How to evaluate a saddle fitter

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How to evaluate a saddle fitter

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  • Saddle fitter can i ride before a saddle fitting
  • What can you use to lift the front of a dressage saddle to fit a quarter horse

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    03-08-2014, 05:01 PM
How to evaluate a saddle fitter

Hello everyone,
I'm fairly new to this saddle fitting thing. I never had a problem horse and never used a saddle fitter, but my new horse has proved to be very challenging to fit. She is a 14 hand gypsy/paso fino cross with a big shoulder, lowish withers, wide sprung ribs, short back, and croup high. She is also out of shape and 6 1/2 years old. I'm planning to do flat work and trail riding. No competition riding. I embarked on this project a couple of months ago. I researched a lot, did the wither tracings, and tried maybe a dozen saddles. I finally purchased a dressage saddle, a very nice one for a great price. It's an 18" seat and I thought the saddle fit her well in the shoulders with plenty of wither clearance. It fits me, has a secure seat, and she moved well when I rode her in it and showed no signs of discomfort. As far as length of saddle, I had determined the edge of the rear panel was at the 18th thoracic vertebrae but not beyond it. The saddle has padded rear gussets that were a bit tight under the rear panel and caused a slight bridging under the center of the saddle. However when girthed up this seemed to resolve. I decided to have a professional evaluate the fit and adjust the flocking to help the fit in the middle and rear, so I got a referral for a saddle fitter off the internet from the saddle maker's list of approved saddle fitters. She came out and looked at the saddle on my horse without girthing it up or having me ride in it. She told me it was too long for my horse's back. She showed me where the rib ended and went up to the spine a full inch short of the rear gusset. I felt like she was wrong about where the rib was and her measurement was short, but I figured, hey, she's the professional and knows this stuff better than I do. She said my horse could never have an 18 inch seat saddle. It needed to be 17 inch and maybe a 17.5 inch at the very most. (Never mind what would fit me.) Also my saddle is too wide in the shoulders, sits too low in front, and I need a saddle with no rear gussets. She gave me a recommendation for what would fit in her saddle's brand (almost $3 grand new!) and left.
So here's my dilemma and what I need advice on. I thought a saddle should be evaluated for fit girthed up and she didn't do this. I'm thinking she was wrong about my horse's anatomy and where the last rib is. Sure it's not a perfect fit, but I thought possibly reflocking could address the fit of the middle and rear. A little padding in front can address the width. She did mention using shims to raise the front. Since I didn't agree with her completely, I thought I would get another saddle fitter's opinion. So my question is this: How do I evaluate the saddle fitter? And what does a good saddle fitter do to evaluate a saddle? I really want to make this saddle work, but I don't want to do any damage to my horse's back. I will sell it and keep looking if needed. Any suggestions, critique, etc., are welcome!
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    03-08-2014, 06:38 PM

I am not great at English Saddle fitting, but I have had dozens of people tell me English Saddle fitters they used tended to try to steer them to very expensive saddles

We had 8 Horse at one time and the most expensive English Saddle we had for any of them was 1,200.00 and it was that expensive not because of the Horse, just the Wife's expensive tastes

I hope you can find a 2nd opinion on saddle fitting

    03-08-2014, 11:47 PM
Green Broke
See if you can find an independent saddle fitter. The one I use brings many different brands with her and doesn't sell any of them (new or used). Of course I ended up liking the most expensive one most, but it's not because she didn't show me other cheaper options! She's also a vet and acupuncturist, so she certainly had a good understanding of equine physiology!
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    03-09-2014, 03:25 AM
Southern Trails,
Yes, I'm definitely going to get a second opinion. I was advised to get an independent SF but I went with this saddle brand's rep thinking she would know this saddle very well and be better at reflocking it. Course I thought the dang thing fit fine and just needed some tweaking. I was surprised and disappointed to hear it didn't fit at all in her opinion.
Your SF sounds great. Can you tell me what she did to evaluate your horse and the saddles you tried? On the ones that looked like a possible fit, did she have you girth them up or ride in them before saying yay or nay. Not having ever used a SF and only having this one experience, I'm wondering how to tell if the saddle fitter is doing a good evaluation. Are they supposed to be asking about the breed of horse, watching them move with and without saddle, etc, or just what is it that they do?
Thanks for all your replies, guys! I appreciate the input.
    03-09-2014, 07:57 AM
Unfortunately it seems like you just have to test run everyone. And if you even mention "so and so" other saddle fitter - be prepared for a rant!!
I've luckily just found a good fitter who I am hoping can finally get one of the horses I ride into better shape with his back.
Just about any horse can have an 18" saddle! It depends on the panels and the saddle - seat size can be made larger or smaller without changing these things.
Get another opinion though - and see for interests sake how similar (or dissimilar) it is.
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    03-10-2014, 12:59 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by equigrl    
Your SF sounds great. Can you tell me what she did to evaluate your horse and the saddles you tried? On the ones that looked like a possible fit, did she have you girth them up or ride in them before saying yay or nay. Not having ever used a SF and only having this one experience, I'm wondering how to tell if the saddle fitter is doing a good evaluation. Are they supposed to be asking about the breed of horse, watching them move with and without saddle, etc, or just what is it that they do?
It's been a while since the initial full fitting, but I do remember she and I talked ahead of time about what I was looking for, my budget, and my horse's height/breed/general build. She brought 8 or so saddles with her, tried them on without girthing up first, which ruled out a couple of them, and then tried out the rest of them girthed up and with a test ride; all of these ones were acceptable fits that could be made to fit well with proper flocking adjustments. I took notes on which saddle I like the most, which ones were OK, and which ones I didn't like at all (based on how they fit me) She also took a wither tracing and gave me some guidance on which brands she thought would work well that she didn't bring, some brands to avoid based on their "typical" tree shapes.

Last year I had her re-check the fit of the dressage saddle I bought as a result of that fitting as well as a jumping saddle I had bought on my own when she came to do my horse's dental, and it was a more abbreviated version. She took a look at the saddles both girthed and ungirthed, and gave her recommendations- for the dressage saddle it was now tilting a little bit forward, and the jumping saddle's flocking was a bit hard (it's an old saddle). Rather than re-flocking both, she recommended a shimmable sheepskin half pad that would allow me to lift the front of the dressage saddle a bit and give better cushioning on the jumping saddle. She rechecked them both with the pad in place, and I took a test ride. She sold me the half pad for cheaper than SmartPak sells it (which is where I almost certainly would have gotten it from) and it was cheaper than reflocking both saddles.
equigrl likes this.
    03-11-2014, 01:14 AM
Thanks for the description of your saddle fitter. She sounds awesome! I hope I can find someone as thorough and knowledgeable. It sounds like she put a lot of effort and time into her evaluation.
I'm sure part of the problem with my saddle fitting experience was I told her initially I had bought a used saddle and needed evaluation of the fit and reflocking if necessary. When she decided my saddle didn't fit there wasn't a lot more to be done. She did look at an all purpose saddle I have and thought it fit my horse "pretty good", and was "definitely a better fit than the dressage saddle". However when I ride in that saddle my horse doesn't move out well at all, she stumbles a lot and feels out of balance. When I ride her in the dressage saddle she moves really well. I lunged her today with the dressage saddle and she looked good. The saddle pad has a even sweat pattern and no tenderness of her back or loin area. Sigh, what to do....
    03-11-2014, 03:17 AM
What to do??? Trust your horse...
    03-11-2014, 08:45 AM
Green Broke
What Aspen said My horse does't give me a whole lot of clues to go off of for his own preference between saddles, but I know others who are much more opinionated and aren't afraid to disagree with a saddle fitter's opinion of what "should" fit better. After all, they really only get to take a good look at the fit while the horse is standing still... moving may be an entirely different story.
    03-11-2014, 01:57 PM
Yes, of course I trust my horse, but I'm not an expert by any means. Sooo should I spend more time and $ to get another saddle fitter to evaluate and then, if that one says no good, I'm back to square one. I've been doing this saddle searching for more than 2 months and it's not fun! I'm very biased toward this saddle working because it's so comfortable, I feel very good riding in it, and it's a several thousand dollar saddle that I got for a quarter of the price. I'll get some pics and post them to get more opinions from you guys.

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