Q: I have recently purchased a lovely P.R.E. (Andalusian) for dressage competition and am very excited to begin working with him. He is 15.3 hands with not much wither. He is short-backed and has a good spring in his ribs. I can see that my saddle is not going to be a good fit for him and I want to get another one. What are the most crucial features to consider for this type of horse?
Name held by request
A: Finding the perfect saddle for your new horse is very exciting but can also be challenging when there is so much choice in the market today. Several companies offer saddles that have been specifically designed for the baroque breed types. These saddles accommodate the baroque horse’s unique body requirements of low withers, well-sprung ribs and very short backs.
We always recommend that the following simple steps are followed, to help the rider make the right observations and choices during fitting and not to have an expensive and disappointing result. Choose an experienced saddle fitter by recommendation who, if possible, is familiar with the breed type, as he will understand how to make both you and your horse more comfortable and able to perform at your best. The fitter should recommend a saddle with the correct type of saddle tree. This is crucial for the successful fitting of the baroque breeds. Listed below, in order of priority, are the main features for consideration:
Saddle length. Most baroque breeds can be classified as short in the back. It is essential not to lay the saddle over the last rib, causing pain, distress and resistance.
Width fitting. The tree must be wide enough that the saddle doesn’t pinch the wither area and doesn’t sit too far or high above the horse so the rider loses connection to her horse.
Balance. The fitter must check that the saddle is in longitudinal balance from front to back so that the rider’s weight remains central. The saddle must not be able to rock or sit too low behind, because the rider will become unbalanced and irritate the horse, possibly causing pressure points and further resistance.
Gullet width. Make sure the saddle is wide enough through the gullet so that the wider spine of the baroque horse is not laterally pressured or pinched.
Movement. During riding it is important that the saddle doesn’t move either from front to back or swing from side to side, causing pressure points or friction burns on the horse’s coat or discomfort to the horse or rider.
The rider needs to be as comfortable as the horse. Careful consideration must be given to the correct seat size, leg position and flap length. It is vital that the rider is able to stay in balance throughout all of the gaits, allowing the horse to perform all paces and movements without unnecessary interference.
Sherry Belton is the managing director for Albion Saddlemakers. She educates saddle fitters, trainers and Olympic riders worldwide. She has also been a consultant to Klaus Balkenhol, Laura Tomlinson (née Bechtolsheimer) and William Fox-Pitt for the last two decades (albionsaddlemakers.co.uk).