Professional Saddle Fitting Services: Vital asset or unnecessary expense?

Last week I had a professional English saddle fitter (who’s information I will share at the end of this post) come out to my barn to assess how my saddles fit Willow. I know the basics about saddle fit and I have a general idea of what to look for to determine proper fit, but I’m no expert. Since I ask a lot of Willow in terms of performance, I wanted to be sure that my saddles fit her as close to perfect as humanly possible so that she is as comfortable as is humanly possible when she’s under saddle.

The reason behind my desire to have a saddle fitter come out is becasue I started noticing some pretty serious uneven sweat marks happening under the saddle pad after every ride. There was some immediate concern because uneven sweat marks are idicative of excess pressure points caused by the saddle. If any point of your saddle is too tight on a horses back, the pressure actually prevents the horses skin from sweating. I of course don’t want Willow to be uncomfortable so I decided that I’d at least look into having a saddle fitter out to the barn. Willow has also been doing some head-tossing when we started doing heavier work (cantering, extended trot work, transitions, etc…) so that also raises concern for saddle fit.

Now I’m no different than most of you in that I am very budget conscious. Money certainly does not grow on trees in my house, so I have to thoughtfully consider whether or not I can afford any and all extra expenses. Of course at first, the thought having a saddle fitter out sparked some serious feelings of anxiety for me. What if he says I needed a new saddle? I can’t afford a new saddle! What if I need a lot of saddle adjustments and it’s too expensive? A world of worst-case scenarios whirled through my mind, but then reality hit me. The easier and cheaper thing for me to do would be to just keep riding in my saddle as-is. I could just remain blissfully ignornant of any potential issues and carry on as before. YES! But what if my saddle really is too tight for Willow? What if the head-tossing thing is happening because she’s in pain from the saddle that I chose for her? Do I want to keep riding her if that’s the case? NO, I don’t! Willow’s comfort and happiness is now and always will be top priority for me, so if I have any question in my mind that her saddle doesn’t fit properly I would address the issue immediately. Once I’d made up my mind that I would have a saddle fitter come out, true to my usual style, I surfed the web to see what I could find. I found a website for a saddler out of Providence, RI,  I gave him a call, and scheduled an appointment.

My appointment came and went and I must say, I’m so glad I did it. It was one of the best decisions I have made for Willow and I to date. Willow’s back was measured with a number of technical tools. Tracings were done, my saddles were assessed, and I was given a diagnosis. I was getting uneven sweat marks because my saddles were bridging her back. If you don’t know what bridging is, it’s when a part of the panel (the padded underside of an English saddle) doesn’t touch the horses back, so all of the riders weight is concentrated on smaller points rather than evenly across the entire panel. I must have checked that saddle 500 times before I bought it, and had 5 experienced horse friends re-check it for me. Not one of us noticed the bridging! Can you imagine? All of my weight pushing down on Willow’s back on 4 small points (one on eiother side of her shoulders and one on either side of her back at the cantle area). OUCH! To fix the problem, the saddle advised that he could adjust the flocking in my saddles to the tracings he took at the beginning of the appointment. It would cost $125 per saddle, take about an hour to do, and would be done on-site in his moble workshop (He showed up to my appointment in a HUGE RV!). He also said that if I needed it (which I luckily didn’t, he has a machine that can widen or narrow a saddle’s tree, and the cost is $115)

One hour and $250 later I had two saddles that fit my horse perfectly. I’ve ridden in both saddles since the fitting. I have even sweat marks, and I have a horse that looks and feels more relaxed under saddle even when the work gets tough. She still does the head tossing thing, but only when she gets really tired and msotly at the end of a long workout so I’ve chalked it up to head tossing under protest, lol.

After all was said and done yes $250 of a lot of money, but now I have 2 saddles that I know 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt fit my horse properly. Having a saddle fitter come out isn’t something I’d do very often, but it’s something I will do from now on when I feel it necessary. For me, for my piece of mind and for the health and benefit of my hrose, it was totally worth it.

The English Saddler
Saddle Fitting, Repair, Sales
Colin Kimball Davis
9 Brighton St.
Providence, RI 02909




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