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Spinoff on misc. saddle-fitting threads: Why do we do that?

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  • Spinoff on misc. saddle-fitting threads: Why do we do that?

    And by "that", I mean "putting the saddle too far forward on a horse's shoulders/withers."

    It seems that's a really common thing in the H/J world. Why?

    It's something that has puzzled me for quite a while, since I started to learn about saddle-fitting. If putting a saddle too far forward impedes the movement of the horse's shoulders, and/or puts undue pressure on the withers, why do so many people do it? Why does it look "correct"? Is it a lot worse to have a saddle too far back than too far forward?

    And on a tangentially-related note, why does the girth have to be so darn tight? I get that the girth needs to be tight to keep the saddle from slipping around, but something it seems like people really crank on the the girth to get it ULTRA-tight, beyond the point that would keep the saddle in place...it seems like that too would impede a horse's movement. If I were wearing a belt that tight, it would sure as heck impede MY movement!

    (No flames, please. These are honest questions from a relative newbie--I'm still trying to learn the sport! )

  • #2
    I really don't know, but after reading all those threads, lately every time I ride I'm second-guessing myself and wondering whether my saddle is too far forward and/or whether my girth is too tight
    Equine Web Design & Marketing


    • #3
      A good way to make sure the saddle is where is should be is there is to line up the point of tree where the shoulder ends. If this matches up with where the horse's shoulder ends then the saddle is where it should be. This link shows this area of the saddle.(Scroll down until you see a saddle diagram naming parts)http://www.limebrook.com/saddles.html I would think that having a saddle too far forward or too far back would be just as bad. I am not sure why people feel the need to have their horses girth really really tight.


      • #4
        IMO, how far up the saddle goes depends on the horse. For instance, my Appy needs it a little further back. My TB needs it a little further forward. Where it goes on both of them has changed due to topline increase/decrease.
        Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


        • #5
          I have noticed this as well. I am guilty of it myself in my past

          I think the tendency may come from when we're first taught to tack up. I know when I taught beginners, I told them to, "Put the saddle halfway up the withers, then push it back a bit." To an excited kid who only wants to ride, they hear, "Put the saddle on the withers."

          Like the OP, I found enlightenment when a saddle fitter came out to the barn
          "In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people angry and has widely been considered as a bad move." -Douglas Adams


          • #6
            I'll answer this two ways:

            The first is that on your average horse the saddle is going to slip back and not forward. So putting the saddle a bit too far forward means that it will usually slip back to a more correct place, whereas putting it too far back will just result in a saddle that's too far back. And I think it's fairly standard lesson fare to teach people to set it too far forward with the idea that it will settle into the right place. Some people do try to keep it too far forward, but "some people" are guilty of everything when it comes to horses

            The second answer is more horse-specific. My big jumper has a major "catapult" hind end. If I'm sitting even a hair too far back I get flung out of the tack over big jumps. We're both more comfortable if I'm a little bit too far forward. I actually just figured out at a horseshow last week that I need to set the saddle a little too far forward (relative to his shoulder) with a non-slip pad, and he's physically more comfortable having me sitting there (which is obvious through how he uses himself while I'm on him and also in how much less tension he held in his back when my chiro worked on him after the show).

            I absolutely hate where my old saddle fitter used to set my saddle after she worked on it. I could not ride with it where she wanted it (well back behind his shoulder and probably a good 12" further back than it would have naturally sunk to) and he was crabby and uncomfortable with the saddle that far back as well. So I do think there's a way to go too far in either direction. Same story for my mare.

            I think that the too-tight-girth-syndrome is more related to saddles that don't quite fit right. Take a saddle that's sliding a little too far back (easy to have happen if your horse makes even a moderate effort with their ribcage/shoulder over a jump and your saddle's just a hair "off") and it's easy to fall into the trap of...."well if I just tighten it one more hole....."
            Flying F Sport Horses
            Horses in the NW


            • #7
              I have see that too... I think it's like PANTS. Some people wear pants up too high (your butt looks huge and your belly bulges out), some wear them too low (your butt crack is showing and you have a saggy crotch)... I don't like pants unless they sit just below my belly button..

              On the saddle I agree that it should be placed then cinched exactly where it needs to be. I have seeb "big" barns put it way up near the shoulder - more than likely because it will slip back... but then shouldn't a breastplate be used on that saddle?

              To each their own..
              Live in the sunshine.
              Swim in the sea.
              Drink the wild air.