The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

While at a conference I learned about a quick way to see if your saddle fits your horse, and I put it to the test.

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Hannah, here with back wet and no pads, put up with my saddle fitting experiment. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

Earlier this month I spent two days at the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s Focus on the Sport Horse Symposium, in Louisville. I listened to hours of lameness and rehab presentations from renowned researchers, and my right hand has finally recovered from rapid note-taking.

In a discussion about rehabilitating horses with back problems, Dr. Philippe Benoit, a private practitioner at Clinique Equine des BrŽviaires in France and former veterinarian for the French show jumping team, touched briefly on the importance of saddle fit. He gave the usual advice: “Check for any abnormal pressure and bridging of the panels and padding of the saddle itself” to help avoid back soreness. Many of us have heard it before.

Then, offhandedly, he gave another bit of advice that caused several vets in the room–along with myself–to perk up

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Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

13 Responses

  1. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Hi, Alexandra.  I am a relatively new reader of newsletter and am enjoying it as a resource. Your blog on this subject echoes concerns that so many of us have in our desire to provide the best possible saddle fit for the horses we lov

  2. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    My saddle fit fairly well before the expensive saddle fitter.  Afterward it didn’t even lay down evenly on the horse.  This particular fitter TEACHES saddle fitting.  He did not return my calls.  I think it is mainly a scam.  T

  3. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Whenever a horse has been ridden in a clean white or light-coloured saddle-cloth, i always inspectt the under-side of the saddle-cloth afterwards.  Dirt-marked areas show where the saddle has been resting on the horse’s back.  Non-contact are

  4. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    This is an interesting article, but would have been an excellent article if Alexandra had waited until she found out what her particular dry spots meant to an expert before she ran the story.

    I agree with Deborah about the saddle being too far f

  5. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    If you ride your horse long enough to make him/her sweat you get the same basic result, even with a saddle pad – dry spots are no good, you want an even sweat pattern on both sides of the horse.  I tend to ride with more weight in my left stirrup

  6. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Thanks for the talcum powder tip, Christine!

    Kelli, great to hear from you!!

  7. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    For those who don’t want to wet their leather saddles, talcum powder is equally effective . Sprinkle talcum powder over the saddle area and then carefully place the saddle on top.  After a few minutes work , carefully lift the saddle off .  A

  8. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Alexandra, your saddle is placed too far forward on your horse’s back.  It should be placed so the panel is well behind the shoulder.  Notice how the seat is not level.  The cantle should be higher than the pommel.  Try putting the

  9. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Don’t know how any one could possible consider fitting a saddle properly on a stationary horse.  Think about the fact that as the horse moves, his back also moves up, down & side to side.  When the back moves up it fills out, thus changin

  10. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    I assume this works with western saddles as well?

  11. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    I cringe at the thought of getting my saddles wet!

  12. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    Very handy for a quick check! No, not exactly scientific, but a good general idea of where sore spots might be. By the way, good to see your name as an editor with! I used to ride & work at Pine Hollow when you were there, when you rod

  13. re: The ‘Poor Man’s’ Saddle Fitting

    I have been experiencing saddle fit problems, and am very curious about what saddle adjustments would be indicated by the location of the pressure points in your article.  Does this indicate the front of the saddle should be widened or narrowed?

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