In the latest column from the Society of Master Saddlers we discuss essential knowledge and tips when it comes to saddle fitting and the checks that need to be made.
Horses change considerably over time. A horse’s ‘shape’ is very dependent on the horse owner’s management.
A horse can change shape for many reasons. Maybe he is enjoying a break from work turned out in a field with lots of grass. Possibly, the competition season is well under way, and he is leaner and more muscled than he was at the beginning of the season. Maybe he is a young horse and he is going through a period of rapid growth and development. Maybe his owner, school over for the summer, has vastly increased his exercise and schooling programme. Or perhaps he has lost condition over winter.
It’s surprising how many owners notice a rug getting tighter but the fact that the saddle no longer fits well completely escapes them. This is why it is very important to get saddles checked regularly.
Saddle fitting checks are an important part of horse care. Yes, they cost money. And yes, occasionally the saddle fitter may need to return quite quickly because the horse has changed shape so rapidly. This isn’t an unnecessary expense – it is vital to make sure your horse is comfortable.
A saddle that is too narrow and is pinching and exerting other unwanted pressure – or too wide and pressing down and restricting the horse’s ability to use himself correctly – can result in welfare, veterinary, behavioural and performance problems. Overcoming the resulting problems could be expensive in terms of veterinary, schooling and other professional services. Meanwhile the horse has suffered totally unnecessarily.
Recognise that changes in exercise and feed regimes have the potential to alter the horse’s shape. Try to stick to the principle “one saddle should fit one horse” and remember a saddle adopts the contours of the horse. If placed on a different horse, it could be very uncomfortable. When a saddle suffers an accident or when the horse suffers a fall whilst being ridden the saddle should be examined by a Master or Qualified Saddler. Internal damage such as a broken tree can be difficult to spot and, not rectified, it may result in complicated veterinary problems.
Use the services of a Society of Master Saddlers’ qualified saddle fitter to undertake fitting checks regularly. Always have a new saddle fitted and recognise that it is at least equally importance to have a second-hand saddle fitted. SMS saddle fitters have a comprehensive knowledge of saddle brands and designs. They are aware of the rules and regulations applicable to tack and equipment used in all the equestrian disciplines and sports, and offer advice and professional services.
To find your local saddle fitter and for more information visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact The Society of Master Saddlers on 01449 711642.