Lessons in Saddle Fitting

Saddle fitting is so interesting to me; I’m always sort of amazed at how little I knew about it as a younger rider. I understood the basics, but sort of merrily went around riding dozens of horses in my same jump saddle for, oh, ten years. Since getting back into the sport two years ago, I’ve learned more than I think I had during my previous 15-year run as an equestrian.

After purchasing Marley, bought a saddle last summer with the help of the awesome Jay from Trumbull Mountain. I’d tried a few different brands on Marley, and was having trouble finding something locally that worked for him. My budget wasn’t enormous – translation: I could definitely not spend $5 or $6K on a custom saddle – and I wanted a high-quality jump saddle that fit him well.

We ended up with a Black Country Ricochet, which seemed to make Marley happy and fit me beautifully. The tree shape and panel structure also worked for his conformation – he has large shoulders, a wide barrel, and a rather short back. Also, withers! Sigh. The saddle is wool flocked, and technically was due for an adjustment or at least fit check six months ago. Given that Marley was not in full work, though, I held off. Over the past month or so I definitely had been noticing that the panels were getting a little flat, and while the wither clearance was still acceptable I could tell that the balance wasn’t as perfect as it was last summer. He has actually maintained his topline and overall muscle tone fairly well, so I decided it was time for an adjustment.

I’ve had a difficult time finding a saddle fitter that is not also a rep for [ insert large and $$$$$ saddle company here ]. After asking around at my barn, I reached out to a woman who came recommended by a few different boarders. She used to be a rep for a specific company, but has always worked across brands and recently became an independent fitter.

Overall the saddle fits Marley well, but the balance was off as the flocking in the front panels had started to settle. We didn’t need a full re-flocking, but an adjustment was definitely in order. I rode yesterday for the first time since the adjustment, and the balance is absolutely improved. Here’s a quick shot of what the saddle looked like post-ride:

IMG_6858

It will take a bit of time for the new flocking to settle, and the panels don’t sit quite as flat as I’d like at the moment. I’ll monitor the fit closely over the next few weeks and re-adjust as necessary. Sweat patterns were very good after our ride, and Marley’s back did not palpate sore at all.

Eventually we’ll need to go through this whole process again for a dressage saddle, but that’s for another day!

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