As any horse owner knows, horses come in all shapes and sizes. Finding a saddle that fits your horse well can be challenging, even when you know what to look for. Saddles vary in minor details, from the location and thickness of the bar to the flap or fender size and shape. This can make a big difference to your horse’s comfort, and it is important to find a saddle that will fit both you and your horse well. There are a few common mistakes riders make when choosing a saddle, and if you can avoid these, your ride will be much more comfortable for both of you.
Assuming one size fits all
It is a common mistake to assume that the same saddle will fit every horse and rider. Each horse is a different shape, and each rider has a different body type and riding discipline. For example, a deep seat is required for disciplines such as barrel racing and ranch work, while recreational trail riding requires a shallower seat. To ensure your saddle fits you correctly, take the time to test out a wide range of makes and models before making your final choice.
Failing to consider the horse’s back conformation
Every horse has a unique conformation, and saddles that don’t match up can cause all kinds of problems. A saddle that pinches your horse’s shoulders or presses on his withers can have serious consequences for his health. It’s also important to check that the saddle fits over your horse’s lumbar region, which extends from behind his shoulder down to just before his last rib. This area of the back is particularly sensitive to pressure, and if you’re seated too far forward, your horse may be straining to carry you.
Failing to properly position the stirrup bars
The location of the stirrup bars in a saddle has a big impact on how well you balance and how secure your seat is. It’s important to experiment with a variety of saddles to find the best placement for your discipline and body type, so that the stirrup bars rest at the same point on your horse at all gaits. If the stirrup bar is too high, your lower leg will swing as you move around in the saddle, and you may not be able to balance properly.
Failing to investigate the gullet channel
Before you put your saddle on your horse, check that there’s plenty of clearance in the gullet channel, which runs down the center of your horse’s back. To do this, place your hand under the pommel of your saddle, straighten your fingers, and slide them down over his back. You should be able to feel the spine between your index, middle, and ring finger. If you don’t, this could mean that the gullet channel is too small and your horse might be struggling to breathe. This can lead to a variety of problems for your horse, including colic.