At Brighton Saddlery we offer a mobile saddle fitting service. We can fit your own saddle for you, or we have many trial demonstrator and used saddles to choose from.
Our primary aim should be to make our horses comfortable. All horses have different natural movement but one thing remains the same, horses can move more freely without a rider on their back. The more comfortable the saddle for our horses, the better association we will have with them.
Lack of blood supply to the horses back due to long periods of a rider's weight in the saddle is a major cause of tissue damage and atrophy (loss of muscle mass and strength). We have no doubt that horse's backs suffer with pins and needles and numbness because of this lack of blood supply. A good analogy is that if we were strapped down onto a hard chair for three hours then released and asked to go for a jog, we would be battling to stand up and walk due to the restriction of blood to our legs. Sitting in the saddle for long periods of time does the same thing to our horse.
Saddle fitting not only involves the correct fit for the horse but more importantly the correct shape and balance to enable us to ride at the best of our ability. A poor fitting or out of balance saddle doesn't hurt a horse until we add our weight and ride in it. Keeping all this in mind, it is important when you employ someone to check your horse and saddle for fit is that they have a great deal of knowledge on the subject.
The first principles of saddle fitting are commonsense, if it looks and feels wrong it probably is, however understanding the effect and making the necessary changes comes from experience. This comes from years and years of working with horses, saddles and riders of all different shapes and making mistakes and corrections in the process. Remember this profound statement; "The amount of experience you have depends on how many mistakes you have made and how quickly you identify them".
The first thing to consider is the gullet width of the saddle. A measurement is taken from about 6-8cm behind the scapula from the top of the spinous process (wither), to the horse's widest point which is outside the ribcage. This is a skeletal measurement not muscular. If the gullet width is too narrow than the saddle tree points will dig in to the muscle directly on top of the ribs.
The easiest way to measure your horse's gullet width is to get a piece of wire, a coathanger is perfect, bend it over the horse's wither where the front of the saddle sits, and then trace it onto paper. This will give your saddle fitter a good idea of where to begin without having seen the horse.
The saddle must be positioned in such a way that there is enough space between the shoulder and the saddle so that shoulder movement is not restricted. The way to do this is to run the end of your hand under the shoulder of the horse until you detect the scapula bone. Allow for a minimum width of about 4 fingers and that is the place to position your saddle. This will leave a space, the width of the palm of your hand, between the scapula and the girth.
Remember that the front part of a jumping saddle could project upfront the shoulder of the horse but that the fixed part, the tree, must never do so.
Tony Flynn of Brighton Saddlery has over 20 years experience in saddle fitting and saddle design. Tony works closely with Gary Johnson, of Saddles Plus and together they have designed many saddles including the KN Melodie, KN Rhapsodie, KN Concerto, Icon Show and the entire Riviera range. They also pioneered the design of the Pressure-Eze girths.
Brighton Saddlery are continually promoting research and development to improve products and make our equine companions more comfortable so they can always be willing partners.