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Does My Saddle Fit?

  07/19/2019 at 18:26 pm

Does My Saddle Fit?

How do you know if you are having a saddle fitting issue is a question we get asked often here at the shop.  There are a few basic signs we look for to determine if a saddle is fitting correctly. It isn’t a perfect science, but it helps to start the process. We do recommend when you evaluate your saddle fit you use the same saddle pad you are going to ride with. The saddle pad will affect the fit of the saddle. I like to think of it like socks and shoes. When I try on shoes I make sure to bring/wear the socks I like to wear with the type of shoe I’m buying. If I buy the shoes wearing a thick sock that is how my shoe will fit best. If I change to wearing a thin sock I will find my shoes are sloppy. The same principle will apply to saddle fitting. When you are evaluating a saddle fit without a pad it is to evaluate how the shape of the tree fits in relation to the horse’s body. If the tree shape seems to be a good fit, then we need to check how it will overall fit with a pad. When evaluating if your saddle fits we recommend you use a pad and have the saddle girthed down.  It is also important to evaluate the fit before and after a ride. The movement of the horse, along with the weight of the ride, will have an effect on the fit as well.

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Below are a few of the common issues we see and hear about at the store. When these issues are present it tells us there are adjustments that need to happen with the saddle fit.

The most common issue we hear about at the shop is the front of the saddle is pinching. Most the time when a saddle is pinching in the front it is because the gullet and/or the angle of the tree is too wide. If the saddle is tight at the top of the tree and loose toward the bottom that is an indicator you have a poor saddle fit. You should have equal contact from the top of the gullet down and even contact along the length of the tree. If the contact isn’t even or you feel a void there are improvements that can be made to your saddle fit.

A tight fit to the front of the saddle will correlate with the next common issue we hear about, which is the saddle popping up in the back. The saddle should sit level once girthed and the horse is standing. If your saddle is not sitting level on the horse this indicates a poor saddle fit. This can be due to many different reasons. You may be under padded, the saddle is just too wide, the angle is to flat, the gullet is too wide and/or the shape of the tree doesn’t work with your horse’s body type.  Determining why the saddle is popping takes a little more investigative work, which we will discuss in the basic saddle fitting article.

My saddle keeps sliding back is common feedback we get from customers. If your saddle is sliding back that can be for many reasons. If can be due to the horse “jamming” the tree back when it moves. This will indicate you need a different shape tree or a different type of padding. A saddle can also slide back because it is too wide. The saddle will slide back until it finds body it can contact. This may also accompany pinching in the front of the saddle. If your saddle is sliding back this is an indication you need to have your saddle fit evaluated or more investigative work will need to be done to determine the why.

A less common issue we hear about at the shop is the saddle sitting perchy. If your saddle is sitting high in the front that is an indication that there needs to be some adjustment to your saddle fit. You will also feel that you are making less contact at the top of the tree and that you have more contact towards the back of the tree versus the front. If this is present, you need to evaluate your fit to determine if you need less padding or if your tree is too narrow.

Along with a perchy appearance we will also hear that the saddle is rolling side to side. A side to side roll can indicate many different things. It can be simply the tree is too narrow and the tree is unable to “tie in” and achieve the correct contact.  It can simply mean you have a horse with no withers to tie into and there really isn’t anything wrong with your fit, just maybe look at a different pad. It can also mean that the tree has too much rock it is not making the correct contact along the length of the tree.

The above issues are some of the basic indicators of a poor saddle fit. There can be many different reasons for the above issues. If you are experiencing any of these issues you know your saddle doesn’t fit. It would be best to have one of the saddle fitters at the Cayuse Shop evaluate your horse and saddle. There are many things we can do to improve your current fit but there are times when the shape of the tree will just not work for your horses back.

A well fitting saddle should sit level, you should feel balanced, you should have even contact from the top of the tree down, you should have even contact through the length of the tree and the saddle should stay in place. If all these things are in place, I like to say happy trails!