Thursday, February 18, 2010

Saddle fitting 101

Cattypex was asking for a post on saddle fitting advice. While I have had some experience in this department, usually in the manner of a horse misbehaving out of pain or catching it before it causes serious issues, the downfall about blogging is you often skim the top of the subject, grazing over the important factors and leaving out the gory details. It's in the details where you find the true roots of the issues and begin to really solve the problems.

In catching up on some of the blogs I read I found a link to another one. And yes I will be adding this to the sidelines to keep the learning going for all of us! Saddle Fitting - The Inside Journey I would like to offer a huge Thank You! to the writer of this blog, Kitt Hazelton for offering her knowledge to the rest of us, so that we may learn and our horses not suffer...

We all have knowledge of different things in the horse world. We each have different interests and levels of expertise. Where I may know a thing or two about saddles and how they *should fit*, admittedly it is probably enough to get me by in life and there is plenty more to learn. I have no issue with turning to others who specialize in different areas.

So for now, to get things started, have a peek at the blog in the link and I will get busy snapping photo's of our own horses, likely not to happen until Sunday because of the horse show, but I will get it done and will try to post things in a way to keep it interesting and fun as well as educational.


  1. Off to go check out the blog, just wanted to say ... First!!!

  2. Looks like a good resource ,the second post down had me howling though I can just hear that phone conversation!

  3. Don't worry, GL... you can still be 14th....

    THANKS for posting the saddle fitting blog!!! I think I will blissfully geek out on it this weekend.

    Wait, I will actually get to hang out with my horse this weekend, provided my car doesn't crap out again or we don't get another snowstorm. *grumble*

    I didn't get a freelance job I was hoping for, so I'm hoping that my current saddle will suffice for awhile.

  4. CP- English or western? C3D may have one depending on the needs... I have seen pics and it is a nice saddle! Wide tree, 19" seat... I can put you two in touch, just say the word.

    Right now she is trying to get through some rough patch in shipping a horse to phaedras area.

    And there is still a lot to cover. As I said in the OP, the problem with the blogs is you often just skim the surface. I will try to cover as much as I can without going into a droning, zombie mode.

  5. I would LOVE a dressage saddle.... without too much in the way of leg blocks/knee rolls. I've ridden forever in a CC saddle, and LOVE it.

    Mr. Chip is so freakin' ROUND, with a MOUNTAIN of withers. I'm thinking that when spring gets here and I can ride more, the withers might "shrink" a little as his back muscles up.

    Actually, he's got such a big barrel, I was concerned about my short li'l legs, but I just sort of fit right around him.

  6. "...without too much in the way of leg blocks/knee rolls."

    How was it Mrs. Nolly put it in the Ragman?

    >I'm not buying a bunch of saddles that make a group of beginners think they know how to ride.<

    I see a lot of saddles with huge knee rolls and the pencil rolls behind the leg. I just know that I want to be able to put my leg where I need to or want to.

    Anyone elses thoughts on these? Love the knee rolls? Hate them? We all know by now what we like, what we don't and why. Feel free to unleash...

    BTW- her saddle is either a jumper or all purpose, I forget. I just know my new big mare will most likely not be jumping in her lifetime, so it's dressage for her. I just hope my saddle fits her. If not- it's going up for sale to help fund a replacement. *eyeroll* I hate that.

  7. I recommend VERLANE DESGRANGE's book on saddle fit, Her book addresses both western and english saddle fit. Not only was she an accomplished saddlemaker she was a talented silversmith as well. She also learned the trade of saddlemaking in England. They (The English) have a much higher standard than we do here for someone to be called a saddler.


    I read that book about 58 times.

    That passage said something about learning to ride on ice-slick leather... also Mrs. Nolly didn't like it when Rusty left off the stirrups in his equitation class, as it might promote a chair seat.

    My first saddle had MONSTER knee rolls. It was a Blue Ribbon, made in England. My friend called it The Tank. I sold it for what I paid for it, and bought my second (and current) AP saddle, also a Blue Ribbon, but a close contact model. Such a nicely made saddle that didn't cost a bunch. Every Blue Ribbon had a little plate under the skirt with the name of the saddler who made it.

    Mine is about 25 years old, and the leather is so soft and smooth, but not limp or flimsy. Very dark, almost black. I used almost 2 quarts of Blue Ribbon Saddle Oil on it when I first got it and ascertained that it fit (my instructor helped me with that).

    Someone told me once that Beval bought out BR. Is that true? I don't think it's the same Blue Ribbon that makes/made saddleseat saddles, and def. not the Western saddle maker.

  9. WC- if you read through the posts on the blog in the link, Kitt acknowledges the level of craftsmanship the UK holds to in their training and teaching of saddlery. Not many people here may care to go that far. Too much of the I want it NOW! factor going on, but like everything else- there are those who are talented and gifted in their craft, but they still need to hone and sharpen their skills as well as refining their talents. And just when you think you knew or seen it all, something comes along and knocks you flat. Sending you back to the books or in search of more answers. And they have got to be somewhere!

    CP- I think I had about worn out my paperback copy from Schoolastic books. Loved it and wished I could have lived it.

    I'm not sure about the Blue Ribbon saddles. The only ones I have seen are the western version and I think the shop is actually here in town. ertainly not the same thing although the western BR saddles are quite intricate and elaborate. The price tag is also reflective of the work that goes into them. Wow!

    I have a Crosby C/C (no knee rolls)and a Tony Slater dressage saddle (mild knee rolls and a pencil roll behind the leg). I love them and got a screaming deal on each. I am just really hoping the new mare doesn't need something else once she is in shape. Gawd am I hoping!

  10. CattyPex: it's a REAL all purpose. Has a light knee roll w/long flaps for dressage work. I'm old school and look for saddles that are the same. I can't afford 5 different saddles. The saddle is extremely comfortable. If you want a "die hard" Dressage's not going to work. If you want a comfy saddle you can do Dressage schooling in then hit the's perfect. It's got a wonderful deep seat.

  11. CNJ-rough patch doesn't do it about skidding out of control on black ice??????

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  13. I have a question for you girls. Please give me your advise. I have a horse that I take care of for a friend and she is buddy sour to my horse. The other day my horse got out and was just messing around in the yard while I was in the dry lot cleaning and then out of nowhere here comes Dixie and she went absolutely nuts on me. She ran around me like crazy wouldn't listen to me and I thought she was going to jump the fence and run over me at the same time. I went out and got Daisy and brought her back in and what do ya know Miss Dixie calmed down and you wouldn't know that she had a fit. I told my friend she is a dangerous horse and that she needs a lot of training and if she wasn't able to work her that maybe she should sell her. Now, I feel bad because as much of a problem Dixie is she is still my friends horse and I don't want to make her get rid of her if she doesn't want to, so my question is how do I get Dixie to listen to me and not go nuts when Daisy is out of her sight. Please give me suggestions. Thank you

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  16. Sorry about all the comments in a row having trouble with submitting comments.

  17. "*If anyone is watching on Saturday night for the first class of the evening *Gamblers Choice*, be sure to look for JR and I on the jump crew!"

    Which feed, CNJ? There's three cameras, I mean, um. Yeah.
    Which one, what time, EST?
    Let me know, before tomorrow night??

    Loved the English Pleasure, really liked the woman riding the chestnut. Um, I think it was senior ep. The gray won?
    all beautiful critters..

  18. GL- not having seen any of it yet... I know, my Reeeally bad! Gamblers Choice is the first class of the evening in the Equidome. Evening performance classes start at 6pm. We are two hours behind you... I just checked to be sure.

    I haven't seen much of the show, just a quick peek, popping in after Lilli's cardio appt on Wed. My mom got a quick tour of the barn area as we drove through on the way out. I'm not sure she was quite ready for the commentary and narration she got. I think she's still reeling from a few things about it.
    1) being that I knew or knew of, ALL these people and
    2) the things I knew about them!!!

    If her head spins off or she suddenly explodes, we all know why. Now hubby on the other hand...

  19. Daisy Mae- From what you have experienced, that can be a bit hair raising as well as just plain scary and incredibly potentially dangerous. The horse needs to learn some respect, but also that she is and will be fine even though her buddy is not right there in the same spot as her. Some horses can be difficult to deal with when doing this though. In all honesty, some never do figure it out. They are co-dependant in the worst way.

    Before even starting to address the issue though, be sure everyone is on the same page as far as committing time and work methods go. It is annoying and aggravating For us, as well as utterly confusing for the horse, if you do things one way and the owner does them another and reprimands the horse for behaving how you want them to. Bear in mind also, it is still someone elses horse. But dangerous behavior is dangerous behavior no matter who owns the horse.

    I am trying to get ready to head out to the show, but I will post a bit more in a while about things you can do to help resolvve this. If everyone is interested in doing so.

  20. Yay! It's raining at the show!!! Hunters is outside and not on the live feed. :(

  21. Dang, the feed kept cutting out for the jumper class:(

    I was lucky enough to see the buckskin go, though.

    I saw you setting a fence!

    Broad variety of um, ability in that ring, but all of the horses were saints.

  22. I don't mind leg rolls. I'm not fond of the pencil rolls behind the leg, or the monster huge knee and thigh rolls. I like to be able to move my leg where I want it, but enough substance to feel secure in my position if I need a little assistance. lol Leg rolls can be your friend.

    I don't like to feel trapped. I rode in a friend's treeless barrel saddle. Kept feeling like I'd be impaled by the horn, and if it went bad I'd never get clear.

    I like a decent leg roll, especially if I'm sitting on a big mover. I really like my Passier Antares. It has a medium roll, and the pommel is ground down a bit so it is lower in the front. Very similar in feel to the GG. It has a wider channel down the center for the horse. I liked my Windsor Greenline once I got used to it, but the knee rolls are kind of big. I also have a Schleese modified by Passier, or it is a Passier modified by Schleese...not sure. But it is for longer legged folks, has longer flaps, narrow twist, with a wider seat for my wider butt. lol I really prefer a narrow twist.

    In western saddles I like center hung stirrups, but I don't want huge swells, but I can also feel a little insecure with an A fork saddle. Don't mind an A fork with bucking rolls attached.

  23. CP, have you looked at a Kiefer Wein? I really like it, but the flaps were a hair too short. They seem to fit a wide variety of horses, and have the cutback pommel that helps with higher withered horses.

  24. DaisyMae-I think you friend's horse's behavior is dangerous only in that she could possibly hurt you or herself, but I don't see her as a dangerous horse. Does that make sense? Unless of course she has other issues.

    It's weird, but even in herd situations we have horses that buddy up with one or another and they are not happy when their buddy is removed. You would think that they wouldn't mind, with a dozen other horses in with them, but sometimes it does.

    My suggestion is simply to either put your friends horse in an enclosed stall or tie her in the safest, out of the way location you have. Throwing a rubber mat down may be beneficial, cause she will likely try to dig a whole to China. I'd recommend keeping her within earshot, but not necessarily in your direct line of vision.

    On the saddles, I don't have a whole lot of experience riding in an english saddle. My old one did not have the leg placement aids, but the new Ovation I have does and I love them. I can still move my legs, but it sure does help a western riding girl like myself.

  25. HP - Unfortunately I don't have a lot of people around me with dressage saddles to try out... :(

    But my freakishly short legs (28" inseam) would LOVE a shorter flap!

    My current saddle doesn't have knee rolls. Makes cleaning soooo easy - no suede, and less stitching to deal with.

    I'm a huge fan of soft but durable leather. I've heard good things about the Stubben Scandica, with the elkskin seat. Sounds exotic. I also love brown leather, but am resigned to the overabundance of black.

    So does the Kieffer Wein feature a cutback pommel, or one that works for monster withers?

    Also unfortunately, there aren't any nearby saddlers, and I'm also pretty POOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :P

    I hope to sell my old Silver Royal western saddle (from back in the day - much MUCH nicer than the Royal Kings!!!!!!!!) & headstall at next week/month's tack swap. This will help fund horsey ventures.

    Buddy sour horses - you have my sympathy. Takes some work to rehab, and not everyone has the will or facilities to do that.

    Some 4H parent put their 1st or 2nd grader on a 4 YEAR OLD buddy sour horse that was attached to her big sister's mare, who was actually much more child-appropriate.

    The littler kid's stirrups were too long, so instead of getting the fenders cut down or something, they duct tape blocks of wood onto the stirrups. Damn, that was fun at the Fair.


  26. CP- I'm not far behind you with about a 29" inseam. You looked taller in the photo's. Honestly you did. At least to me anyways.

    And that is one of the things I am hoping to cover in what may be a 'series' of topics surrounding saddle fit. Because it has to fit the horse, but the saddle must also fit the rider. That can be a tough thing to accomplish in some cases.

    BEC- I grew up riding western and bareback. My first ride in and all purpose saddle was pretty interesting to say the least. I had the 'comforted' feeling of being in a saddle, but man did my legs ever feel like they were swingin in the breeze! That's what for me, took some real getting used to.

    As for the knee rolls, thigh blocks, pencil rolls behind the leg... the western saddle I started out riding in, was a roping saddle with no tooling and a smooth seat. In other words it was slick as could be, but you could easily move around and get into place as you needed to with little effort. Or out of place in a snap, whichever happened first.

  27. Well CP, tell you what. A student just bought a Harry Dabs/Jaguar. If it doesn't work for her and the horse, I'm sure you'd get a screaming deal. (It is a 16.5 or 17" seat)

    It should arrive sometime this week.

  28. Seriously, keep me posted!!!

    Never heard of Harry Dabbs - So I Googled - wow, how pretty!

  29. Hopefully a Jaguar saddle would be as elegant and fun to drive as a Jaguar car.

    Hopefully it wouldn't break down every 6 months, though.....

  30. "...I had the 'comforted' feeling of being in a saddle, but man did my legs ever feel like they were swingin in the breeze! That's what for me, took some real getting used to."

    I know, I have ended up plopping down on my horse's backs so hard(poor things) because for no apparent reason...a foot would just shoot forward...or backward or one would go each direction. Talk about making you feel like a gunsel-LOL.

  31. GUNSEL...omg. Haven't heard that in awhile. ONe of my favorites. So descriptive. lol

  32. Gunsel is a new one on me! Love it.

    I've had to help try and rehab a couple of kids who've grown up kind of feral, bombing around bareback on iron-mouthed ponies.

    Good: NO FEAR. Velcro butt.
    Bad: Chair seats, hanging on by the reins, roach backs. Not unlike redneck yahoos on biglick horses. Also the parents are resistant, because everyone thinks that if you can gallop around a field bareback and not fall off, that makes you a good rider.

  33. What a wonderful post on saddle fitting. I loved the Saddle Fitting-The Inside Journey link you provided for us. It is amazing how much there is to learn about saddle fitting and what pain you can cause to you and your horse with the wrong fitting saddle. I loved the pictures of the two morgan horses and how each saddle fit differently on each horse. How do you measure your horse to get the saddle that fits your horse well? For those of you looking for a new saddle or perhaps, a saddle pad, a new bridle, grooming supplies or horse care products check out