Spring is just around the corner here in the Midwest - March 20 to be exact (we’re not counting or anything!). With thawing snow and budding trees you are probably itching to get out in the stalls and sort through the inventory of saddles, tack, and equipment you have collected over the years.
If you find yourself in the market for a new saddle, here are five saddle fitting myths to keep in mind as you search for the perfect fit.
Myth #1: One size fits all.
We frequently find ourselves explaining that one size saddle does not fit all horses. This seems like basic information, but for a first-time horse owner, it can be baffling to find that saddles not only come with different seat sizes for the rider, but they also come with different tree sizes for your horse. Regardless of how much your horse weighs or how wide you think his back is, measuring just to make sure can save you the headache of returning an ill-fitting saddle. Need more help? You can download our free gullet templates at www.HorseSaddleShop.com.
Myth #2: I’ll be able to buy a saddle that fits two different horses.
There is a rare exception to this myth, and that is if you have two horses that are extremely similar in weight, back width, back length, and wither shape. But a mere 25 pounds in the wrong spot, a 3 inch shorter back, or a slightly higher wither can mean a saddle fitting one horse and hurting another. If you are shopping for two horses, we recommend focusing on one horse at a time instead of trying to come up with a compromise between the two. Compromising saddle fit is, quite frankly, compromising your horse’s comfort, and therefore, his behavior.
Myth #3: A good saddle pad will solve my saddle fitting problems.
Many horse owners think that putting a good saddle pad under an ill-fitting saddle will alleviate pinching, slipping, or uneven pressure. Good saddle pads can cause the saddle to fit better. There is much technology in the pad industry to help a saddle fit better and you should take advantage of that technology. However, padding-up to help eliminate sores from a poor fitting saddle is not a good choice. Many times, padding up will just magnify the fitting issues you are already experiencing.
Myth #4: All saddles that claim to be semi-quarter horse have the same gullet width.
There are many variations to this myth. The truth is that the saddle industry uses terms loosely. Semi-quarter horse bars are often referred to as quarter horse bars, but others use the term quarter horse bars to describe wide bars, so the same saddle can be given different terms. This is very confusing to someone buying their first saddle. We have tried to wrestle this myth to the ground in our shop by standardizing our terms. We apply the term “medium” to regular, narrow, or semi-quarter horse bars and the term “full” to wide, full quarter horse bars.
Myth #5: I have to be an expert to tell if my saddle fits properly.
With all the helpful articles on saddle fitting on the web today, it can feel like you have to know a textbook full of information to be able to select a well-fitting saddle. Many customers call feeling exasperated wondering, “Is it really THAT hard?” No, it isn’t! All you have to be sure of is your horse and your saddle needs - no one can be an expert on those two areas but you!
Here are a few tips: If you are having a specific problem, like white hairs on your horse or saddle slippage, troubleshoot those areas first. If you know your horse’s build and figure out what size tree will fit, half of your work is done. Most saddle fitting problems arise from a saddle that…doesn’t fit!