With a suitable quality saddle and a variety of saddle pads, you should be able to ride many horses of the same physical type with a single saddle. Such a saddle should comfortably clear a horses withers, allow for free movement of the shoulders, be the proper length and shape for its back, and be well balanced to provide good weight distribution. That’s proper saddle fit. If you ride horses of different breeds or significantly different sizes, then you’ll need to invest in multiple saddles.
Wondering whether your saddle fits your horse? Below are 7 potential signs of a poorly fitting saddle. If you’re seeing any of these signs with your horse, you should take another look at how your saddle fits.
1. White hairs. White hairs showing up in the saddle area can be a sign of poor fit. Over time pressure points can cause the hairs to loose pigment.
2. Dry spots. When you take off your saddle and pad after a long ride, what you want to see is an even wet pattern across the horse’s back. Dry spots can be a sign of pressure points.
3. Sores or galls. In the saddle area, sores and galls can be a sign of several problems: a poorly fitting saddle, a poorly adjusted saddle, or poor quality cinches.
4. Rolling or rocking from side to side. A saddle that rolls to the side or rocks from side to side can be either a sign of poor fit or a sign of a rider who isn’t balanced in the saddle.
5. Tipping up in back. Tipping is generally a pretty straight forward sign of a poorly fitting saddle and is usually cause by saddle tree bars with the wrong rocker and twist (angles) to fit the back of the horse.
6. Hindered movement by the horse. Restricted horse movement is a more difficult sign to detect and usually takes a more advanced rider to notice the difference in the way a horse moves under different saddles. A saddle that restricts a horse’s shoulders will often impact how freely it moves out.
7. General crankiness under saddle. Many saddle problems are commonly misdiagnosed as behavior or attitude problems. Put yourself in your horse’s place. How happy are you when you’re wearing shoes that are one size too small?
Saddle fit isn’t an exact science. It takes some savvy to determine whether or not you have a good fit. These 7 Signs of a Poor Fit are a good first step in building your saddle fit savvy.