How to know a saddle is the "right one" for the rider??
Assume the saddle has been professionally evaluated by a master saddler and fits the horse well.
How can you know it truly fits you as a rider? People say things like "it feels right" or "not fighting for your position".
But riding takes a certain level of effort. Where's the line between the effort it takes to stay balanced and follow the horse, vs. too much effort trying to keep one's position?
I'm a schooling-2nd level rider and feeling really ambivalent about my current saddle, but horse is happy in it. While i've tried several others within the past few months, nothing has felt any more natural than the one I'm currently in.
I think riding in other saddles helps you figure it out.
My old saddle was extremely comfortable. As long as I continued riding incorrectly. It never cross my mind the saddle was a part of why I was fighting SO HARD for correct position and unable to get there.
My new (fully custom because my short legs are a hard fit) saddle made me easily sit in the correct position without thinking about it the first time I sat in it. I didn't have the strength and flexibility to be there, really, and so I was sore later - but the saddle made correct easy, and as I keep getting stronger and more flexible it just gets easier and easier. So for me it was about seeing where my default position was without thinking about trying to get a specific position. On top of that my saddle has some big thigh blocks which are helpful during bucking incidents and not in my way otherwise...
Originally Posted by Silverbridge
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Having just gone through the saddle buying process, I think the best way to know is to ride in a million different saddles and when you find the right one you do just know. In my case lots of saddles felt fine, some saddles definitely did not feel fine, but when I found my saddle it just felt like I could ride the way I wanted to ride. I was not struggling against anything, like giant thigh blocks that my legs clamp against no matter what I do or flat seats that are great when things are going well but gave me no support when my horse spooks or has his winter crazies. A good saddle makes it easy to ride the best you can. Some people are very adaptable and can do that in a lot of different saddle styles, but others (like me) ride so much better in very specific types and when you find that type it changes everything. Not because it artificially forces your body into position, but because it is designed in a way that lets your body work in a way that is right for you. I am not thinking "this seat is hard" or "how do I make my leg stay relaxed against this knee roll" or whatever. I just ride.
I agree that you have to ride the saddle - and ride multiple times - to know if it's going to work or not. But precisely *how* to tell is a little tougher to pin down. Here are a few points to consider:
1) The saddle should balance you comfortably in the seat. You shouldn't be pitched forward onto your pubic bone or rocked back onto your butt. You shouldn't feel jammed in and restricted, but you shouldn't have so much room that you slosh and slip from cantle to pommel and back again.
2) Your leg should hang comfortably in proper alignment; you shouldn't have to struggle to maintain your position.
3) The flap should (ideally) extend about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down the rider's calf; it should be long enough so it won't catch in the top of the boot or half chap, and short enough not to interfere with use of the leg.
4) The rider's thigh should "snug up" to the thigh block and rest comfortably behind it. The rider's knee shouldn't slip up onto the block or hang off the front of the flap, and the rider shouldn't feel as though their leg is being torqued back by too straight a flap / too large a block.
5) You shouldn't feel as though the saddle interferes in any way with your communication with your horse. You shouldn't feel as though you have to "go through" the saddle to use your aids.
6) You really should be able to say that you love riding in your saddle. If you can't say that, it might be a good idea to look elsewhere. I know a lot of riders who think that as long as the saddle fits the horse, they'll learn to love it (and some riders have the skill to make up for a less-than-perfect-for-them saddle) but in the long run, both parties in the equation will wind up unhappy. If the rider's not balanced and comfortable, it will eventually effect the way the saddle sits on the horse.
Oregon, sitting on my couch looking out the window at a mountain
Great reply, Kitt, and I'd agree with all of that - especially the last point. Really it does take sitting in a lot of saddles to have that a-ha moment. Riding in a saddle that fits you properly does make riding seem easier - you don't have to fight with anything about your position, you are seemingly magically "there." Saddles that were "fine" at the time I was riding in them seemed so awful when I went back to them after having something that fit better, and each saddle I've gotten has been better and better because I've learned more about my seat and position and feel and where I need to be and what I need to be able to do.
It is kind of a nebulous answer to say "you just know" - but it is also true.
The first time I had that feeling was in a Prestige 2000 and I was borrowing it from a friend (I ended up buying it) and when I sat in it and rode in it, I thought "WOW! This is why she looks so good on a horse!" Aside from her lovely long legs, the saddle did have a lot to do with it - it put her in a position where she could sit effortlessly and she didn't have to fight . . . and it did the same for me.
My current saddle I found after sitting in probably 20 saddles in one day. At the end of the day when I narrowed it down to the three that my horse liked the best, it was the one that I felt the most natural in, but I might not have known that if I hadn't tried so many.
The simplest evaluation for me is: if I feel the saddle, it isn't the right fit for me. It is like clothes, if you find yourself constantly tugging this and that, that clothes isn't right fit for you. When riding in the right saddle, you should feel like you are simply "riding" instead of focusing on the saddle. You will forget that you have a saddle under you. Does that make sense?
I LOVE my current dressage saddle. I told my trainer that no later than yesterday while cantering!
Fits like a glove. It allows me to use my body so much more efficiently.
I struggled a bit at the beginning because I had to have a perfect position all the time...it is way deeper and wider than my previous saddles and my horse is moving so better and bigger that my abs were sore for the first week of riding in it. But I've felt good in that saddle from the first sec I sat on it. It was custom made to my mare's back and my butt!
BUT I went thru 5 other saddles before this one and probably sat on more than 50different types of saddle over the years. (Jeffries, Passier, Sommer, Forestier, Devoucoux and now Hennig)
Each saddle I owned were good for me at that point in time and my tastes evolved as did my riding skills. I re-sold my old saddles to riders who loved them. (I kept de Forestier one, it's a great saddle to start youngsters with)
I also had jumping saddles and it is the same. I got a new Delgrange 2 yrs ago. I like it a lot and fits me and my horse way better than my old Devoucoux but I don't like it as much as my dressage saddle so.... I'm already thinking on changing it... as soon as I found what I want (and have to money to afford it!) It will be my 4th jumping saddle.
Also, be aware that if the saddle isn't fitting the horse properly, it will affect the way it fits you.
I agree with the try as many saddles as you can and when it's the right one you'll know it. It fitting the horse is a big issue as well. My current saddle was the first one that I tried but being that I hadn't sat in any others I didn't buy. I sat in many saddles after that and after trying everything that I could, nothing felt better than the original one that I tried. I called that fitter back re-tried the same saddle to make sure it was what I remembered(over a year had passed) and I have been happy ever since.
Completely agree with trying out as many different saddles as you can. When I bought my new saddle the rep had 4 or 5 models for me to try....I thought I loved the first one until I sat in the second one. I had no idea how much my previous saddle was interfering with my riding...now maintaining the correct position is effortless.
As the former owner of about a billion saddles, I honestly don't think there is one "right one". IMHO, there are those that work, those that don't, and varying degrees in between. And these things can fluctuate with weight, strength, the horse its placed on and how its fitting at that moment... or on the flipside, one could go a decade in the same saddle and never find one "better".
Whats important to recognize is the possibility of poor saddle fit.
If you or your trainer feel you are always trying to fix "__________",
if you're constantly struggling with "________",
if you can only ride for X amount of time else "______" starts to hurt,
etc... consider the saddle.
Riding should be work indeed, but never a struggle to the point you feel as if you're fighting a losing battle.
I remember the first time I took a "dressage" lesson... trainer put a crusty old dressage saddle on a schoolie and it was 2x too narrow, poor horse. The pommel was so much higher than the cantle I was practically rolling out the back. My crotch and my back ached (the poor poor horse, I was young and simply didn't know any better at the time).
I spent the entire lesson trying to fix my chair seat and in terrible pain.
I remember thinking I finally knew why dressage riders had such stern expressions, it hurt! After the lesson I ran from all things "dressage" and it was years before I ever considered it again.
Trying as many saddles as you can sure is a great way to get an education, you might discover things about how your body reacts to being seated in different ways that you never would have considered... but trying a million saddles is not always practical.
If you and your horse are basically happy and you're not chronically struggling at something you feel you have no control over, then I wouldn't let this keep you up at night.
Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.
My two main criteria are: 1) It doesn't feel like I am sitting on the narrow edge of a two-by-four (really, most saddles designed for women feel like this to me...I need a wide twist, which is uncommon in a woman, apparently) and 2) If my stirrups are the correct length, my leg should natural fall into correctly hip-heel alignment without any effort from me. For my jumping saddle, it is also important that my knee still be on the saddle flap with shorter stirrups - not always easy as I have a very long femur!
I think Gloria really hit the nail on the head with her description. When I am trying a saddle, I want to first sit in it and think, "Wow," ... and then I want the saddle to "disappear." I have found that the things I "notice" are the things that become problems.
Of course, the saddle isn't going to "disappear" if it doesn't fit all of the criteria listed by Kitt! I think Kitt is saying the same thing, but in a much more analytical way!
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