Friday, February 3, 2012



Saddle fitting is such a confusing topic for a lot of equestrians.  It's can be quite frustrating to find a saddle that actually fits properly for both you and your horse. Many horse owners do not properly fit their English saddles and just figure if it fits their seat then it will fit their horse just fine, but that is not the case at all!

People often put all the cares of saddle fitting based on the size and shape of their horse and forget to think about how the saddle fits them... I see people riding in saddles that are too small for their seat and legs and the horse is bound up due to restriction from ill fitting saddles…  If you're confused about how to fit a saddle correctly, contact a local saddle fitter to come to your barn and check your saddle fitting on your horse.

Saddle fitting is just like trying on shoes that fits your feet comfortably. No one pair of shoes fit everyone with the same size.  It take trying on many pairs of boots to find one that fits comfortably without pinching, squishing or that is too big. 

Many horse owners just throw on a saddle pad and saddle without thinking it through... they don't consider or look to see if their saddle leans to one side or tip forward or back or if it has even pressure under the panels. Or they think if it clears the withers they assume it probably fit their horse just fine... Well, unfortunately, that's not the case at all.  I was once one of the many that was confused in the beginning of living my equestrian dreams but after many house of researching, going to clinics, having a saddle fitter come to my barn I've finally learned a thing or two about what makes a correct fitting saddle on my horses.the best caregiver for my horses that I can be.  


To fit a saddle correctly there is a list of requirements that need to be met to ensure the horse is comfortable and can move with ease in addition to fitting the rider correctly.  When you have a proper fitting saddle for both horse and rider the horse will have freedom of movement and the rider will be in better balance and harmony with the horse. 

For example, there should be a full hand width from the top of the back of your seat to the top of the cantle.  If your behind fills the entire saddle then that indicates that the size of your saddle is way too small for you, which puts too much weight on pressure points creating sore hot spots on the horses back that will permanently hurt your horse physically in the long run.  

Another imperative aspect of having a saddle that fits correctly is making sure the saddle doesn't lock you in with a seat that is too deep or a lean you forward or backwards. A tips to see if your saddle fits balanced on your horse is to place your saddle on your horses back and then put a pencil in the middle of the seat, if it stays in place in the center of the seat then your saddle is balanced, if not then that is an indicator that your saddle needs adjusting. You can buy saddle shims to balance your saddle if needed. 

And for dressage saddles the length of the flaps should be approximately the length of your inner thigh, not all flaps are the same length, some are 15"and others come 17.5" long measuring from the leather keeper to the end of the flap. Your knees need to be balanced correctly with the knee rolls on the saddle to have a straight line down from head to heal for a balanced, correct seat. 

Although saddle panels do not sit directly on the spine of a horse it does, however, sit on the ligaments that attach to the spine which can be very sensitive, just as our backs are. The gullet width is often overlooked as well. if your saddle's gullet is too narrow or too wide it will hurt your horses back and create pressure points down his spine which makes for a very unhappy horse while under saddle.  Look for signs that your horse is in pain each time you saddle him up, if he flares his nostrils and pins his ears or steps aside as you reach to put the saddle on or swishes his tail quickly he's letting you know that he does NOT want that saddle on his back. Just as a child complains if a parent tries to put shoes on that are too small, you need to pay attention to your horses body language. If you horse is expressing frustration then you need to listen and check your saddle. 

Another way to check if your saddle is too small is to check your horses spine with your fingernails or a pointy object such as a pen with a lid on it. Run your fingers and down one side of your horse's spine and then the other, if he flinches as all that indicates that he has a sore back and needs a correctly fitted saddle. If he's really sore than a visit to a equine chiropractor will be necessary to ease his comfort and adjust his back accordingly.  You can also use a high quality  sheepskin half pad to ease the pressure points and discomforts from your saddle, stay clear of inexpensive half pads they can do more harm than good.  


Here is an excellent video of 9 steps to proper saddle fitting to clear up the confusion of fitting and English saddle correctly.

Remember a happy horse makes for a happy equestrian so take saddle fitting seriously and do your best to research and learn all you can about saddle fitting or have a saddle fitter come to your barn to educate and check your saddle for you.  

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Happy saddle fitting~
~Carol Whitaker
Riding Instructor

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Friesian Horse Society Photo Contest Winner!


APOLLO won this month's Friesian Horse Society's photo contest! Way to go APOLLO!!! :) XOX

Monthly Photo Contest Winner for January
Congratulations to Carol Whitaker for being our January photo contest winner!
Harold v.R aka Apollo, FHS keured stallion owned by Carol Whitaker of Royal Grove Stables.

This is an ongoing contest with each monthly winner receiving a free gift, and all winning photos will be featured in our 2013 calendar. The voting starts over each month along with new photos being added, so don't forget to vote each month and send in your photos. All entries except for previous winners will carry over each month, so you have numerous opportunities to win! Send your photos with information to

For more information, view submitted photos and to vote go here: PHOTO CONTEST