There’s so much focus now in equine forums about saddle fit for horses that sometimes fit for riders gets overlooked.
Sure, it’s important for the saddle to fit your horse. But it also needs to fit you! Fighting the tack every stride does not make you a better rider, it makes you a frustrated one. And yes, there are some riders (usually pros) who can ride in any saddle because their core strength and balance can overcome the issues with fit.
For the rest of us, saddle fit — and the use of a saddle made for a specific discipline — can make riding infinitely more pleasurable. A saddle that allows you to sit in a balanced, appropriate position is a pleasure.
I’ve been struggling to find the right saddle for Zelda. I had my Ainsley Chester fit to her, but since it’s a true cross country saddle with very forward flaps, it puts me in a bit of a chair seat. For flat work, I knew I needed to open my hip angle and stay in a more centered place. After all, she’s a draft cross and she already carries a lot of her weight on her forehand, she doesn’t need me adding to the burden. I tried my Freeform treeless saddle on her but it wasn’t giving me the support I needed.
I rarely ride Freedom in a straight dressage saddle because the saddle I bought for Kroni is slightly too wide for him. But guess what, it works pretty darn well on Zelda. I dusted off my beloved Roosli Pilatus dressage saddle and bingo! It sits me just the right way and all of a sudden it’s not so hard to have the right hip angle, my pelvis is balanced just right and I feel solid in my position.
When I bought that saddle I probably tried 15 different brands before I decided to what to buy. It wasn’t my first dressage saddle — by then I’d owned several, the most recent being a Prestige that my horse had outgrown. I was at a larger barn at that time in my riding life so I was able to try other boarders’ saddles, plus I had several shipped to me from consignment shops. My trainer had a Roosli and once I sat in that, I was convinced. In fact, the process of trying so many saddles was fascinating because they were all so different — the width of the twist, the depth of the saddle, the position of the knee blocks and stirrup bars — these elements all influence your balance. (Of course, the saddle has to fit your horse, too. If it’s too wide or too narrow, it will tip you slightly forward or slightly back).
I’ve held onto that saddle, despite not riding in it for a few years, mostly because I knew I could never replace it for what I could sell it for — or, really, what I paid for it. This is a saddle that was made for me based on my measurements and it really fits my long leg. I was lucky enough to order it from the factory during a time when the exchange rate was more favorable and I got it at a great price because my trainer ordered it directly from Fredy Roosli. Sitting in it again, I remember exactly why I bought it in the first place. I’m so glad now that I didn’t sell it!