Jessica Josephson shares her never-ending quest for the perfectly fitted saddle. Read Part 1 here.
Trials and Tribulations with Saddle Fitting: Part 2 – The assessment
In my first article, I talked a little bit about why saddle fit is important and the difference it made with my old horse. I now want to delve a little more into the saddle fitting experience itself and how you can use it to your advantage.
After realizing that my first saddle did not fit my new horse Fili, I searched for a trained saddle fitter. It is imperative that they are trained, because fitting a saddle is generally not as easy as observing what the pros ride in and picking that. Imagine seeing an Olympic runner in a pair of shoes and buying exactly the same type of shoe, size and all. While that shoe works for some, it might be too small or too large, too narrow or too wide; and in the end it might inhibit your ability to preform the best run you know you can. The same can be related to saddle fit!
Each horse presents their own challenges and in my two saddle fitting experiences (now) I would have never picked the saddle that actually fit both my horse and myself. The huge benefit to these guys is that they often will pull saddles out of car that are lesser known, but will fit both you and your horse.
As my first saddle fitter had now retired, I was on the hunt for a new one. My search turned me to Equi-products in Calgary who actually have their own saddle fitting section. These guys are highly trained, and are an absolute pleasure to work with.
The day of the appointment, Donna (the saddle fitter) started by assessing my horse. First, feeling Fili’s neck muscles, back muscles and hindquarters to see where she’s tight and how the saddle relates to it. Her first assessment was that Fili’s neck muscles were tight because the saddle that I own was pinching in all the wrong places. This also ended up restricting her hind end and was not encouraging her to use or build topline muscling at all. No surprise there.
Next, she looked at whether Fili was left or right handed. A majority (70-80%) of horses are left-handed. Research is suggesting that this is a result of which leg comes out first when a foal is born. Turns out, Fili is a non-conformer and is very right handed.
The next step in the assessment is the ‘taping up’ stage. Here, Donna marked the end of the shoulder at rest, the end of the shoulder ‘in movement’, the 18th rib, and Fili’s tree area. This is done on each side, as this is affected by handedness. With Fili, we noticed that the edge of her right shoulder was further back than that of her left side. As a result, she took most of the main measurements from the right side – as this one would be the one that interferes with the movement the most.
After taping up, these lines are used as an indicator for where to measure for saddle fit. With her handy flexible ruler in hand, Donna measured at three key points along Fili’s back. First at the withers, secondly, where the shoulder would move back to, and thirdly at the 18th rib. She also measured along the back from wither to the end of the ruler to see if there is still some growth left – turns out my 16.2 mare is bum high.
After recording all of these assessments, it was finally time to try saddles! But as this is turning into a long post, I will save that for next time!