Fitting, using and maintaining your saddle

There has been much written over the years about hot to measure up, fit and maintain your saddle.  This is our attempt to clarify the situation. A saddle that fits your horse well will mean he can move freely as well as protecting their vital back muscles.  This will ensure your horse develops a rounded, perfectly balanced outline.  It also means both you and your horse will have a comfortable ride together.   

Properly fitting your horse’s saddle is exceptionally important.  If your horse is in any way distressed or uncomfortable during his ride, you will soon know about it!  Keep having a go at putting it on and making adjustments.

Choose occasions when you are not pressured.  If your horse is well trained, he won’t mind at all.  He may even enjoy spending additional time with you!

Practise as often as you can, as it does help when fitting your saddle.

Here are some top tips to bear in mind when saddling up:

  1. Spend time positioning it.

    Place the saddle on your horse’s back.  In terms of placement, it should go slightly forward of your horse’s withers.  Slide it backwards and forwards until it naturally falls into the right place.  The points of the saddle should ideally be an inch or two behind the shoulder blade to allow for rotation.

  2. Ensure there is a good clearance through the withers.

  3. Check fit around the withers

    The front arch of your saddle should have sufficient clearance over the withers.  It mustn’t be restrictive.  As a rule of thumb, you should be able to get 2 fingers width vertical clearance, between the withers and underside of the saddle arch.

  4. Check the gullet

    The central gullet of the side panel must have sufficient clearance above the horse’s spine.  A poor fit can make result in the horse feeling uncomfortable, and lead to bruises, sores and an unhappy ride. The central gullet must have sufficient clearance above the horse’s spine.

  5. Check the seat level

    Check that the saddle sits comfortably and has an even bearing surface at the front and the rear, and that the general balance of the saddle is correct.

  6. Do a final check

    When you’re absolutely sure that the saddle is well balanced, positioned and securely fastened, you are ready.  If you’re unsure about anything, get some advice from a professional saddle maker.  They will be more than happy to give you their best tips about how to fit specific types of saddle.

Saddle Fitting Guide

Taking care of your saddle

As a general guide, we think you should be checking your saddle fit (and making any major adjustments), at least a couple of times a year – more if you can.  Any issues can then be resolved.

In terms of maintenance, make sure the flocking remains flat, store it in a cool temperature (to preserve the leather) and treat it regularly with a quality cleaner.  This should ensure that both of you can go out riding (in comfort and style) as often as you like.

How do you know if your saddle fits correctly?

The first thing to look out for is the way your horse is behaving.  If there is any change in his personality, character or temperament when riding him, there could be a problem with your saddle.

Likewise if your saddle is moving, or you have found evidence of sores on your horse’s back, it could all point to the same problem.

From a rider’s perspective your saddle must be the correct length (in the seat) and width for your horse, but above all else, it must be the correct saddle for your riding discipline. 

Your saddle must be designed for your riding discipline. Ask your equine supplier for advice.

horse saddle

Many riders prefer the LA Grand Prix, full leather saddle by John Whitaker.Crafted entirely from a high-grade, supple calfskin leather, the LA Grand Prix Saddle allows for an extremely close contact feel and needs no breaking in. The mouldable flaps are decorated with a contrast stitched swoosh design and finished with John Whitaker signature embossing. Used by John Whitaker in high-stakes competitions such as the Global Champions Tour, the LA Grand Prix Saddle has been finely tuned to aid balance and stability, specifically when jumping.

John Whitaker and the Whitaker family are well known in the equine industry, particularly within the show jumping circuit. The exclusive Whitaker brand of equestrian clothing and products, including Brogini riding boots, are available through John Whitaker International (JWI). Combining superior quality with exceptional performance, the Whitaker brand has earned the respect of both amateur and professional riders across the globe.


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