Ensuring the right saddle fit for you and your horse (2)
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Whilst people can travel for work, some fitters and craftspeople may choose to protect others or themselves by pausing client visits until it is safer to go out again.
If you do have an appointment with your SMS Qualified Saddle Fitter or Qualified Bridle Fitter, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of cross-infection:
- Keep 2m distance between you and your Fitter.
- Find a quiet, safe spot to tie-up, and ensure your horse is relaxed about being around someone they may not have met before.
- Wear a mask.
- Have just one other person at the appointment if required, for example, if you are under 18yrs, or require assistance tacking up or mounting.
- Clean your saddle and bridle with soap and water the day before.
- Open gates for the Fitter.
- Don’t touch any kit unless invited.
You and your horse
Horses change shape – a lot. We all know this, especially those with native horses and ponies, but there has also been research into how back shape changes throughout the year and even throughout the day.
Many factors can lead to a change in the shape of your horse under saddle:
Weight change is often associated with a change in management, e.g., going from 24hr turnout to being stabled for part of the day, or going from a diet supplemented with hay, to one that includes Spring grass …
A change in muscle either a reduction following injury or a rest period, or gain due to increased training frequency or intensity.
Improved or newly introduced training, leading to more correct movement and a change in posture and self-carriage (this also goes for the rider)
This could be because of a change of yard, or a recent/current illness the horse may have experienced.
This could include a long journey or endurance work / long training sessions.
A change in the type of activity could incorporate a racehorse off the track or showjumper coming into dressage will change shape.
Lameness can potentially lead to asymmetry of movement, posture and muscling.
If your horse’s body changes, so will their requirements of the saddle. To maintain horse comfort, it is ideal to have saddle fit checked four times a year. Bear in mind, that if your horse needs to see a Physio or Chiropractor, they probably also need to have their saddle checked.
The signs of an uncomfortable saddle may be similar to those of an uncomfortable bridle. Asymmetry of movement, short strides, a raised head, and hollow back, and even a change in mood during tacking up may be linked to the saddle, girth, bit, or bridle.
- It is helpful to regularly weigh tape your horse – just a 5cm change in circumference may translate into a move up or down in saddle width.
- If you are working regularly with a musculoskeletal practitioner, like a Physio or Chiropractor, or with a Coach or Trainer, consider a teamwork approach. Your Fitter needs a sound, balanced horse and rider to achieve optimum fit, and your Coach, Trainer or Bodyworker need a well-balanced saddle to maintain positive change.
If you or your horse experiences any of the issues listed above it is worth speaking to your Qualified Fitter. Sometimes a small adjustment, or spotting an imbalance before it becomes an issue, can make a big difference to the experience of riding – for you and your horse.
Check out other BD Youth features here:
Thank you to the Society of Master Saddlers Development for providing the above professional and valuable advice.
Disclaimer: Fittings should only be considered in line with current government guidelines.