Optimising Saddle Fit: A Comprehensive Checklist

In part one of our series, we discussed the critical importance of saddle fit for your horse’s comfort and performance. Now, let’s delve deeper into the process of ensuring your optimising your saddle fit with our comprehensive saddle check.

Before we begin, it’s essential to note that while this checklist is a valuable starting point, it does not replace the expertise of a professional saddle fitter. Now let’s eliminate the possibility of your saddle causing discomfort or pain to your horse through our meticulous inspection process. 

  • Anatomical Landmarks: Start by identifying key anatomical landmarks on your horse’s back. Locate the scapular, thoracic trapezius, the longissimus muscles, and T18. Avoiding pressure on the thoracic trapezius is crucial as it can impede shoulder movement.  
  • Saddle Positioning: Ensure your saddle is correctly positioned. Placing it too far forward can compress the shoulder cartilage, leading to long-term damage and restricted movement. The tree point should align with the back point of the scapular to avoid this issue. 
  • Wither Clearance: Check for adequate clearance around the withers. There should be 2-3 fingers of clearance on top and around the sides to accommodate shoulder rotation. Insufficient clearance can cause discomfort and a reluctance to go forward. It’s very important to check this while seated in the saddle too! 
  • Tree Angle: The angle of the tree points should match the angle of your horse’s shoulder. This alignment allows for free shoulder movement without restricting the rotation of the shoulder joint. 
  • Channel/ Gullet Width: Ensure the gullet width is wide enough to accommodate your horse’s shoulder rotation. A gullet that is too narrow or too wide can cause permanent damage to your horse’s back and hinder performance. 
  • Full Panel Contact: Check that the saddle’s panels make even contact with your horse’s back, distributing the rider’s weight evenly. Avoid bridging or rocking, ensuring contact throughout the saddle’s length. 
  • Saddle Straightness: Verify that the saddle’s centre aligns with your horse’s spine. Uneven pressure or compression on one side can cause the saddle to shift during motion.
  • Billet Alignment: Ensure the billets hang perpendicular to the ground in the girth area. Incorrect alignment can cause the saddle to slide forward or backward, creating pressure point and discomfort. 
  • Saddle Length: Check the saddle’s support area sits behind the shoulder blade to avoid damage to the scapular cartilage. Avoid extending past the last rib/ T18 to avoid pressure on vital organs. 

    Always conduct these checks first statically, then with the girth attached and lastly with a rider on board to ensure optimal fit. Additionally, observe your horse’s reaction to being saddled. Signs of discomfort or aggression indicate potential issues that require attention from a professional saddle fitter. 

    A well-fitting saddle is not just a matter of comfort- it’s essential for preserving your horse’s health, longevity, and performance both on and off the polo field. Stay vigilant, prioritise your horse’s well-being, and let’s ensure every ride is a comfortable and enjoyable experience for both you and your equine partner. 

    Remember, it is very important to have your saddle checked by a professional on a regular basis and this does not replace that, just a helpful guide! Share this article with your fellow equestrians to spread awareness about the importance of saddle fit in ensuring happy, healthy, and high performing horses.