Part two of the shoe saddle experience!

17 02 2011

This is part 2 to my post on saddle fitting! This is where it gets interesting because when I was learning about fitting a saddle there was never any mention of fitting it to the rider until I became more experienced. This is one of the things I don’t like about the Irish horse industry. They never tell you everything up front. For example if your learning to turn left a riding school instructor will tell you pull the left rein!!! GRRRR anyways before I break into a rant:

Fitting a rider in a saddle

From research this topic into the late hours of the night it growing trend was to ‘ride in as many saddles as possible’ to see what features that you like in a saddle.  Saddles are made in inch and half-inch sizes, much in the same way as shoes sized for people. These features include seat (deep or flat), twist (medium, narrow, extra narrow twist), placement and width of the thigh rolls.

Seat Length is dependent on the length of your leg from hip to knee.  Long legged riders (like moi) need a longer seat to fit our dangly legs so the leg is not straight down and still flexed. The most common fault is having the seat too small for the rider, forcing him or her to sit at the back of the saddle. This puts excessive pressure on the horse’s back (obviously not very comfortable) and the rider’s knee should be at the centre of the knee roll. To find your length of leg you measure from your hip to the floor while sitting on a chair with your upper and lower leg at a right angle. To measure the seat itself check that you have 4 fingers width in between you and the cantle and 3 fingers length between you and the pommel.

Seat depth is the length of seat surface that keep your bum from absorbing the saddle into it.  It comes into forms: a deep and flat seat. In a deep seat, it is the seat is shorter and helps to hold a rider in position.  However it may affect the saddle seat length as it creates a shorter sitting surface.

Seat twist is the width of saddle between the upper thighs, just under the pubic bone. This refers to the width of the saddle tree at its narrowest part, right behind the pommel. For the rider, it refers to the width of the saddle between your upper thighs. The style of twist that is most comfortable for you depends on the shape and position of your pelvis, the way the femur is attached to it and the shape of the inner thigh muscle. Your preference can be determined by your gender. If you are a female you naturally have a wider pelvis therefore are better able to cope with a wider twist. However the twist is too wide, you may feel stretched through your hips. Also, if have shorter legs, you might find that a narrower twist holds your leg too far away from the saddle.

Thigh rolls (or blocks) help you maintain correct leg placement on the saddle.  If the rolls are placed incorrectly to far back, your thigh will be pushed into too vertical a position; you will be tilted forward onto the front of your pelvis and pushing the horse onto the forehand.  If the rolls are too far forward, your legs may move too far in front of you and place you in a ‘chair’ position (maybe more common on the Irish hunting field). Both positions prevent you from balancing correctly and following the motion of your horse.  Both positions interfere with proper positioning of leg aids.  Some saddles come with moveable rolls and some rolls can be adjusted by changing the flocking, which can be an advantage to growing kids and teenagers J

Stirrup bars need to be placed so that your leg hangs down with your ear, shoulder, hip and heel are in line. Incorrect positioning the stirrup bars creates similar problems to that of thigh rolls and prevent proper leg aids

The flap length of your saddle should be half way down the calf muscle.  If it is too long, it interferes with your leg aids.  If it is too short, it can catch on the top edge of your boot.

These two link should help:

Finding the perfect saddle for horse and rider can result in a serious price tag but knowing exactly what your looking for and the exact size your looking for for both horse and rider can help cut costs. My advice to reduce costs is get a good saddle fitter and write a list of things which you want to know such as the exact measurements you need for both your horse and rider and explain nicely that you don’t have the time or money to be messing about. Hear what they have to say listen to their advice. Generally people love talking about what they know and will not come at any extra cost only your time. Try it out a few times before you buy it and  remember that a well kept quality saddle can last you up to 20  years which is nearly your horses life span and if kept in good condition they are very resalable second hand.


Are you happy with the fit of your saddle for you and your horse? Did it take you long to find to find and was it expensive?

Lots of love,