As saddle fitters we take calls every day from customers who want to ensure that their saddle fits their horse correctly. However it is just as important that the saddle is a good fit for the rider to keep both horse and rider comfortable and performing to the best of their ability.
A saddle which fits the rider will:
- keep the rider in balance.
- encourage an optimal position and ensure the rider’s weight is distributed evenly across the horse’s back.
- assist the rider in maintaining a secure leg position.
- enable the rider to sit quietly in the saddle.
- allow the horse to move freely and in balance.
- ensure the rider is comfortable and enjoys riding!
If a rider is too tall for the saddle they will tend to sit towards the cantle, this in turn pushes the saddle out of balance on the horse’s back and can cause pressure points towards the back of the panels, even though the saddle sits well with a smaller rider.
If a rider is very small in the seat (i.e. more than 4 fingers width behind the rider on the cantle) the rider will not get as much support as they should. They may move around more than usual and unbalance the horse.
A balance between what best suits both horse and rider needs to be found, and it is fair to say that if sitting on your saddle doesn’t feel at all like sitting on your horse bareback it is unlikely to be comfortable for him, but within this we have huge scope to make the saddle suit you both as well as possible. For example the overall length of the saddle is dictated by the length of your horse’s back as he should never bear weight beyond the last rib. The size and depth of seat, the width of the twist and the seat, the style of the cantle, the position, style and size of knee rolls can all be modified to give the rider more room or more support while still only occupying the same area on your horse’s back.
The height, age and gender of the rider must be taken into consideration. For example the stirrup bars often need to be extended to sit a ladies leg correctly when compared to a man. Often growing teenagers are relatively very long between hip and knee when compared to an adult of the same height. As a result the cut of the flap and position and style of the knee rolls may need to be quite different to sit them both securely. A less experienced rider may benefit from having a deeper seat and larger knee rolls to offer them more support.
The discipline which the saddle is to be used for must obviously be taken into account. If you plan to jump ensure you try a new saddle with your stirrups at an appropriate length for jumping and reassess your balance in the saddle.
The final and most important consideration is how the rider feels in the saddle. Once your fitter has found a saddle that they believe will fit you, you need to make sure it feels right for you too as hopefully you will be spending many hours in it!