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Saddle fit/placement

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  • Saddle fit/placement

    I haven't ridden english in about 6 or 8 years. This saddle was bought for my AQHA all-around (who was diagnosed with Navicular about 6 or 8 years ago). He's over 16 hands and 1300 lbs. This saddle currently has the extra wide gullet in it. I bought the wide gullet to replace it with but can't replace it myself (need husband help). - when they say it's easy to change - they lie.

    Anyhow, this is my ranch horse. The ranch saddle I have is ridiculously heavy so for about a weeks worth of rides I have been using my english saddle but it looks funny. I can't decide if it looks funny because he's a FQHA and has that huge barrle or if he just doesn't look english or if it's the saddle itself or if I have it placed too far back. I keep shifting it forward but then I think it's too forward. It's not rubbing anywhere and it feels solid to ride in. He actually feels to me like he moves nicely with it.

    In these pics he looks "nasty" but that's the flies. They are awful and the horses are miserable.

    I adjusted the color because it was dark.
  • Original Poster

    Are better pictures needed? I can try again tomorrow. I'm going to try to shift it forward a little I think. Maybe it's the teal pad that's making it look too far back?


    • #3
      Can you get a picture that is closer and without the pads? The blue pad in particular is huge and blocks way to much for anyone to accurately assess placement.


      • Original Poster

        Yep. It's pouring down rain right now so hopefully tomorrow I can take some pics.

        These are from the other day. He isn't a huge horse, only about 15 or 15.1 and he's really compact. He's out of reining and cutting lines so he is stocky for english but I'm not really caring about that but I do want to be sure my saddle is working for him. I really don't want to buy a new one if I can avoid it.

        I just bought that teal pad because I didn't want to use my show pad and this old hunt pad doesn't look like it fits the saddle right.


        • #5
          What a nice horse.

          An English saddle is not designed to have the padding that western ones require. Different history. Western, as a working saddle, had to fit any horse and padding helps. English is a sporting saddle, designed for speed and jumping and is traditionally fitted to the individual horse so excessive padding can be a problem.

          With my English eye, he looks better in your saddle-shaped white pad (numnah) and the saddle looks most comfortable in the pic of him with his head down outside.

          When you put the saddle on, with a thin pad, place it on his withers and slide it back until it sort of slots into place. If the saddle fits. Otherwise not so different from western: shoulders clear, girth in the groove or perhaps more vaguely "Not too far back" since one doesn't want the saddle slipping backwards. As a very general test, that might not work, I like to see the beginning of the mane and an inch or two of wither just in front of the pommel.
          "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


          • #6
            Hard to tell without seeing in person, but I think the saddle might be placed a little too far back because the girth appears to slant forward -- especially in first picture -- in order to fit in his girth groove. Girth really should be somewhat perpendicular unless horse has an unusually forward girth groove.

            If your saddle is a jumping saddle with forward flaps, the flap will ride over the shoulder a little bit and saddle will look like it's too far forward when it actually isn't. So there's that too.

            As Willesdon said, you want to place saddle forward and then slide into place into the sweet spot -- with rounder horses that often is frustrating -- and can be solved in most cases by getting on your horse (loose girth) and walking around a bit, and the saddle should settle into sweet spot on its own -- once it does you can tighten up girth, get off and take a look at where the saddle 'wants' to be.


            • #7
              Your horse looks good in English! He doesn't look funny at all. He looks fine in both pads, and since your just riding not showing go for it with the teal pad. You could find the first picture looks a little weird as the pads are not lined up. The saddle is placed a bit too far back on the teal pad, resulting in the saddle and half pad not being on the teal pad at the back.
              I agree with everyone in saying the saddle should be forward more. I also suggest lifting the pads under the saddle, this creates a 'tent' through the channel of the saddle leaving room for the withers and spine.


              • Original Poster

                I may do some local level stuff but I'm not in any rush to show. He's young and green. I did put him in a judged trail ride which happened to be his first trail ride ever where he placed 38 out of 110. I also put him in a local show where he placed in the trail classes (ring) and was reserve champion in ranch horse but that is all I've done with him. Other than lessons and clinics.

                I was thinking I may try some local level dressage on him.


                • #9
                  Very cute pony

                  Definitely slide the saddle forward a bit. The tree points should rest just behind the end of the scapula. Most saddles will have a circular logo on either side of the pommel, and those usually align with where the tree points are -- use those logos as a visual to help you, as well as what another poster said -- put it on his back a little bit more forward than you should, pull up the saddle pad, and then slide it back until it sort of falls naturally in place. I always put the saddle on a bit more forward than normal, and then handwalk the horse around on a very loose girth - where the saddle falls after movement is usually the "sweet" spot - but some wider barreled horses can make it slide too far back, so keep that in mind!

                  I can't make much comment about the fit of the saddle, you'd need much closer pictures. Generally speaking, very very basic/simplistic terms here -- to assess the fit of an english saddle you put the saddle on sans pad and look for the following:
                  - 2 or 3 fingers of clearance through the gullet, with a rider on. You should be able to fit three fingers from wither to cantle, with no rider on. Once rider is mounted, make sure the saddle fully clears the spine by at least 2 fingers.
                  - The center of the saddle, or seat of the saddle, should run parallel to the ground.
                  - No part of the saddle should ever rest or touch the spine - the gullet area should be clear and you should see daylight down the horse's back.
                  - Even amount of pressure down the panels on both side. Look for pressure points under the stirrup bar, or shoulder - uneven pressure is not ideal but may be a sign of wool migrating (simple as a saddle fitter coming out to reflock) or a stirrup bar placement that is not kind to the horse's anatomy
                  - Stability front to back - place two hands on the saddle - one on the pommel, one on the cantle. Do a "rocking horse" maneuver - does the saddle rock and if so how much? Rocking is not ideal and a sign of bridging -- which is when the saddle sits across the back with pressure at the front and back of the horse, but not the middle (similar to a bridge). Saddles should not be "suspended" in the middle, but should have uniform pressure throughout.

                  That is just the basics; if you are going to ride in this saddle for longer than a week or so, I would definitely have a saddle fitter come out to fit the saddle. Saddles can be like shoes in that, you can wear a pair of shoes that dont fit you too well once or twice a week with no lasting implications... but wear that shoe for hours at a time or all the time, and you'll start to get sore.
                  AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                  • Original Poster

                    I definitely need to change my gullet. I have the extra wide in it because that is what I used on my other horse. He is Impressive bred (HYPP/NN) and has a realy broad chest and shoulders. He is very big and needed the extra wide but I think Cloud can go with the wide just fine. I have the Bates and he measured for it. I tried to change the gullet myself but I am not capable. Husband needs to do it and he is not being helpful right now.

                    Here are pics from tonight. After my ride I went through my stuff and pulled out another saddle pad to use. I'm not ignorant in english riding (I rode my first three years dressage and then swtiched to hunter/jumper for the next 15 before going AQHA all around for about 10 years). I've just been doing ranch horse the last 3 years so I'm out of practice.

                    The story behidn the bates is ... well... I had a collegiate that I rode in for years with my older horse (he's 35 now) but Riley had a wide HDR Senior pro as a 2 year old but by 3 he had outgrown it so I bought him the M. Toulouse (Annice) - my absolute favorite saddle but he outgrew it by the time he was 5 so I ended up with the bates. Which is by far my most expensive saddle... (english). I am hoping it will be fine for Cloud once I get the gullet changed.

                    I took "naked" pics tonight so hopefully you can see what you are asking for.


                    • Original Poster

                      A couple more. I can't decide if it's that teal pad that's making it slip back or if I'm letting it slip back. The billets seem like they are in an odd place and I wonder if I should get one of those ergonomical girths....


                      • #12
                        One word of advice is that you might be surprised by what width different horses need. My horse looks like he'd take a narrow or medium tree, but is actually a wide. So if you haven't already, you'll want to do what was suggested above, and run your hand between your horse's back and the saddle (sans pads) and see how tight or loose it fits.

                        I can't quite tell from the pictures you've shared, but I think your half pad might be too small for the saddle. I say that because it doesn't seem to be clearing the front of the saddle, so could be creating a pressure point.

                        And I've had issues with certain horse/saddle/girth/pad combinations where the girth loops on the saddle pad aren't placed properly for where my tack actually sits, which might be what you're running into with that teal pad. Maybe don't bother running the girth through the loops when you tack up, and just focus on getting the pads and saddle to line up with each other (and pulling the pads up into the pommel to clear the withers, of course).

                        Very cute horse!


                        • Original Poster

                          The half pad is a temporary fix until I can get the gullet switched out. But I think this old show pad made a huge difference. I need to get a saddle pad that really fits that saddle. I found one I like but it's really expensive so ... it's on the list to buy.


                          • #14
                            While there are many factors that go into proper saddle fit, the easiest way to know if it's in the correct place is to put your hand on the shoulder blade. It's easy to find - it's that solid spot a little ahead of the withers. When you locate the shoulder blade, lay your hand flat on the horse, 4 fingers together. The saddle should be placed about 4 fingers back from the shoulder blade to provide sufficient clearance for the shoulder blade when moving. If you do that, then do the 'wither slide' as described above, the saddle will find its natural resting spot.


                            • #15
                              It is hard to say with these pictures, but it looks to me like the saddle might be pommel high on the horse, often an indication that the saddle is too narrow.

                              But it can also mean that the tree is not the right shape for the horse.

                              In general, on a close contact saddle, the cantle should be about 1 or 2 inches higher than the pommel:

                              "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky