I'm officially in the throes of saddle fitting / saddle shopping. I have to admit I was overwhelmed at first, with assessing the fit, and then forming a plan of action for shopping from the hinterlands. I'm located at least five hours from the nearest decent saddle fitter. This, and ignorance about proper saddle fit kept me riding in a poorly fitting saddle for too long.
Last week, I contacted a fitter who was recommended by a fellow blogger. Oddly enough, a few years ago he came all the way out here to fit the trail riding business that is two minutes down the road from me. That was then, this is now. He said to email some pictures, which I did. Hoping to get some input from him soon.
The most relevant info pertaining to Val and I... my saddle rocks toward the withers, and is likely too narrow. A too narrow saddle will show more wither clearance. There is no helping a too narrow saddle. Pads will only make the fit tighter, and worse. Better to have a slightly wide fit, which can be improved with padding. I have ridden for two years in a sheepskin half pad with my likely too narrow saddle. Sorry Val - you tried to tell me. :)
|I will bite this saddle when she takes it off...|
Highlights from the online research:
- Measure from the button, diagonally to the center of the cantle, for the seat size
- N, M, M/W, and W are fairly arbitrary size measurements, differing for each manufacturer. There are apparently centimeter measurements that correspond to N, M, M/W and W - but I haven't confirmed where you make that measurement. I've seen it referred to as "dot to dot"...
- The fist method. A clenched fist (4") set into the the saddle under the pommel. 1/2" - 3/4" space on either side = M, 0" - 1/2" = N, >1" = W. Also seems arbitrary - all fists not being equal.
- The angle method. 90° = M, 86° = N, 96° = W. Good if you see the saddle in person and carry a protractor around.
- The stated size of any saddle may not be accurate when the saddle is used, due to wear and / or work done on the saddle.
- Hoop trees vs standard trees? Picture an upside down U shape instead of a V shape. Val has plenty of whither, but is also wide, somewhat flat backed (side to side) with big shoulders. I'm thinking a hoop tree might be good for us, regarding how the saddle impacts (or not) his shoulders.
- Is it placed correctly on the horses back? One hands-width between front leg and girth, two fingers behind the shoulder blade. Seat should be parallel to the ground.
- When girth is tightened there should be plenty (but not too much) clearance between withers and pommel. Slightly less with rider in saddle.
- Gullet should span the "spinous process" - three fingers wide from front to back of gullet. Many saddles' gullets narrow towards the back.
- Bridging is uneven pressure along the spine - under the pommel and cantle but not even from pommel to cantle. Rocking is tipping motion when pressure is applied to pommel or cantle. The saddle should remain stable when pressure is applied.
Two very helpful resources - Sustainable Dressage and Lorien Stable