Saddle fitting !

Bernster

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This could be a bit of a rant so I’ll try to put this in a more constructive way! Is saddle fitting a very subjective process? Are some saddlers better able to fit certain makes of saddle than other makes? Do I need to go on a saddle fitting course?!

Don’t want to have a bash at saddle fitters but this has happened 3 times now that a saddle that’s been sold by one saddler and which that fitter continues to adjust etc and says is fine, when another saddle fitter looks at it, it’s no longer the right saddle and I need a new one. Process continues and saddle is fitted and adjusted. Saddler 3 comes along and that saddle is no longer right and I need a new one. Bear in mind that these are all recommended and qualified fitters and these saddle reviews are generally no more than about 6 months apart, with no major issues or changes in the horse in the meantime. In some cases only 1-3 months between fittings, for various reasons. Using different saddlers has been due to reasons not connected with the specific saddler (yard location, lock down, availability).

I have a basic idea of saddle fit and I do keep any eye on fit, but I’m not qualified or very knowledgeable so I want to rely on a pro. But I’m finding this all a bit frustrating, not to mention expensive. I currently have 4 spare saddles! I really hope I’m not being a mug here 😱
 

holeymoley

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Yes I find anytime I have a saddle fitter out(next week :oops:) I should be prepared to part with some cash! There is ALWAYS something that needs amended and sometimes in the years I've found its an entirely different saddle that's needed... then you end up with a pile of saddles collecting dust! Don't get me wrong, yes they change shape and I'd expect flocking or the like to be needing tweaked but sometimes I do think it's an opportunity for a sale. I try and educate myself as well as I can to hopefully suss if I'm being 'led down the garden path'. I'm thinking that all mine needs done is a bit of flocking adjusting next week but we shall see...
 

Polos Mum

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I would be tempted to do a lot of reading / on line course or similar to arm yourself with some knowledge. The first Q should be how well the horse is going in it - my saddlers says sometime the saddle fit's perfectly / technically - but the horse doesn't like it (horses haven't done the fitting course!). I find the 'if it's not broke don't fix it' ethos a good way to save a bit of cash.
You can then challenge / ask questions of your saddler and be prepared to debate with them - rather than accepting what each one says as gospel.

I have a shed full of spare saddles, I had the saddler out to fit my unbroken youngster (so just putting them on not riding). One of the saddles I got out was in the hope she would take it to sell (nice K2). She looked over what i had (and those that she had bought) - tried a few then said the K2 would be best - I did not believe her given the shape of the horse it came off and the shape of the youngster. She cut it open (it needed a reflock anyway) and got out the tree - put that on him separately then talked me though why it fitted. Then I agreed to go ahead with it, once I saw what she saw.
A good saddler will be able to answer your questions and explain why you are wrong if you disagree.

If you've ever had a plumber or electrician round to your house - they do the same - each one comes in looks over the boiler and say "wow - who did this" then lists off the 27 faults that need fixing ! a year later the same conversation.
 

Rowreach

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Well unless they're truly independent they will be hawking their own wares, so to speak. Or like a certain saddle fitter in NI, will be putting every horse from Shetland pony to 17hh Warmblood in a close contact jumping saddle, because that's what he likes himself, and fitting them too narrow (I can spot a saddle he's sold from half a field away!).

A lot of fitters don't fit to the rider, just concentrate on the horse, and they don't really watch the rider riding - a decent fitter will know by looking how that saddle is likely to be fitting a few weeks down the line, and whether it will still be suitable. So it's perfectly possible that your saddle may not still work for you and or your horse after a matter of weeks, but if you are getting different fitters out each time (for whatever reason) then you are in that spiral of people wanting you to buy something they're selling.

Finding out a bit more about saddle fitting yourself is a good idea, and may prevent you being pushed into buying something new when adjusting one of your collection of existing saddles is the way to go ;):)
 

DirectorFury

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Is saddle fitting a very subjective process? Are some saddlers better able to fit certain makes of saddle than other makes? Do I need to go on a saddle fitting course?!
Yes, yes, and maybe :p.
https://www.instagram.com/saddlefitting.us/ - she posts lots of pictures of fitting saddles and explains the problems that she comes across etc, the explanations are usually really good and it's a great learning resource.

As Rowreach says fitting the saddle to the horse and not the rider seems to be the MO in the UK, unlike the USA where they fit to the rider not the horse, but a saddle that doesn't fit the rider can eventually make a horse sore anyway.
 

milliepops

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i think - yes it's a bit subjective (horse, rider and fitter may have different views on what fits, and some fitters have different methods to others), yes some will have brands they are more familiar with than others or ones they prefer, and yes you need to increase your knowledge because you're the one who sees the saddle on the horse every day ;)

Personally i think if you are a fairly observant person it's not that difficult to get a basic grasp of what fits and what doesn't, and then observation of the horse is pretty important going forward as that tells you quite a bit about how things are going in the short to longer term.
I have fitted my own saddles for years now because of multiple bad experiences, I don't want to be *that person* who says I never have an issue but tbh I haven't really, i have pretty straightforward horses which helps, but I know enough to feel assured that they are comfortable and then physios etc confirm that there are no sore sports going forward. I'm not suggesting you should do the same - I have had a lot of practice assessing saddles on other horses to get experience. but as a lay person you can do quite a bit yourself and see what you think looks right or wrong *for you*.
 

Rowreach

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i think - yes it's a bit subjective (horse, rider and fitter may have different views on what fits, and some fitters have different methods to others), yes some will have brands they are more familiar with than others or ones they prefer, and yes you need to increase your knowledge because you're the one who sees the saddle on the horse every day ;)
And I'd add to that, developing a feel for what the saddle/horse/you feel like when you are on board. So many people don't notice when change happens!
 

Annagain

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I think it's a bit subjective and there are probably a couple of solutions for each situation that both work but look quite different.

I also think generally, there are horses who change shape and horses who don't. In 15 years, other than having the flair pumped up, Archie had his saddle adjusted once - a year after I got him when he'd got a bit fitter and had developed more muscle. After that, he never really changed and never showed any signs of his saddle causing him any problems. In the same timeframe Monty has had his saddle adjusted about 7 or 8 times as he really changes shape depending on his level of work. He's never needed a new saddle though, just adjustment to the same saddle throughout. This is all with the same saddle fitter - with checks every 6 months for the first two years and then annually for Archie and every 6 month for Monty. Our saddler has always talked us through the basics of what he's looking to achieve, where the horses are likely to change shape and what to look for in terms of their saddles no longer being right.

I think you probably need to decide which saddle fitter you trust and whose style suits you and your horse best and stick with them to save you changing saddles frequently.
 

cremedemonthe

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I'll send you an article on having a saddle fitted and possibly what to expect. It's an article of a technique that was developed 32 years ago, it works and works very well, it helps people recognise what the saddler or saddle fitter is trying to achieve. It won't go in to precise saddle fitting just the basics, hope it helps, Oz
 

Bernster

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Fabulous replies, thank you, and very helpful food for thought. Many thanks Oz that sounds great.

I feel like I’m not being overly unfair or cynical to raise some doubts as a few on here clearly have some doubts too! I do find it disappointing that the only time I’m told a saddle doesn’t fit seems to be when I change saddlers who want to sell me ‘their’ saddle. I’ve booked a follow up soon, when I will be there in person to ask questions and probe. Wish me luck!
 

soloequestrian

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I've used Balance saddles for many years and they have always encouraged riders to get heavily involved in monitoring and tweaking as necessary - their system involves substantial padding so it's easy to tweak. There is also a lot of 'asking the horse' involved - as above, horses don't always go for the saddle that seems to be the best fit for them. I did do the full Balance saddling training but even before that I was confident to fit my own horses. The system doesn't require you to use their saddles either - I have one in a Heather Moffett but fitted using Balance principles. There seems to be a lot of reluctance among riders to take responsibility for this aspect of their horses management - it's often handed over wholesale to those seen as the experts but this doesn't happen with bits/bridles/nutrition which has always seemed a bit odd to me.
 

Kamikaze

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Haven’t read replies. But yes. I bought a saddle had it checked a couple of times and all good. New saddle fitter, decides saddle roughly fits in terms of tree, shape etc but needs totally reflocked in a neutral (?) way and that will be £100 plus the £70 to check it dosnt fit. Plus add a balance strap that I don’t think is needed. I have said no for now until I know what is happening with Robin and she wasn’t impressed.
 

fredflop

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Or how about the saddler that flogs you a saddle well over your budget, and highly unlikely it ever fitted the horse in the first place.

reckon they’d had it sat in the workshop for years, as it was too narrow to fit anything.

lost over £1000 due to them. Pm me if you want the name of the saddler
 

holeymoley

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Haven’t read replies. But yes. I bought a saddle had it checked a couple of times and all good. New saddle fitter, decides saddle roughly fits in terms of tree, shape etc but needs totally reflocked in a neutral (?) way and that will be £100 plus the £70 to check it dosnt fit. Plus add a balance strap that I don’t think is needed. I have said no for now until I know what is happening with Robin and she wasn’t impressed.
Would you mind PM ing me who that was? I have a saddle fitter coming out next week and I know we don’t have that many to choose from up here that get a good name!
 

Annagain

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I don't get why they go for the quick sale rather than being honest and building trust. It's such short termism. Mine does sell saddles but will work with your current saddle as much as possible - when I got Charlie, he adjusted Archie's saddle to fit Charlie. He could have told me it wouldn't fit him, sold me a new one, taken A's as part ex and then sold that on at a profit too so the fact he didn't is why I have faith in him.

Years ago, I also asked him to assess the fit of a dressage saddle I had bought from a friend for Monty. He told me it fitted Monty perfectly and needed nothing doing to it but I might find the seat too small for me. He had the same saddle 1/2 an inch bigger if I wanted to trade mine in but it would cost me an extra £100. I said I'd try the one I had as I only got the saddle as it was complete bargain and wasn't that bothered whether I had it or not. He was totally fine with that and didn't try the hard sell at all. After a month of trying, I realised he was right but the saddle he had was gone so I just went back to my GP and sold the dressage saddle to a friend.

It all pays off for him in the end as I've used him for about 20 years (despite him being a bit grumpy sometimes!) and so have all my horsey friends, he has a really solid customer base. He's semi-retired now so doesn't take on any new customers, but has enough long-standing clients to keep ticking over.
 

Bernster

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Urgh. It shouldn’t be this hard though should it?! I‘m thinking of getting the saddler who sold me my current saddles back. It feels a bit like forum shopping - don’t like the opinion so get another one that you do like - but I like the saddles, they seem to fit (with the standard adjustments you’d expect as the flocking settles) and the horses are going well in them. They’re also not well known brands (nick colman) so am wondering if saddler 3 just isn’t as used to fitting this saddle 🤷‍♀️
 

Pearlsasinger

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I've used Balance saddles for many years and they have always encouraged riders to get heavily involved in monitoring and tweaking as necessary - their system involves substantial padding so it's easy to tweak. There is also a lot of 'asking the horse' involved - as above, horses don't always go for the saddle that seems to be the best fit for them. I did do the full Balance saddling training but even before that I was confident to fit my own horses. The system doesn't require you to use their saddles either - I have one in a Heather Moffett but fitted using Balance principles. There seems to be a lot of reluctance among riders to take responsibility for this aspect of their horses management - it's often handed over wholesale to those seen as the experts but this doesn't happen with bits/bridles/nutrition which has always seemed a bit odd to me.


I love this post and wholeheartedly agree. Saddle-fitting is not a black art that requires some magical skill that only comes after a week's 'training' and, while I do not wish to denigrate the skills of a few expert fitters who are happy to share their knowledge on here, IME the real expert is the horse. I have no experience of Balance saddles and in fact after much research and many years of using conventional treed saddles, we (sis and I) have now become converts to Solution saddles.
However prior to that my Westphalian mare had 4 different saddles in 5 years, she changed shape frequently and each time told me when her saddle needed to be changed. Fortunately we have plenty of saddles stored away, so she had a wide choice. Each time she had the final say.
I had a master saddler to check the IDx's saddle because I noticed that the flocking had become lumpy. MS told me that many owners would not have noticed that issue. She also told me that owners don't always want to ride their horse so that she can assess the fit of saddles, which to me is just bizarre.
 

AandK

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Urgh. It shouldn’t be this hard though should it?! I‘m thinking of getting the saddler who sold me my current saddles back. It feels a bit like forum shopping - don’t like the opinion so get another one that you do like - but I like the saddles, they seem to fit (with the standard adjustments you’d expect as the flocking settles) and the horses are going well in them. They’re also not well known brands (nick colman) so am wondering if saddler 3 just isn’t as used to fitting this saddle 🤷‍♀️
Any reason why you did not get that saddler back out this time if the current saddles seem to fit and horse goes well?
 

Pinkvboots

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This could be a bit of a rant so I’ll try to put this in a more constructive way! Is saddle fitting a very subjective process? Are some saddlers better able to fit certain makes of saddle than other makes? Do I need to go on a saddle fitting course?!

Don’t want to have a bash at saddle fitters but this has happened 3 times now that a saddle that’s been sold by one saddler and which that fitter continues to adjust etc and says is fine, when another saddle fitter looks at it, it’s no longer the right saddle and I need a new one. Process continues and saddle is fitted and adjusted. Saddler 3 comes along and that saddle is no longer right and I need a new one. Bear in mind that these are all recommended and qualified fitters and these saddle reviews are generally no more than about 6 months apart, with no major issues or changes in the horse in the meantime. In some cases only 1-3 months between fittings, for various reasons. Using different saddlers has been due to reasons not connected with the specific saddler (yard location, lock down, availability).

I have a basic idea of saddle fit and I do keep any eye on fit, but I’m not qualified or very knowledgeable so I want to rely on a pro. But I’m finding this all a bit frustrating, not to mention expensive. I currently have 4 spare saddles! I really hope I’m not being a mug here 😱
I think you are not far from me I am in Hertfordshire I don't know who your using but I use Matt Crippen and find him really good, and my horses are not easy both are very wide and are very different but he gets it and I am always happy with what he has done and his not expensive, I give you his number if you wanted or he has a website.

I use Lavinia Mitchell saddles and they are similar to balance but Matt still fits them perfectly I haven't used a LM fitter for years
 

Bernster

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Hah, well there’s a lesson for me! Partly an odd/not really good reason connected to the old yard which I won’t go into, and partly as the dressage had dropped slightly so I felt it needed a slight adjustment, and another well regarded saddler was already booked at the new yard, so I could get it seen quickly.
 

criso

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I use Lavinia Mitchell saddles and they are similar to balance but Matt still fits them perfectly I haven't used a LM fitter for years
That's interesting to know. So he appreciates the whole underlying principle of fitting wider and using pads?

I'm overdue a visit from an LM fitter, it was Lavinia herself but since she retired there was no one officially covering Herts. I'm waiting for the current person to do an overnight in the area but hasn't because of Covid. I was afraid to book a traditional fitter as I thought they would take one look and say too wide.

Other than that LM and Balance are a good system in that you have lots of options to tweak and adjust as your horse changes but it does push back responsibility to monitor and adjust onto the owner which not everyone would like.

Sorry to jump on Bernster
 

Bernster

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Not at all criso. It’s an interesting point as the nick colman’s I think seem to be a wider fit and can be padded up, or at least that‘smwhat saddler 2 has done. We now just have a small shim on the left front as he’s filled out In this saddle. Same for new horse, padded up in the interim as she is likely to change shape a lot. Partly why I should have waited and booked that saddler again, but am in contact and sorting out a visit now.
 

Pinkvboots

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That's interesting to know. So he appreciates the whole underlying principle of fitting wider and using pads?

I'm overdue a visit from an LM fitter, it was Lavinia herself but since she retired there was no one officially covering Herts. I'm waiting for the current person to do an overnight in the area but hasn't because of Covid. I was afraid to book a traditional fitter as I thought they would take one look and say too wide.

Other than that LM and Balance are a good system in that you have lots of options to tweak and adjust as your horse changes but it does push back responsibility to monitor and adjust onto the owner which not everyone would like.

Sorry to jump on Bernster
I think he can see one of my horses has had muscle wastage so needs slight shims now, he just looks at it without shims then I show him with the shim numnah and he will say if it's fine or not, I have a good idea of Lavinia's concept anyway but it's good that he has an understanding of it he obviously flocks my saddles as well, my other horse is different as he does have a regular saddle but I do use an LM one on him as well at times.
 

sbloom

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I could write a ton of stuff here, suffice to say for some of it read my posts on here :cool::D

I have a saddle fitter who simply fits saddles, the one (s) you have. He doesn’t sell any, so you get a true fitting, with no ulterior motive that may possibly be underlying their reasoning. 🤔
I know one that is brilliant and one who seems loathe to say a saddle is wrong, and causes more issues. But because this person doesn't sell new saddles it's assumed that the advice and service is infallible.

I don't get why they go for the quick sale rather than being honest and building trust. It's such short termism. Mine does sell saddles but will work with your current saddle as much as possible - when I got Charlie, he adjusted Archie's saddle to fit Charlie. He could have told me it wouldn't fit him, sold me a new one, taken A's as part ex and then sold that on at a profit too so the fact he didn't is why I have faith in him.
Many of us are honest and build trust. And even then you get criticised! I have had people say they just want a new saddle, and move on to someone who won't tell them what's going on (horse not right as a good example).

Despite appearances there isn't a standardised way to fit a saddle. Even if you think the SMS way is standardised, there is also the MSFC and Saddle Fit 4 Life which could be argued to be just as accepted qualifications.

I had a long conversation with a bodyworker yesterday. He said he doesn't envy me my job at all, thinks it's the toughest in the game, and I have had a big name vet-bodyworker say the very same. He was explaining how he started in one modality but over the years has added all sorts of things and changed the way he works, so he'd treat nothing like someone else who qualified with him. McTimoney chiros aren't even the same when they qualify as their tutors influence what and how they learn, not a bad thing in itself, the inevitable outcome of us all being human. The difference is that you have invested hundreds or even thousands of pounds in that fitter, in their way of thinking and working with you and your horse. When you change bodyworker you have little to lose.

I fit very differently to how I did 12 years ago, though I still have some of the same ways of doing things. I have learned from other fitters, but mostly from the horse and the rider, from reading widely on all aspects of saddle fitting but also horse care, and some formal cpd. I am very intimate with the small range of saddles that I fit, and frankly, understanding the tree shape from a made up saddle is interpretation, you can't be sure, so I'd rather stick with trees I know and like, and very seldom adjust other saddles for that reason. Stocking 10 brands, with the trees that entails, is beyond me. And I'm not stupid.

I have many top SMS fitters refer their wide, tricky fits to me, I have others who completely trash what I do. As an example a horse that I fitted a 16.5 GP to, the rider didn't need a larger seat but she did need leg room, and wanted to do a little jumping in the future. The saddle started slipping after a few weeks, on a very remedial fit where the horse was going to change shape. They decided they couldn't wait for me to go out and had someone out who could come out in two days (why was this fitter not busier?!) who said it was slipping because it was a GP. So they fitted a 17 VSD. I fit my saddles well back, and it was a super short footprint, so I cannot believe that this new saddle took up any less space and was even less on the shoulder than "my" saddle. But there is an accepted wisdom out there that if a horse has big shoulders, especially if the're uneven, that forward flaps aren't possible. I proved it was when I fitted it, and I am quite sure if, given the chance, I could have fixed it using MY paradigm.

Surgery is scientific yes? Yet we go for second opinions all the time.

If you get on with your saddle fitter and they're doing a good job don't leave them because they're a bit more expensive, don't leave them because they take a little while to get out to you (book regular saddle fittings, with enough notice you could even cancel them if things are going well, but don't mess the fitter around!) and don't have someone else's fitter "just have a look" because they're on the yard unless you deliberately want a second opinion which is likely to be different to the person you've been using. And don't leave them if you think they've made one mistake - talk to them, let them explain, let them solve the issue, and be prepared that horses and riders are movable feasts, and they might just not have made any mistake at all.

I have had people literally say to me "I should have had you out again to begin with shouldn't I?!" when I go and fix problems after not seeing them for ages, that happens a lot. And sometimes more than once with the same customer!
 

Melody Grey

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I have a saddle fitter who simply fits saddles, the one (s) you have. He doesn’t sell any, so you get a true fitting, with no ulterior motive that may possibly be underlying their reasoning. 🤔
Me too! My fitter does sell saddles but certainly not in a pushy way. She works with what we have unless there’s an obvious mismatch. She treats a fitting as just that and not an opportunity to sell as I’ve seen so many others do.
 
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