A horse’s sense of touch is many times more sensitive than of a human, reacting with a muscle flick to remove the tiniest fly. He feels the slightest pressure- which is why horses react to the most subtle of weight changes when the rider gives an aid. Riders learn the most important aids are in the seat and shifting of balance. A properly fitted saddle is crucial in this communication! If a saddle causes pressure, discomfort, or hits a nerve or muscle that triggers his reflexes (causing negative behaviors) no amount of training can correct a horse’s reflexive reaction to avoid discomfort or pain. If the design of saddle does not enable the rider to sit comfortably and in correct position, this dilutes the aids to the horse.
While the 9 points of Saddle Fit (balance, wither clearance, length, straightness, panel contact, gullet channel, tree angle, tree width, billet alignment) are the universal assessment of STATIC FIT, consider what happens during motion. An assessment of DYNAMIC saddle fit (movement under rider) reveals the whole story! A saddle may appear to fit in the cross ties, but dynamic evaluation tells a different story. When assessing dynamic fit, Equine and Saddle Ergonomists look for behavioral signs indicating discomfort caused by ill-fitting saddles: stumbling, tripping, gait irregularities, not tracking, resistance, bad attitude, girthiness, hollow back, ears twitching, eyes, tail swishing, busy tongue. To evaluate dynamic fit girth up the saddle without a pad. Ride about 15 minutes – 2 circles in each direction of walk, trot, canter – followed by a 20 meter figure-8 at sitting and rising trot in both directions (do not warm up your horse first!). Carefully remove the saddle by lifting it up and off your horse’s back without disturbing the hair. The Equine Ergonomist finds critical information about saddle fit by comparing the dust pattern left by the saddle to the Saddle Support Area. Optimal back freedom for both horse and rider is achieved by assessing dynamic fit – ensuring your horse is comfortable and can understand your aids. This video shows what happens in a Saddlefit 4 Life* 80 Point Saddle Fit Evaluation.
Jochen Schleese, Certified Master Saddler and Saddle Ergonomist developed the Saddlefit 4 Life 80 point diagnostic evaluation to help you and your horse achieve optimal saddle fit! Book a Saddlefit 4 Life Educational event for your group.