Does this Saddle Fit?

Almost every week I see horse owners asking in on-line forums whether or not their saddle fits their horse or, knowing that the saddle doesn’t fit, asking what type of padding can be used to make it fit.

Saddle fit is both an art and a science. By working with a saddle fitter regularly, you can start to recognize the ways that a saddle doesn’t fit, but it in the end it comes down to the comfort of your horse. Some horses are very sensitive to saddle fit and will let you know in no uncertain terms if they are uncomfortable.

I took photos recently at a saddle fitting session done by Gary Severson (aka The Saddle Doctor). The mare in question had been acting up a bit under saddle and her owner wondered if it was caused by saddle fit. Her owner had Fortune’s saddles fitted last March.

 

Here is Fortune's back. She's a 16 year old Hannovarian/TB cross.
Our model is Fortune, a 16 year old Hannovarian/TB Cross.

 

Fortune has somewhat pronounced withers.
Fortune has somewhat pronounced withers, with a slight dip behind them.

 

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The saddle looks pretty good, but when Gary puts pressure on the front, which would occur when it's girthed up, it rotates forward and the rear panels rise up. So, saddle fit was making her uncomfortable.
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You can see the way it rocks even more clearly here. Gary explained that as an aging horse, she's probably starting to "narrow" so that the saddle is now too wide in front.

 

Fortune's jumping saddle.
The reflocked saddle sits nicely on her back. The lowest part of the seat is level and the panels are in contact with her back.

 

In just six months, the fit of the saddle had changed to the point where it was bothering the horse. Gary explained that he often sees horses’ backs change in that period of time. Some times it is due to the horse becoming more fit during competition; other times it’s an effect of aging. Since saddle fit changes so gradually, it often is imperceptible to the owner until it becomes an issue for the horse.

Interestingly, Fortune’s dressage saddle fit much better and required only slight modifications.

4 thoughts on “Does this Saddle Fit?

  1. Thanks for the info. So there is no good reason for the horse for the gullet to narrow at the back?

  2. i am looking a t an australian endurance saddle for a arab wih good withers-slightly long backed-weighs about 900 lbs. Some of the saddles i have looked at have a 6 1/2 inch gullet with a wide tree. I am specifically looking at a saddle with w 7 ich gullet on a regular tree. How do you determine if you need a wde tree or regular tree? is a 6-7 inch gullet fairly standard? I appreciate the info as i am uncertain which way to go. This is a whole new area for me as I have always ridden western. Thanx

  3. Thanks a million,your info has been a blessing for me,I am looking for a new all purpose saddle at the moment and now know just what to look for. Thank you 🙂

  4. We’ll, it’s hard to tell. Upload more picture:) if there’s no pressure points on the horse and you can fit almost your hand between the saddle tree and your horse, and the panels are laying flat on your horses back, and there’s no gaps between your horses back and the panels your fine:)

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