Does his saddle fit?
I was wondering if some of you saddle fit experts could do me a favour and tell me if you think Smoke's saddle fits him. It's a 31 tree Stubben Siegfried. I am absolutely IN LOVE with my saddle - it's roughly 45 years old, in beautiful condition, sooo comfy, & fits me perfectly. However, none of that matters if it doesn't fit HIM. I did some "tests" as I took these pictures, & I can turn my hand sideways & fit all 4 fingers under the pommel, plus I can look from behind & see daylight.
When I first bought Smoke, my trainer said that she thought the saddle fit him, so I just kind of took her word for it. However, he's always pinned his ears when I saddle him - I don't know if this is because it doesn't fit, or if he's anticipating the girth being tightened. He had begun bucking during canter strike-offs, and I originally thought he might be objecting to the way the saddle fit & that it might be too narrow & causing pressure points, however we then diagnosed that he was sore in his left hock, & after a week of the loading dose of his new joint supplements, he didn't offer to buck at all during our first ride since he's been on them & felt altogether happier moving. So I'm hoping it was just the leg causing the issue & not the saddle.
He does not pin his ears or show any signs of discomfort when I press down hard on various parts of his back. Unfortunately, I use saddle pads that are all black & moisture-absorbing on the bottom, so they're not much help in determining fit by looking at sweat stains, & the only all-white pad I own is already badly stained underneath from my old gelding.
I know these aren't the best pictures (it was SO bright outside, & I was using my phone & just had to kind of guess at what I was taking the picture of, + majorly played with the brightness in photoshop afterwards), but hopefully they're good enough for someone to give me an idea of fit? If they're not sufficient, I can try for better pics on Thursday when I'm out at the barn again.
These are the pads I generally ride him with, if it makes a difference:
Kensington Saddle Pads - All Purpose Saddle Pads from SmartPak Equine
ThinLine Contour Pad - Half Pads from SmartPak Equine
(my one objection to the thinline is that it makes it harder to pull the pads up off his withers)
Well, let's see . . . These older saddles often curve up more at the back of the padded panels, so you end up losing a bit of what should be weight bearing contact. These photos don't show a good straight on side view, from both sides, but I think it might be curling up a fair amount in back.
if you can fit 4 fingers in, then that's a bit high. However, I think maybe you just need to move the saddle back about an inch. Feel for the back edge of his shoulder blade and put the saddle an inch or so two behind that. I say "or two" because the saddle should kind of find it's own "place" on the horse's back.
Put it up front up on his withers and slide it back. Not all the way. For the last part, using the edge of your hand kind of "tamp" it back lightly. If it kind of goes back into a "groove" i;n his back and then further tamping feels reisistance, then that's where it will naturally sit on his back.
When it is there there do the finger check under the pommel and also look at it from the side (stand off to the side of your horse_) The cantle should be about 1 inch higher than the pommel. At the very least, even with it, but not lower than it.
It looks like it might be too small at the withers. You want two finger's to fit with a little room when you're on.
My saddle used to be like that, but I changed the gullet and it fits fine now.
Okay. Forget sweat marks (they don't often tell you anything useful apart from the horse's sweat glands work). Forget how many fingers you can get between horse and pommel (you simply need clear space at all times).
Slide the saddle back until the TREE POINT (not the front of the saddle) is 2" (roughly three fingers-width unless you've got big hands) behind the back of the shoulder blade. You should find as you're sliding the saddle it will naturally stop at one point. Otherwise, lift up the flap so you can see the point pocket and guesstimate when it's far enough back.
Check the saddle for level. The cantle should be slightly higher than the pommel.
Okay so far? Then put the flat of your hand on the top of the horse's shoulder in front of the saddle and compare the angle it makes with the head of the saddle. They should be the same ie. the line of the tree point should be parallel to the back of the horse's shoulder. The pictures you've posted suggest the tree is too narrow (the angle of the point is steeper than the shoulder angle) but don't quote me - photos are notoriously difficult to work from.
If the angles are okay, girth the saddle up (without a pad) tight enough to mount. If the front drops substantially and the back lifts your horse probably falls in behind the shoulder and the saddle needs flocking. If the saddle stays where it is, standing on the nearside put the flat of your left hand in the gullet opening and run your hand down the shoulder, fingers between the panel and the horse. You should feel firm pressure but if the saddle gets very tight as you move towards the end of the tree point, the saddle's (often) not wide enough.
Best of luck.
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