Saddle fitting is both a science and an art, requiring careful consideration for both the horse and the rider. It’s important to understand that horses and riders undergo changes throughout their lives, making it rare for a single saddle to fit them perfectly for extended periods without adjustments.
Saddle Fitting Evolution
In the pursuit of better and longer-lasting saddle fit, saddlers have employed a combination of scientific principles and artistic techniques. English saddle makers, for example, have made significant advancements in accommodating shoulder movement by keeping the points of the tree high. While this addresses one issue, it simply shifts the pressure of those points higher up on the horse’s back.
The English Saddle
To further enhance fit, English saddle makers shape the flocking of their saddles to match the contours of the horse’s back. However, even with these measures, the flocking can still raise the rider off the horse by over an inch. Considering that a horse’s back undergoes significant changes during training, an ill-fitting saddle can impede progress and cause discomfort. This often leads to the additional expense of regular re-flocking to ensure continuous improvement.
The Western Saddle
Western saddle makers have also made substantial modifications to address the limitations of rigid tree saddles. By incorporating twists and flare into the saddle bars, they have mitigated the pressures exerted by the inflexible structure. Additionally, Western saddles feature fleece, allowing for the use of corrective pads and shims to achieve a better fit, provided the initial fit is already adequate. However, shimming cannot rectify a saddle that is inherently too small for a horse.
To illustrate this point, imagine having a pair of beautiful boots that are just slightly too small for your feet. No matter how many extra socks you add, the boots won’t fit properly. Similarly, a saddle that is too narrow cannot be effectively widened or improved through the use of any type of pad.
In summary, saddle fitting requires a blend of scientific knowledge and artistic skill to ensure the comfort and well-being of both horse and rider. It’s crucial to recognize the limitations of rigid tree saddles and seek professional guidance to find the best fit for your equine partner.