Sarah Linton

Rider, saddle, horse

It’s really helpful to have someone to help you with this part as it's hard to see yourself unless you have a big mirror. It’s amazing how many peoples riding are affected by a bad-fitting saddle. By getting the fit right – not only for the horse – but for the rider it can help improve everyone all round. Here's another checklist to print off and be aware of while riding in the saddle.

Rider sitting in the saddle on the horse

1.) How does the rider naturally sit in the saddle? Do they: tip forward, tip back, hollow back, what’s their leg position like, etc.

2.) Are their ankle, hip and shoulder pretty much in line?

3.) Does the rider's knee go over the front of the saddle flap? If it does, it can mean too small a seat size or wrong style for the rider. Is the rider bulging over the sides of the seat of the saddle? This may mean that they need a different style of saddle with a bigger seat

4.) Is there still plenty of clearance above and either side of the wither? Pressure close to the bone will cause more problems than pressure over a good layer of muscle.

5.) Can you run your hand down the front of the saddle (that goes down behind the shoulder) without your hand getting stuck? You should be able to do this easily and is something you should check regularly

6.) Does the girth line up with the horse's 'natural' girth line? If it doesn’t it can pull the saddle more forward up on to the shoulder or back causing other problems.

7.) If the rider has had any accident to limbs or joints – broken legs or arms, hip replacement, ankle or knee problems, back problems etc if may affect the riders balance and affect how the rider sits in the saddle, saddle fit and evenness in ridden tests.

When riding

1.) How does the horse behave? If he is putting his ears back, bucking and generally looking uncomfortable that can be a sign the saddle is hurting him. What about his transitions – especially into canter? Are they smooth or is he resistant? Most signs of soreness will show as behavioural type problems.

2.) Does the saddle slip forward or backwards? This can be signs of too narrow or wide a gullet.

3.) Does the saddle move sideways? This can mean wrong shaped panels for that horse’s back.

4.) Does the saddle lift up at the back when the rider is trotting?

5.) Does the rider get sore anywhere? Again this could be wrong style of saddle for the rider or else the horse could be throwing the rider into a funny place. If the rider is having to compensate what’s that going to do to the horse over time?

6.) What is their position like while walking, trotting and cantering? (Tipping forward, tipping back, hollow back, leg position, etc)

After taking the saddle off

1.) What do the sweat marks look like? Are they even or are there dry patches? Remember sweat marks are only a guideline. Your saddle blanket will be more accurate on what’s going on.

2.) Check the saddle blanket. Look for dark and lighter areas or where hairs may have rubbed. Make a note of what you see or take a photo.

3.) Is there any rub marks or scuffing anywhere on the horse’s back? This can be a sign of movement.

4.) Is the horse happy for you to run your hand down its back afterwards?

5.) Do a ridden pad test - see the instructions for the pad test.