More often than should occur, riders go off and buy a saddle without even trying it on their horse. I am not saying one should custom fit a saddle, but at least get as close to a custom fit as you can with an off the rack saddle.
I personally prefer Prestige custom made saddles, and saved up for three years to get mine at a discounted price.
Before purchasing my saddle (which i have yet to receive) I went through many readings and videos to expand my knowledge at saddle fitting. We have a saddle fitter here in the country, however, i was not pleased with the service or the preciseness of the job. Therefore, i fitted my own saddle to my own horse following the Prestige Italia guideline kit for fitting saddles:
Before starting, you must understand where a saddle should be positioned on your horses back correctly. According to Prestige Italia, “the saddle must be positioned in such a way that there is enough space between the shoulder and the saddle so that shoulder movement is not restricted. The way to do this is to run the end of your hand over the shoulder of the horse until you detect the scapula bone. Allow for minimum width of about 4 fingers and that is the place to position the saddle. This will leave a space, the width of the palm of your hand, between the scapula and the girth. Remember that the 4 part of a jumping saddle could project upfront the shoulder of the horse but the fixed part, the tree, must never do so.”
5 Cardinal Rules:
1 – Tree size: If a saddle is correctly positioned the tree will extend parallel to the back of the horse and as close as possible to it.
2 – Consideration for the horse’s backbone and withers: The width between the saddle panels must make proper allowance for the horse’s spine and not bear down on it under the weight of the rider. The size of the front arch of the saddle must be such as to enable compliance with the age-old “4-fingers” rule (corresponding to about 5 cm) between the pommel and the withers of the horse.
3 – Balancing: Once the right tree size has been found, the next step is to ensure the saddle is properly balanced. When it rests in position, the saddle must conform to the horse’s back in a way that evenly distributes the weight of the rider over the entire surface and so prevents it bearing down too much to the front (the scapula bones of the horse) or to the back (the loins of the horse).
4 – Contact by the panels: The panels must, in their entirety and along their full length, form a snug fit with the horse’s back. This will ensure proper distribution of the weight of the rider.
5 – Symmetry: Look at the horse from the rear and check that the saddle rests parallel to the backbone of the horse and is positioned symmetrically about it If the saddle complies with these five rules it will be properly positioned and be comfortable for the horse.
To help visualize fittings i also found a great youtube channel from SCHLEESE SADDLERY that was extremely useful!
And a quick reminder before i finish off, keep in mind what kind of saddle pad you will be using to keep enough space in your measurements for that too so the saddle doesn’t become tight over the pad. Ideally, you only need a numnah (plain saddle pad). I love to use my ultra thinline half pad over my thin numnah before placing the saddle just to add a bit more support. With that in mind i ordered one size bigger for tree size so all fit nicely together.
Happy fittings 🙂