…We must never forget, every time we sit on a horse, what an extraordinary privilege it is: to be able to unite one’s body with that of another sentient being, one that is stronger, faster and more agile by far than we are, and uncommonly forgiving.
— William Steinkreus

SADDLE FITTING BASICS

Presented by Paramount Saddlery 

CONFORMATION
FROM A SADDLE FITTERS POINT OF VIEW

  1. SHOULDERS (how even are the shoulders) 
  2. HIPS (how even are the hips) 
  3. GIRTH CHANNEL LOCATION
  4. TOTAL SADDLE FIT AREA
  5. BACK BUILD (uphill/downhill/normal)
  6. BACK SHAPE (high spine/normal/barrel)
  7. WITHER SHAPE LENGTH (long/normal/short)
  8. WITHER MUSCLE WIDTH (broad/medium/narrow)
The shoulder position is the angle the shoulder blade forms with the horizontal axis. The shoulder can range from sloped to moderate to straight. *http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/2017/11/conformation-and-the-sport-horse/ 

The shoulder position is the angle the shoulder blade forms with the horizontal axis. The shoulder can range from sloped to moderate to straight.
*http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/2017/11/conformation-and-the-sport-horse/ 

 
The difference between an uphill and a downhill build.  Left image is uphill, right image is downhill.  *photo from Pinterest

The difference between an uphill and a downhill build.  Left image is uphill, right image is downhill. 
*photo from Pinterest


SADDLE DESIGN

  1. SHAPE (U shape or V shape)
  2. HEAD (Open or Closed)
  3. TWIST 
  4. CANTLE HEIGHT AND ANGLE
  5. BALANCE POINT
  6. SEAT SHAPE
  7. BLOCK (Location, Angle and Size)
  8. BILLET LOCATION

PANEL TYPE
FOAM VS WOOL

  1. BOTH TYPES HAVE BENEFITS
    One is not superior to the other
  2. WOOL PANELS
    Typically thicker than foam
    Requires skilled maintenance on a regular basis
    Wool can be micro adjusted on site
  3. FOAM PANELS
    Can usually be modified, but not on site 
  4. HYBRID PANELS (*Paramount Saddlery)
    A foam panel made with a pocket for wool 
  5. PANEL SHAPE
    Can be as important as panel type 
  6. NO PANEL CAN COMPENSATE FOR INCORRECT TREE TYPE

SADDLE PADS

  1. CLEAN!!
  2. LENGTH:
    All pads must be 1.5 to 2 cm longer than the saddle 
  3. SHAPE
    Must have wither clearance - shaped for wither 
  4. DURING USE
    Pads must stay up in gullet of saddle 
  5. MUST WICK MOISTURE

HALF PADS

  1. CAN BE A GREAT PERFORMANCE TOOL
    Riders discipline can determine choice
    Make sure to be aware of performance of each pad (research)
  2. BEST USED WITH ADVICE FROM A FITTER!
    Some half-pads can compromise saddle fit
    Some half-pads can help saddle fit depending on horse conformation
  3. CORRECT SHAPE —> Critical for comfort 
  4. BREATHABILITY —> Critical for comfort 
  5. DO NOT TRY TO CORRECT A NARROW/WIDE TREE FIT WITH A HALF PAD 
  6. A HALF PAD WILL NOT COMPENSATE FOR A POORLY FITTING SADDLE 
  7. SHIMMABLE PAD CAN BE A GREAT ASSET 
  8. REPLACE WHEN NEEDED, THEY HAVE A LIFE SPAN

NEGATIVE IMPACT OF POOR FIT TO RIDER

  1. SADDLE FIT TO RIDER AS IMPORTANT AS FIT TO HORSE
  2. CAN CAUSE RIDER IMBALANCE
    Rider must be balanced and stay over horse’s centre as well as be in alignment with his/her own body according to discipline - ankle/hip/shoulder)
    When the rider is not in balance, horse will not be in balance either
  3. CAN LEAD TO ASYMMETRY IN RIDER & HORSE 
  4. BALANCE EQUALS IMPULSION
  5. HORSE WILL INVERT AND HOLD
  6. POOR BALANCE IS A SAFETY ISSUE
  7. IF THE RIDER NOT SECURE, HORSE CAN LOOSE TRUST 
  8. CAN LEAD TO LUMBAR, SACRAL AND HOCK ISSUES

BENEFITS OF A WELL FITTING SADDLE FOR THE RIDER

  1. SAFETY
    You are more secure in the tack and less likely to come unseated
  2. CLEANER AND CRISPER EXECUTION OF AIDS
    When you are balanced and in the correct position you are more effective 
  3. LESS WEAR AND TEAR ON YOUR BODY
    You are able to stay balanced without using excess energy
  4. YOUR HORSE WILL HAVE MORE SUSPENSION
    Less jarring on your spine and other joints
  5. SYMMETRY!
    When you are balanced you can easily work on staying symmetrical! 
Basic posture for sitting on a horse Image by Dr. Nicholson, head, shoulders, hips, heels should be in alignment OVER the center of mass for the horse. (marked with red the star)  *https://neindianaequinesportsmassageandrehab.com/basics-of-riding-correctly/

Basic posture for sitting on a horse Image by Dr. Nicholson, head, shoulders, hips, heels should be in alignment OVER the center of mass for the horse. (marked with red the star) 

*https://neindianaequinesportsmassageandrehab.com/basics-of-riding-correctly/


BENEFITS OF A WELL FITTING SADDLE FOR THE HORSE

  1. MORE WILLING HORSE DURING TRAINING
  2. BETTER ABILITY TO GET THE HORSE WORKING OVER IT’S BACK AND CREATING ‘SWING’ 
  3. A MORE POSITIVE BOND BETWEEN HORSE AND RIDER 
  4. FEWER JOINT, HOOF AND HIND END ISSUES
    Horses compensate and will add extra pressure elsewhere 
  5. BETTER MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT
Horse engaging and stretching —> ‘swing’ happens, back engages and comes up and horse reaches for contact, reaches for it with a head position that allows unrestricted breathing. "On the contact”.  *http://www.dingosbreakfastclub.net/DingosBreakfastClub/BioMech/BioMechonthebit.html

Horse engaging and stretching —> ‘swing’ happens, back engages and comes up and horse reaches for contact, reaches for it with a head position that allows unrestricted breathing. "On the contact”. 

*http://www.dingosbreakfastclub.net/DingosBreakfastClub/BioMech/BioMechonthebit.html


ROLE OF SADDLE FITTER IN EQUINE MANAGEMENT

  1. SADDLE FITTERS ARE PART OF THE PERFORMANCE AND HEALTH OPTIMIZATION TEAM.
    Trainers, vets, grooms, farriers, chiropractors, massage therapists, equine dentist, equi-bow, acupuncture and other professionals 
  2. WHEN ONE PIECE IS MISSING THE PUZZLE CANNOT BE COMPLETED! 
  3. BE PROACTIVE (vs Reactive)
    A proactive saddle fit program generally prevents fit issues and fit related issues before they occur.

Thank you for participating!