Make sure your saddle fits (Part 1)

An indispensable guide to finding a saddle that fits your horse prepared by horse, rider and saddle fitting expert, Ken Lyndon Dykes.

A saddle is a huge commitment that not only affects your bank balance but also the welfare and willingness of your horse not to mention your own riding comfort and performance. But it is not easy to get the right one. So many of us have eagerly sought and bought new saddles, thinking they will miraculously improve our riding

   

or our horse's way of going, only to find that our new purchase is no better or worse than the old saddle. It is possible to get a saddle that fits you and your horse and our guide will set you on the right path.

Why is it so important?
It's incredibly important to get a saddle that fits your horse. It bears the whole of your weight, so if it's too tight, too loose, unbalanced, whatever, it will cause him considerable pain. If it's really bad, it will actually injure him. Anyone who has ever had saddle problems and then had them solved, can testify to the effects the horse moves more freely, riding is much easier and you're both generally happier and more comfortable.

Get the right advice
Just as it takes a farrier to shoe your horse and a vet to treat his ailments, it takes an expert to fit his saddle.

Until recently, there was no clear cut way to find one, there was no standardisation of fitting, and no recognised qualification. A situation that was highlighted in the early 90's by the balance organisation, which campaigned for better standards in saddle fitting.

The Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) created a saddle fitters qualification, which necessitates several years fitting experience, followed by an intensive four day assessment and exams which ensure qualified fitters all work to the same, exacting standards and maintain a keen code of conduct.

It's important to realise that a SMS Master Saddler has a craft qualification they make and repair saddles. However, a master saddler may not necessarily be a saddle fitter, of which there are currently about 100 and it's one of them that you want to fit a saddle to your horse. As Ken Lyndon-Dykes, SMS qualified saddle fitter, says: "It's now perceived to be important to be a qualified saddle fitter. It's a great move forward everyone knows where they stand".

Part 2:  Signs of an ill-fitting saddle