, and as she has moved a long way away it has been checked by a couple of other fitters over the years and been Ok and I;m still using it. There was a bit of an issue about 4 years ago as the horse is aging it seemed to be sitting a bit low, but a prolite pad has lifted up a bit and it is fine now. The physio always says back is fine. The last saddle fitter I had I can't remember her name but she used to be a Balance saddle fitter and now is independent and supplies and fits her own, which are normal treed saddles.
 

pansymouse

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11 May 2012
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Amesbury, Wiltshire
Kay Humphries is really hard to get hold of and I'm not sure she travels much now. I bought a saddler from a lady who had done her saddle fitting course and it has been fine, and as she has moved a long way away it has been checked by a couple of other fitters over the years and been Ok and I;m still using it. There was a bit of an issue about 4 years ago as the horse is aging it seemed to be sitting a bit low, but a prolite pad has lifted up a bit and it is fine now. The physio always says back is fine. The last saddle fitter I had I can't remember her name but she used to be a Balance saddle fitter and now is independent and supplies and fits her own, which are normal treed saddles.
Kay is in the office on Wednesdays - it's the only day you will get hold of her. She does still fit but may not be at the moment due to the virus.
 

Xanthoria

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16 November 2006
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158
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San Francisco, CA
I'd hate to be a saddle fitter - the horse's back can be affected by so much other than the saddle (the rider, the horse's feet, other injuries etc) but the saddle gets blamed pretty often.

Years ago I got a Port Lewis pad. The owner of Reactor Panel in the US had been out to fit my horse and showed me how to do it, and it's been a godsend. I check the spine and wither clearance, the curvature of the back, the symmetry of the saddle itself, the fit at the shoulders, and test the horse's back for soreness. Then put the Port Lewis on and voila - my findings are proved. I can take a photo of the pad results to send to the fitter too.

I've had the Port Lewis forever and it's starting to fall apart, but it's helped reinforce my findings and I've loaned it to people to help them too.
 

sbloom

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14 September 2011
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4,100
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Suffolk
I'd hate to be a saddle fitter - the horse's back can be affected by so much other than the saddle (the rider, the horse's feet, other injuries etc) but the saddle gets blamed pretty often.

Years ago I got a Port Lewis pad. The owner of Reactor Panel in the US had been out to fit my horse and showed me how to do it, and it's been a godsend. I check the spine and wither clearance, the curvature of the back, the symmetry of the saddle itself, the fit at the shoulders, and test the horse's back for soreness. Then put the Port Lewis on and voila - my findings are proved. I can take a photo of the pad results to send to the fitter too.

I've had the Port Lewis forever and it's starting to fall apart, but it's helped reinforce my findings and I've loaned it to people to help them too.
I think the PL is more useful for RP than others because of the wide flat panels, I find that under traditional saddles (and I used to fit RP) they change the fit of the saddle, tipping it back and/or making it perch and roll. Appreciate your comments about the reality of being a saddle fitter! On the OP's original point, as there are many many different paradigms in saddle fitting an owner's fitting course can cause more issues unless you find a fitter you're happy with who follows the basics you'll be taught. I fit slightly differently to the standard SMS approach and we all know that even SMS qualified fitters have different opinions on things!
 
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