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Saddle fitter and equine physiotherapist, Rachael Sivyer, answers some common questions to help you find the perfect saddle for your horse

Can a saddle make a big difference to my security while riding?

It’s just as important that a saddle fits a rider as it fitting their horse. This is because it allows you to be comfortable and sit in balance with your horse while you’re riding. There are many factors to consider for rider fit, including gender because the seat bones of the female are further apart than that of the male, which will influence saddle choice. Seat size is important, too – for example, if your saddle is too small, it will put more of your weight in the rear of the saddle, making your aids largely ineffective. This can be uncomfortable and frustrating for you and your horse.

As an amateur rider, what features should I look for in a saddle? Would I be better off with a deeper seat or bigger knee rolls?

An amateur riding should be looking for a saddle that offers security and comfort, and most choose a GP design that can be used for all disciplines. A deeper seat can make you feel more secure, as can larger knee blocks (just like the saddle in the image above), although in some cases these features can restrict the rider. For example, too deep a seat could hinder you while jumping, as the more forward riding position could cause you to hit the back of the saddle over the fence. A flatter seat with larger knee rolls would work better in this case. The important thing is to think about the activities you want to do with your horse and work with your saddle to find the right solution.

How would you know if a saddle fits you or your horse when you are riding in it?

There are several factors to consider when you’re riding your horse. For the rider, the saddle…

  • should be comfortable, balanced and make it find easy to maintain a good riding position
  • should make you feel safe and secure
  • shouldn’t tip you forward or backward, but should sit you at the centre of balance
  • shouldn’t cause too much movement or slipping
  • shouldn’t cause pain in your lower back, hips or pubic area

Assuming your horse has a clean bill of health, there are a number of signs you can look for to show your saddle doesn’t fit him correctly, including…

  • bad behaviour
  • reluctance to go forward
  • bucking
  • not enjoying his work
  • ears back
  • tail swishing
  • shortened stride length
  • a sore back

Always consult a qualified saddle fitter to ensure correct fit for you and your horse.

What are the benefits of an adjustable tree over a fixed one?

A saddle with an adjustable tree can easily altered if your horse’s weight or shape fluctuates between seasons. They also offer a more affordable option, as they are suitable for a wider variety of horses. However, it’s important to make any gullet changes under advisement of your saddle to make sure you get the correct fit. Riding with the wrong size gullet increases the risk of harm and damage to your horse.

Can I change an adjustable tree without calling a saddle fitter out?

Although altering the gullet plate of an adjustable tree requires no great skill and is often carried out by owners, significant skill is required to determine which gullet plate to use, as there are several other factors to consider for correct fit besides the width of the tree at the front. It shouldn’t be done without considering of these factors, so is best carried out by a qualified saddle fitter.

Rachael Sivyer is the owner of Healthy Horse Physiotherapy and Saddlery Services, based in Buckinghamshire. She’s a fully qualified member of the Master Saddle Fitting Consultants Society (MSFC) and has over 35 years of experience working with horses. Not only is Rachael a saddle fitter, she has also spent many years working within veterinary practises as an equine veterinary technician, specialising in diagnostic ultrasound. The numerous cases of horses needing a complete program of rehabilitation that she saw inspired Rachael to train and qualify as a veterinary physiotherapist

You could win a saddle, and bundles of other goodies for your horse in our competition with Fieldhouse, enter now! 

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