Sarah Linton

Looking at your saddle

Before starting any saddle fitting we need to have a look at the actual saddle. There are so many things to check and these are some of the main things.

Saddle on the horse checklist

1.) How does the horse react to the saddle?

Does be put his ears back, try to bite out, kick out when you put it on? These are all signs that he doesn't like the saddle.

2.) Check where it's sitting on the horse

Make sure it is behind scapula and in front of the last rib. Most people sit their saddles over top of the shoulders which restricts the movement in this area.

3.) Check the balance

Is it too high or low in front (can be too wide or too narrow). You need to imagine a marble on the seat and where it would stop if it was rolled on there. Would it go more towards the pommel or the cantle or would it be fairly centered? Stand back and have a good look. It needs to be taken into consideration if the horse has muscle wastage and/or postural problems when looking at how the saddle sits.

4.) Is there a contact the whole way along the panels?

No bridging or rocking. If you can see daylight in under the centre of the panels, it is bridging.

5.) Is there clearance above and either side of the wither?

Is there clearance all the way to the base of the wither? This is a common area for horses to get pinched. If you put your hand either side of the wither and gently rock saddle side to side is it pinching your fingers? Can you reach down to the base of the withers? You should also be able to do this when you are sitting in the saddle.

6.) Push down on the pommel

When you push down on the pommel does the back of the saddle lift up? This can be that the saddle is too wide or lack of panel stuffing or the wrong style for your horse. If your horse has muscle wastage that can also cause the saddle to tip.

7.) Push down on the pommel again

This time when you push down on the pommel can you run your fingers down the front of the saddle (that goes down behind the shoulder)? If you can do this when it's just sitting on the horse, there is no way you will be able to do it when there is a rider on it as well.

8.) Do the talc test

See the talc test instructions page.

If you're looking at buying a saddle

1.) Try to get the right type of saddle for your sport. If you are a rider who does a bit of everything – fine. Go for whatever feels comfortable for you and your horse and fits you both well – which you should always do anyway.

2.) If for example though you are wanting to ride more competitively at dressage - getting a dressage saddle will help not only you with your position but your horse as well. The same with showjumping and eventing. By putting you in a more forward position a jumping saddle will help you and your horse with your style and technique.

3.) If you are planning on being a serious endurance competitor– get a saddle suitable for endurance. A saddle with wide, flat panels that’s not too heavy that sits the rider in a good balanced position – suitable for long distances at speed. A stock or western saddle is made for medium distances at mostly slower speeds.

Final Note: I’m not saying that you can't swap saddles around but just something to be aware of what might suit you better if wanting to compete at a higher level