Saddle Fitting - What am I missing?

Ambers Echo

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 October 2017
Messages
4,610
I want to understand a bit more about the art and science of saddle fitting.

I have just bought a new saddle on e-bay. It appears to fit perfectly but I am planning on getting a saddle fitter to come and check it. The trouble is I can't find a single one locally that someone else hasn't been negative about. And in the past, I have changed a saddle that seemed fine on the advice of a fitter and ended up with one that constantly slipped sideways. I knew it did not fit and got the fitter back out twice to re-check but the slipping was blamed on my bad riding. A different fitter then it said was awful and I had to swap it again. I am nervous about the same thing happening again.

I and others on my yard have had a number of different saddle fitters tell us that a saddle was fine when it clearly wasn't. Anytime people post asking for saddle fitter recommndations you get a dozen names and under each other people saying they were useless!

I have no idea how to evaluate whether the fitter is any good or not from what they say either. They don't seem to be looking at anything different to what I am looking at - length, width, balance, spine clearance, how it feels to ride in and how horse reacts to it. But clearly there is far more to it than that or anyone could assess whether a saddle fits.

So can someone with more knowlege direct me to articles or other info so that at least I know how to evaluate what the experts are telling me. And whteher there is any reliable way of choosing a fitter.

TIA.
 

meleeka

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 September 2001
Messages
4,856
Location
Hants, England
You must make sure they are master saddle fitters, they are bound by a strict set of guidelines. I'll PM you some details but as firms go locally, Village Saddlery or Crewe are the only people I will use
I agree it’s a good starting point, but I also had a shocking experience from a qualified Master Saddle Fitter (luckily no longer in business).
 

HufflyPuffly

Well-Known Member
Joined
24 October 2012
Messages
4,547
I have no idea how to evaluate whether the fitter is any good or not from what they say either. They don't seem to be looking at anything different to what I am looking at - length, width, balance, spine clearance, how it feels to ride in and how horse reacts to it. But clearly there is far more to it than that or anyone could assess whether a saddle fits....
.
To be honest I don't think there is much more than that, just sometimes it cant be tricky to get the saddle fully in balance and factoring in the horse will be a different shape on the move rather than stood still. Add in most horses aren't quite even, riders aren't quite straight and it can be hard to get everything to match up.

I've found that if I start off with a tree shape that is correct for the horse then the saddle will fit (providing seat length, width, gullets are all suitable for the horse), I learnt a lot trying to find the right saddle for Topaz, though can't remember which links/ videos there were sorry, but googling helped me back then!

I know you're not looking for saddle fitter suggestions, but my research led me to Steph at Freedom Saddlery, she is probably one of the highest qualified fitters in the country and not a million miles from you in North Wales.
 

Roxylola

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 March 2016
Messages
1,772
Yes this! The person who sold me the duff saddle was a Master Saddle Fitter too.
I hope yours and Meleekas were both reported. I understand its not a guarantee of quality, but it's a regulatory body at least - like you can get the odd crap farrier but if they are registered you can report and prevent further issues (hopefully)
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
4,204
Location
Kinross
https://drkerryridgway.com/product/saddle-fitting-from-a-to-z-dvd/

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Sufferin...ering+in+silence+saddle&qid=1591605912&sr=8-1

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Practica...keywords=saddle+fitting&qid=1591605936&sr=8-4

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Horses-P...keywords=saddle+fitting&qid=1591605959&sr=8-9

I have all of the above and have found them really helpful over the years. I can't believe the price of them these days!! I have new versions (bought duplicates in an Amazon haze at some point) of the top two that are heading for eBay so if they're of any interest/help to you just let me know.

It's really hard to explain saddle fitting as there is no one size fits all. For every saddle that *should* fit there's a horse who doesn't like it, for every saddle that shouldn't be near a horse's back there is one that goes well in it.

The basics are tree shape. Does it fit evenly along the back with no bridging or pressure points. Where are the points of the saddle and what is the angle at the pommel. How are the panels flocked, are they even, how much of the panel surface is in contact with the horse. Does the saddle move or rock. Does it lift at the back. Where is the central point of balance. Can the scapula move freely. How does the saddle fit statically and dynamically.

Then there is fitting the rider with seat size, width of twist, position of stirrup bar, length of saddle flat, position of knee rolls etc

Blinking minefield!

The ideal solution is to find a good fitter and be able to shadow them. Obviously not the solution here since there are no "good" fitters.

Poppy Webber is a saddle fitter and you'll find her on FB/Insta. She is doing a video series about saddles and I'm sure one includes how to check the fit. If you pop her name into a search bar I'm sure it'll come up otherwise you'll find her via PeeWee saddlery.
 

meleeka

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 September 2001
Messages
4,856
Location
Hants, England
I hope yours and Meleekas were both reported. I understand its not a guarantee of quality, but it's a regulatory body at least - like you can get the odd crap farrier but if they are registered you can report and prevent further issues (hopefully)
The trouble with reporting it is that it’s their opinion v yours and the decent saddler you then get. The one I had wasn’t keen to put anything in writing about the bad one so it was essentially my opinion against theirs. I didn’t use the saddle as even i could see it didn’t fit, so no evidence that their advice would cause harm. Luckily the saddler closed down and they disappeared shortly afterwards.
 

ihatework

Well-Known Member
Joined
7 September 2004
Messages
17,179
I’m afraid I’m not the best person to advise because I haven’t had a saddler fit a traditional saddle for me for a number of years now. Last time was a wow fitter because it’s a brand that does need specific knowledge.

I honestly just fit them myself and let the horse tell me. I generally fit on the wide side and pad to balance.
 

milliepops

Wears headscarf aggressively
Joined
26 July 2008
Messages
19,064
I’m afraid I’m not the best person to advise because I haven’t had a saddler fit a traditional saddle for me for a number of years now. Last time was a wow fitter because it’s a brand that does need specific knowledge.

I honestly just fit them myself and let the horse tell me. I generally fit on the wide side and pad to balance.
same
I was shown the principles by a friend who had a very good understanding and I practiced what I was looking and feeling for with the whole yard. I did also learn to fit my Wows :) I know one fitter locally who I would use for a tricky one, like you have found AE there are many who don't really seem up to standard.
 

Polos Mum

Well-Known Member
Joined
22 September 2012
Messages
4,863
Location
West Yorkshire
I feel your pain, I am on my third fitter for mine, the first two said as he is young and changing shape there was no point 'fitting' as he'd just change and to put up with slipping / being unbalanced until he'd finished growing and muscled up.
I had specifically said I wanted him to be comfortable and was happy to spend money to do that, even if that meant changing saddles regularly.
Final one promised me the saddle I bought wouldn't fit in 6 months time but it was the best option now - she almost wrote on the receipt - it won't fit soon, just to avoid a memory laps on my part and subsequent complaints!

When she came back to replace the (as promised) now not fitting one
I got so sceptical that the saddle she suggested would fit she took it completely apart (it needed a reflock anyway) and she put the bare tree on his back and talked me through why it would work.
I think you have to be well informed, ask lots of questions and if you don't like what you hear or you don't understand and they won't explain, politely say thanks very much and try someone else.
 

Pippity

Well-Known Member
Joined
3 February 2013
Messages
1,987
Location
Warrington
It's really dispiriting, I know! I've had one person strongly recommend a fitter and another say they wouldn't touch them with a bargepole. One who I hadn't heard a bad thing about insisted my saddle was fine, even though my horse was bucking when ridden and leaping sideways when I dismounted. I've pretty much given up and now just focus completely on what the horse is telling me.
 

Tiddlypom

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 July 2013
Messages
12,036
Location
In between the Midlands and the North
You must make sure they are master saddle fitters, they are bound by a strict set of guidelines. I'll PM you some details but as firms go locally, Village Saddlery or Crewe are the only people I will use
Plenty of folk would use neither of those :oops:.

ETA

I know you're not looking for saddle fitter suggestions, but my research led me to Steph at Freedom Saddlery, she is probably one of the highest qualified fitters in the country and not a million miles from you in North Wales.
Another vote for Steph. She doesn’t stock second hand saddles or take trade ins, but she really knows her stuff and will get you sorted as quickly as possible. She has demo saddles from a variety of manufacturers, she isn’t tied to one brand.
 
Last edited:

Michen

Well-Known Member
Joined
22 January 2014
Messages
5,308
It's a load of rubbish I reckon. My GFS monarch is now on it's 3rd connemara. All totally different shapes yet saddle deemed to have fitted them all... how is that possible!

So I am using saddlers to check, flock etc but in my mind I will rely on physio to tell me if a saddle fits.
 

JFTDWS

Wears headscarf humorously...
Joined
4 November 2010
Messages
20,919
Location
East Angular - ish
Don't look at me, I have a one saddle - all horses policy, which seemed less of an issue when it was just the highlands, you'd think the QH would throw a spanner in the works. Still fits her though, they're actually basically pretty similar shapes. When I did get my saddler out to make me another (so more than one person can ride at one time!), she agreed with me anyway.
 

Skib

Well-Known Member
Joined
6 March 2011
Messages
635
Location
London
This thread makes me wonder what riders expect from a saddle? In Western riding the saddle rests on two bars either side of the spine but it is laid over a rug and the rider needs to ride balance and if it does slip, know to re-centre it. My long term English partner was a narrow shouldered Connie and her saddle slipped easilly. It was a lesson to me to keep my weight central. And since she was a RS hack, I fear the many saddle rule did apply.
 

AFB

Well-Known Member
Joined
28 February 2017
Messages
1,235
I agree it’s a good starting point, but I also had a shocking experience from a qualified Master Saddle Fitter (luckily no longer in business).
Another that's been shafted by a Master Saddle Fitter here - unfortunately mine is still in business...

I hope yours and Meleekas were both reported. I understand its not a guarantee of quality, but it's a regulatory body at least - like you can get the odd crap farrier but if they are registered you can report and prevent further issues (hopefully)
Reported and completely ignored!
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
4,204
Location
Kinross
This thread makes me wonder what riders expect from a saddle? In Western riding the saddle rests on two bars either side of the spine but it is laid over a rug and the rider needs to ride balance and if it does slip, know to re-centre it. My long term English partner was a narrow shouldered Connie and her saddle slipped easilly. It was a lesson to me to keep my weight central. And since she was a RS hack, I fear the many saddle rule did apply.
Theres a lot more to western saddle fitting than that. If anything it's even more complicated than english due to the different rock, flare and angle on western trees despite all being, for example, FQH size. Unfortunately the fitting of western saddles seems to regularly fall into the "one size fits all" category.

Western saddles shouldn't slip and/or need rebalanced any more than a well fitting English should.

Sorry OP off topic
 

ester

Not slacking-multitasking
Joined
31 December 2008
Messages
52,839
Location
Cambridge
This is definitely a big issue for saddlers wherever you are there are love/hate people.

I did know one who everyone thought was good, and definitely was with the 'art' of fitting, but he was a nightmare to get hold of. Thankfully when I needed him he wasn't off doing more fun stuff on film sets.
 

cremedemonthe

Well-Known Member
Joined
9 March 2011
Messages
5,294
Location
Was Caterham on the Hill, Surrey now Wales
I as a saddler, wouldn't touch the society of master saddlers with a barge pole. Seen too many bad fittings, flockings and repairs by some of their members, there are also some really good ones , it's the bad ones who need sorting out and the society over the last 32 years I have been in the trade have failed to do this. There are also bad fitters and saddlers who are not registered with them, so swings and roundabouts, you are going to get good and bad in all trades.
OP I have sent you an article, it won't tell you how to fit saddles but should give you an insight in to what's going on or should be and why, when you have a saddle fitted. It's basic common sense in most cases and an article I wrote many years ago and I still standby it now, Oz
 
Last edited:

HufflyPuffly

Well-Known Member
Joined
24 October 2012
Messages
4,547
This is definitely a big issue for saddlers wherever you are there are love/hate people...
Definitely this, I think more people should educate themselves on the basics of saddle fit and be more prepared to stand up and say it's not right when being pushed by a professional. Knowing if a saddle fits or not is not a magical dark art, altering a saddle so it can fit might be though :p.

After going through 6 saddles in 6 months with Topaz, once we got one that fit from the tree up I've not needed to change it in 4/5 years now, I just adjust padding for any seasonal weight changes (it isn't flocked).

I also think that correct work into a horse makes saddle fit easier, now Topaz moves well, is balanced and correctly muscled her saddle continues to fit. Interestingly Skylla's saddle was checked at the weekend and although she has put on a lot of muscle and evened up a lot (long rehab type work over the past 12 months), because the work has kept her even and correctly muscled her saddle only needed a tiny bit of flocking adjustment to keep it balanced.
 

Ambers Echo

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 October 2017
Messages
4,610
This thread basically reflects my experiences IRL..... thanks for links I've been sent. I will read with interest. There is a saddler already coming to the yard on Thursdsy for 2 other people so I'll see what he thinks as a starting point. Hopefully with a bit more knowledge than I've got now when I've read what I've been sent.
 

HorsesRule2009

Well-Known Member
Joined
8 September 2009
Messages
396
I'm not sure about saddle fitters there's good and bad the same as other professions.
Also some horses are easier to fit than others.
A lot of the horses I ride are ridden in 1 saddle (what I'm most comfortable in) with a pad used on some and not on others.
There are 1 or 2 that we use a specific saddle on - very narrow or with a large wither.
None of them seem to have any issues.
My own boy has his own saddle and for all intents and purposes his saddle fits - he bucks if not happy - but it currently slips left as he is weaker on his near hind I make a conscious effort to make sure I have equal weight in each iron which helps keep the saddle central.
A different saddle is very likely to do the same?
I think what I'm trying to say is there's alot of reasons for a saddle to move - even when we'll fitting
 

HorsesRule2009

Well-Known Member
Joined
8 September 2009
Messages
396
I as a saddler, wouldn't touch the society of master saddlers with a barge pole. Seen too many bad fittings, flockings and repairs by some of their members, they are some really good ones , it's the bad ones who need sorting out and the society over the last 32 years I have been in the trade have failed to do this. There are also bad fitters and saddlers who are not registered with them, so swings and roundabouts, you are going to get good and bad in all trades.
OP I have sent you an article, it won't tell you how to fit saddles but should give you an insight in to what's going on or should be and why, when you have a saddle fitted. It's basic common sense in most cases and an article I wrote mmany years ago and I still standby it now, Oz
Of possible could you send me the article as well please.
Thank you
 

Auslander

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2010
Messages
10,702
Location
Berkshire
I use a fitter if I can see that a saddle needs reflocking, and I'm lucky to have found a really good one - but my go-to person is my vet! Admittedly, she is not your average vet - she's also a chiropractor, and she rides at advanced level dressage, but she is the person I trust to tell me if a saddle is right for the horse it sits on.
 

PapaverFollis

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2012
Messages
4,383
I've never owned a treed saddle before buying MrT's saddle with MrT. But it fits him so nicely we bought it. I will use the same saddler to check the fit when I can/when I need to but for now I just put it on him and checked the pressure down the front over the shoulder was even, that it wasn't bridging, that the seat was level and that there was good gullet clearance. I dont think I'd be confident checking if a completely new saddle fit but knowing this one was fitted those basic checks seemed enough. And he goes happily in it and it doesn't shift about.
 

Ambers Echo

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 October 2017
Messages
4,610
A lot of the horses I ride are ridden in 1 saddle (what I'm most comfortable in) with a pad used on some and not on others.
This is another thing that confuses me. I know 2 pros who use the same saddle on everything. They have a saddle they love and use it on a variety. Including the horses sent to them for schooling. I guess if they had a very odd shaped or very large/small horse they may need to find a different saddle but their 1 saddle is used on quite a few. If saddle fit it so tricky how can 1 size fit so many just with the odd adjustment in pads etc?
 

Pearlsasinger

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 February 2009
Messages
29,441
Location
W. Yorks
The most reliable opinion is that of your horse! Try the saddle on the horse, if it looks as if it fits, sit on it on the horse and take careful note of how the horse moves in it, at all paces and as many direction/movements as you can, first in the school and then up and down hill and finally over a small jump, up and down steps etc.
 

PapaverFollis

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2012
Messages
4,383
This is another thing that confuses me. I know 2 pros who use the same saddle on everything. They have a saddle they love and use it on a variety. Including the horses sent to them for schooling. I guess if they had a very odd shaped or very large/small horse they may need to find a different saddle but their 1 saddle is used on quite a few. If saddle fit it so tricky how can 1 size fit so many just with the odd adjustment in pads etc?
I was reading a series of novels about an American eventer and this struck me... yes it was fiction but it seemed pretty realistic other wise so I suspect there to be a good deal of truth in the idea that a person has a saddle they use on different horses. It would probably help if all your horses are roughly the same shape of course.
 
Top