It is important that your saddle fits your horse well. Good saddle fit keeps the horse comfortable and avoids a lot of behavioral issues.
However, it is equally important that the saddle also fits you – the rider.
When the saddle does not fit the rider, the rider will have a poor position and will need to compensate, gripping with their legs, leaning forward, or hanging onto the reins. Not only does this make riding a lot less fun for the rider, when the rider is out of a good position, the horse has to work a lot harder as well.
Many riders do not know if their saddle fits them or not, and may spend years struggling with their position, having to “override” the saddle.
In this video, I want to share 5 ways to tell if your saddle doesn't fit you and a few easy fixes that can make it better right away.
Click play below to watch!
See you in the comments,
Despite enlisting the help of “professionals” (without understanding why as an adult) I struggled with my saddle not fitting me for years which resulted in years of ingraining poor body mechanics and fighting my uncomfortable and ineffective seat which was physically miserable and mentally demoralizing. I finally found a sales rep and saddle company who was responsive, helpful, and supportive. With the invaluable help from HorseClass, I’m now trying to retrain my body but the foundational improvement in my seat was instantaneous with a good fitting saddle for me and my horse. Due to my horse’s confirmation, my long femurs, and my lack of local access to enough used saddles, I decided to buy new which means more money and a long slow breaking in period but still worth it!
I would like you to have shown riders in saddles that are too small or too big. Bum on the cantle, knees overhanging the knee rolls etc. Much easier to see in photos.
I do distance riding so I spend a lot of time in the saddle. (A short ride for me is 6 miles). The fit of the saddle for me and my horse is very important. I ride in a Specialized Endurance saddle which is very adjustable for both horse and rider.
I’ve been so fortunate with the two saddles that I have. One is Western and the other English. They are two of the most comfortable saddles I’ve ever ridden in. I shopped around, and tried out many, but purchased these two, both used, at a great price. Not only are they beautiful (Tex Tan) and (Stubben) they are a pleasure to ride in (I certainly need the comfort with hip arthritis)!
What an important topic. I rode in a saddle that fit me poorly for 4 years (my trainer at the time had recommended it for me. I did not know what I needed to know to have a saddle with correct fit). I have very long femurs and in order to have my shoulder/hip/heel aligned properly on that saddle my knees stuck several inches way out in front of that saddle. Getting a saddle fitter to help me find a saddle fitting me AND my horses was such a game-changer. I no longer had to fight to stay in alignment and in neutral pelvis!
I love my saddle as it’s definitely the most comfortable and safest one that I have ever had. However I have two friends who ride my horse with me and I wonder if the saddle is OKay for them as they are both much smaller than me. One of them says she feels unsafe sometimes. Do I need to get special saddles for them?
I am considering getting a new saddle so this video is very helpful and timely. I have ridden in a close contact Zaldi for 15-16 years and bought it used, so it’s about 25 years old now. It fits my horse and me, but the seat cushioning is wearing out so there are indentations where my sit bones are.In trying different saddles, I’ve learned I could use more cushioning, but I still feel most comfortable with the fit of my saddle. My question is how much space should there be between the rider and the pommel and the rider and the cantel. I’ve read 4 fingers or a palm, but see riders in saddles with a lot less space.
I have ridden for years in a dressage saddle and struggled with alignment until I got a new saddle from a friend now my balance and alignment is great. When I bought my new horse, Jack, the saddle didn’t fit him so I was back finding something that would fit both of us. After months of looking I found a used western. So we do western dressage.🤣
You mentioned trying independent saddle fitters not tied to one brand. Do you anyone or can you recommend any saddle fitters like this?
I finally resorted to getting a custom made saddle. It is heavier than I would like but my leg pain is all gone as my leg hangs properly now.
I rode for years in lesson saddles that were either way too small or way too big but was told that I shouldn’t buy a saddle until I bought a horse. Well, I had no plan of buying a horse but luckily, I was given a 30-year-old but beautiful Stubben for free in my size, and my riding instantly improved! The knee padding was gone and the leather worn smooth so I decided that if I rode this well in something old, it would get even better with a new saddle. I bought a new Stubben saddle that had been a display/test model for about half the price of a custom order. Wow, talk about comfort and stability – my riding was transformed! There are many other brands that are fantastic, so as Callie says, shop around to see what works best for you. It will be worth it!
My horses are in Ecuador, but I needed to find a well-fitting saddle in Southern California. So, I made a mold of my horses back out of light cardboard. Then went to various tack stores.
I found my dream saddle, A French Butet “Samuer” dressage saddle It is close contact as only one flap.
I rode with it very comfortably, but felt that I needed to redo the panels for my horse’s comfort. (It was too flat for him) So back it went into the suitcase, to California, to the Broken Horn’s Trevor.
Now, it’s ideal. I’ve had it for 16 years, and have received many compliments when others have ridden in it. I bought it used. The leather has held up beautifully! I can’t imagine riding in anything else!
This has become a very big issue for me since taking on a brumby (Australian wild horse) who has a very short back and takes an xxxw gullet and has large shoulders! I’m tall and normally feel most comfortable in a 17 or 17.5in saddle but have to ride in a 16.5in to fit my pony. The twist on most wide saddles is also an issue for me. Thanks for the video.
Great information! I have 2 saddles now, I used to ride my western trail saddle during my mounted shooting competitions but found that the smooth seat and the size of the seat(17.5) for trail riding was not appropriate for the speed event of mounted shooting. So I use the trail saddle for trail riding and flat work. Then I use the Martin Crown C saddle for my mounted shooting events. This saddle has a rough out seat and fenders and a 13.5 in seat. The swell is steeper so it takes a few rides to get used to it again but I feel more secure in it for that event.
This is a great video. It is rare for someone to talk about the saddle fitting the rider, only fitting the horse. When I bought my saddle 4 years ago I ordered the youth fenders because I’m only 5’1″ and I didn’t want to deal with trying to make the stirrups short enough to fit me. I really need to find a saddle fitter to make sure it fits my current horse but if I decide to buy another saddle eventually I will make sure it has the shorter fenders.
Thank you for you clear presentation here.
Agree with others – pictures of riders with each of the issues discussed, good and bad, would be brilliant.
One point of bother – my understanding of the 2-point and 3-point seats is that in the latter, the third point isn’t the pubic bone, but is the back of the pelvis/coccyx. If the third point were the pubic bone, then the rider would be tipped forward, out of balance and unbalancing the horse (and for men it would be ‘crushing’!)
Thank you SO much for the information!!! I went through several saddles many years ago, trying to find a balance for me AND my horse. Eventually, I will be looking for a new saddle for my new horse and you have just made that job easier!!
Also…can I ask what brand your breeches are? I love the look of them and have been looking for something similar!!
I have been through 12 saddles in 14 months. I would find a saddle to fit my horse only to find it rubbed me or made me uncomfortable. I had a wonderful tucker that just didn’t fit my horse well. I have finally found a lovely endurance saddle (Imus) that so far seems to fit me and my horse.
I ride at a lesson barn and was lucky to at first ride a gorgeous Pessoa saddle that fit both me and the pony I ride really well. When that saddle went for repairs, we had to use a different saddle that def doesn’t fit me or the pony as well. The seat rises too steeply at the back for me and tends to push me forwards, and the flap length is too long for my short legs. However, we made it slightly better by putting a shimable half pad under the saddle with more shims at the front to lessen the steepness of the back of the saddle. I felt a big difference in my riding position when we did this. I do also think that by riding in that saddle for a few months it made my riding stronger by my having to really use my core and concentrate on my position so that I didn’t tip forwards especially on landing after a jump. So although it was not ideal, I do feel much stronger now in my position.
I am new to riding and I find that sometimes my hips hurt a lot. I always thought that it was just me not being flexible enough. I do stretching exercises, but it still hurts sometimes. I wonder if I should look into the saddle fit. I ride in the English saddle and do dressage.
I share board a horse. I am taking dressage lessons.The only adjustment I make to make to the owner’s saddle is shortening the stirrups. The saddle doesn’t feel uncomfortable to me, but I have a problem that I wonder might be helped by adjusting the saddle? When I am riding, my left leg wants to move too far forward into a chair seat position, if I’m not constantly aware of it.
I had the opportunity to ride a Lipizzan with the saddle used during performances . It held my seat in an exact position; allowed for no movement within the saddle. My instructor said that she doesn’t like that kind of saddle, because she wasn’t able to move in the saddle. I loved it.
Loved this. Another important piece is the twist of the saddle. I was riding in one that the twist was too wide for me. I have short very round thighs so this wider twist kept me up out of the saddle and not down into it. When I got back into one that had a narrow twist I felt back at home and secure.