Saddle is the most important element of equestrian equipment. It allows you to comfortably mount the horse and lead him efficiently. It is the immediate connection between the horse's back and the rider. It plays the key role in proper transfer of information so you can communicate with the horse. Saddle is a necessary piece of equipment so that you can safely practice horse riding - properly fitted saddle protects the horse's back. Saddle consists of elements adjusted to the horse's and rider's anatomical shapes. That makes horse riding a pleasant, passionate experience for both the rider and the horse.
The rider communicates with the horse through signals that cause the horse's reaction. The rider through the use of his or her body balance in the saddle and his or her natural aids (calves, hands) influences the horse's movements. Depending on the equestrian discipline, you should pick the saddle by its structure that would precisely communicate valid information to the horse. The horse's reaction would be feedback and the performed task would be the effect of the communication. If the horse performs the tasks properly would be very much dependent on the precision of the signals he is getting from the rider. The better the saddle is fitted (its structure, type) the better the synchronization and fluency of the horse's movements. Particular elements of the saddle's construction allow you to create configurations adjusted to separate equestrian disciplines and riders' individual needs.
In the first phase of fitting, you should mind the basic differentiation of the saddles based on their target use. Thus we have the following types:
Proper fitting of the saddle is a real challenge. Saddle fitter has to keep in mind the rider's weight, height, and the horse's riding skills, as well as the horse's back anatomical shape. We should note here that symmetry does not occur in nature. The left and right side of the body - both the rider's and horse's are not mirror reflections of one another. There is a possibility to balance such asymmetry, which is why there is a range of parameters that allow a saddle fitter to navigate through the process of saddle fitting. In order for the saddle to be as fitted as possible both to the rider and the horse, you should mind the following:
First, you should settle what would be the proper seat size according to the general rider's weight parameters "from-to" while maintaining the standard height. Seat sizes are given in inches.
Seat size [inch]
Rider's weight [kg]
15" – 15 3/4"
Up to 40 kg
16" – 16,5"
41 to 51 kg
17" – 17,5"
56 to 79 kg
80 to 120 kg
Seat size [inch]
Rider's height [m]
15" to 16"
1,45 m to 1,65 m
16,5" to 17,5"
1,65m to 1,75 m
17" to 18"
1,75 m to 1,90 m
Seat size is a parameter that is directly related to the width of the rider's hips and pelvis. You should choose it accordingly to your individual body characteristics. There are no universal rules in this case. An individual build requires non-standard sizes. For example, for a rider of 179 cm and 49 kg, it is recommended to choose a seat size 16 and longer tabs. However, you should pay attention to your individual preferences, i.e. there is a group of riders preferring bigger or smaller saddles that are recommended for them - they have some sizes already tried. It is necessary to test different sizes of saddles instead of choosing the recommended sizes only. The length of the saddle, however, should not reach behind the horse's last immobile rib.
Then, it is recommended to fit the withers bar, so the distance between the left and right edge of the pommel - the spot at the level of the horse's shoulder girdle. The withers bar can be regulated on the basis of precise measurements of the horse's withers, but not only - you also need to pay attention to the horse's back individual anatomy. The opening on the front of the saddle is called the withers bar. Each producer has their own scale of measurements. In the chart below, we present values for Prestige Italia and Renaissance.
Horse's back characteristics
is a narrow size, for horses with dominating, sticking up withers
is considered a standard size, the most popular one
36 and up
for horses without clear withers - the so-called round horses
In the next step, you should properly determine the center of gravity, namely the lowest point in the saddle seat, which coincides with the highest point of the horse's back. The rider while moving in a saddle that has properly profiled center of gravity should feel like he or she sits in the horse. The rider does not lean forwards against his/her will, nor backwards. In order to obtain that, it is necessary to interfere with the panels and the individual adjustment so that there is balance in the saddle. The center of gravity can be determined according to the proportions after precise measurements made by a qualified saddle fitter.
You can also personalize crucial details such as trimming, seams color, and the rider's individual plate.
The most common symptoms of an ill-fitted saddle are:
However, a wrongly fitted saddle is not the only possible cause of such symptoms. First, you should rule out the possibility of other factors influencing the quality of riding in the saddle, namely:
The condition necessary to realize how important it is to properly fit the saddle is the rider's will to learn about this topic. You should always keep in mind that you are dealing with a living being, and there are always some processes going on inside it, they can cause improvement, development, or regress. You should deal fast with the effects of the horse's hurting back so that you can prevent serious inflammations or muscle atrophy.
In case of any doubts, we recommend consulting a saddle fitter or a saddle retailer, who has the experience, access to the latest information and expertise. Saddle fitting should be done by a qualified saddle fitter during a scheduled visit to the stable. A saddle fitter will check the back impulses, properly measure all necessary dimensions, and collect data in order to choose the right pillow structure. Saddle fitting is fee-paying or integrated with a saddle purchase.
There are many amateur saddle fitting methods, such as e.g. the three fingers method. It is an old method that has some regard to particular groups of horses. However, it has lost its versatile relevance as a highly developed horse breeding has lead to richness in their build. Crossbreeding for the purposes of movement or jumping disciplines has caused changes in the line of the horses' backs. Thus, we cannot take universal saddle fitting methods for granted. It is necessary to take into consideration the horse's individual measurements and the characteristics of each of the horses' backs. Another reason for which the three fingers method fails as a sure measurement is that this method is prosaic and applies to the differences in the build of the riders' fingers. When an adult man will not fit two of his fingers under the cantle, a delicate woman might easily do so. It is the best proof that this method is unsuccessful.
Is it worth using additional saddle pads?
There are many types of pads available on the market. Pads can also serve as a useful aid for fitting one saddle to many horses. You should choose pads made of natural materials that cushion impacts and fill unevenness. It can happen that a pad is necessary also with a properly fitted saddle, especially when the horse's back is extremely individual.
Being able to test a saddle before the purchase gives certainty of the right choice or at least a protection from making a mistake. It is worth using a professional aid of a saddle fitter, coach, or trusted saddle retailer. Choose a store that has experience in selling saddles and proper testing saddle magazine.
You should not buy a pig in a poke - special offer price-wise does not always mean a high-quality offer. It is often times that the saddles were obtained in unfair or illegal ways.
Choosing an experienced retailer, using a professional saddle fitter, proper maintenance - all that will reassure you that you have done anything in your power to provide yourself and your horse with the highest quality of riding in the saddle.