How often do you have your saddle fitted to your horse?

Fortune's saddle
Fortune's saddle was fitted in the early spring but by mid May, her back had changed shape and it was slipping back and rocking.

I read a forum posting recently which stated that Jochen Schleese recommends you have your saddles professionally fitted every season. Debate on this topic got heated. Some people didn’t believe in saddle fitting at all; others felt that a saddle once fitted properly, shouldn’t need to be adjusted that frequently.

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. If your horse is in consistent work and isn’t at either end of the age spectrum, chances are he or she won’t change shape too dramatically. Generally, the Saddle Dr. visits my barn in the early spring and in the fall, right before our two hunt seasons. So far, that’s worked for me and for Kroni (when I had him) and Freedom. Yes, their saddles sometimes need to be “tweaked” but often I’ve added a shimmed pad if that was necessary and the adjustments have never been drastic.

But that’s not always the case. In my barn is an older horse (I believe she’s 19). Fortune’s saddle was fitted, along with Freedom’s, in late March or early April. As she’s aged her withers have become more pronounced and her saddle needed adjusting. By mid May, it became evident that her saddle no longer fit. It was sliding back and it was starting to rotate over the pommel. The result was a sore back. A month of hunting had changed her shape enough that her saddle no longer was comfortable (Freedom is also leaner and more muscular but his saddle still fits fine).

How often do you have your saddles fitted?

3 thoughts on “How often do you have your saddle fitted to your horse?

  1. Saddle fitting contains a number of variables and and factors which make the topic quite complex. It depends on the saddle, the horse, the type of work the horse does, the age of the horse, the rider, the saddle fitting and finally what is believed to be acceptable.

    Good quality saddles mostly come in a design which adapts for the horse changing to an extend. I have a 27 year old Passier in which I had the stuffing adjusted twice when I fitted it to different horses. It never needed its tree adjusted and has otherwise only been re-flocked regularly.
    I don’t believe that saddles should be fitted by adding pads unless they are Western or Australian saddles. But even here there is a limit to it.
    Good quality saddles nowadays can be have their trees adjusted and depending on the manufacturer their are limited to it. Passier for instance recommends to have it no more adjusted then 1 cm (wider or narrower) so that the balance of the saddle on the horse is maintained.
    Kieffer only produces medium sized saddles and their tree are than amended to fit a wider withered or narrow withered horse.
    Younger horses tend to change shape more while they muscle up but that it also true for horses having been out of work, injured or sometimes if they change their riding style or their training improves. I personally own a now 30 year old gelding who became much wider when he was about 21.
    Saddle fitters have different believes and methods. Some amend girth straps in the aim to fit a saddle, mostly that does not work as the saddle was not designed to do this and for instance the girth starts cutting into the horses skin. I have even seen flet padding added to the stuffing to adjust a saddle.
    The saddle should also fit the rider, e.g. if the seat is too narrow he will sit out of balance on the horse. If it is too big the saddle will not support the rider much and keeping his balance in the movement becomes much much difficult.
    Generally I would advice to start out with investing in a good quality saddle, which is fitted correctly to yourself and your horse and than check it yourself on regular basis. If it does not look right consult your local saddle fitter or saddler. Also the frequency for re-flocking depends on the stuffing used. Modern saddles now have synthetic, no memory wool which lasts longer. Pure wool tends to need replaced more frequently but that might vary depending in which conditions the saddle is used, how often or even on how much the horses sweats.

  2. I check fit 2-3 times a year. A warmblood under the age of 7 would likely get a 4 time a year check from me. Yeah, they change that much!!!

    Soemtimes I see a dramatic change in the horses over only a few weeks!

    Just like human athletes, a horse in full training is always evolving in its musculature. In dressage, we are always asking more from behind and more “up” in the withers and shoulders.

  3. sorry….for some reason I could neither edit or continue the above reply.

    To continue: Even the slightest discomfort to the back can affect performance. I see it with my mares particularly.

    I really believe in checking fit all the time…

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