I’ve been a bodyworker with multiple certifications for many years. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot. The thing I hate the most, however, is working on a horse to have them feeling there best only to have them ridden in improperly fitted tack and undo all my efforts. The ill effects are instantaneous and significant, especially if you know where to look.
That’s why I reached out to my friend, Sabine, a few years ago and asked about her husband’s certification program, SaddleFit4Life. After a lot of research I signed up for the course so that I could offer evaluations to my clients. More, I wanted to learn how to spot ill-fitting tack and avoid the musculoskeletal problems I saw in client horses.
The training for my saddle fit evaluation course was intense and the externship to receive certification was humbling. I thought I had so much information but when I tried my saddles on my pony, Ferrous I had an emotional breakdown. He tried so hard for me and never complained, but I kept pushing thinking that he was just being naughty.
The truth is, horses tell us everything. I just wasn’t listening. That was a hard pill to swallow. My trainer at the time found me crying on the ground in the barn when I came to a hard realization that I wasn’t as good of a listener as I thought.
I don’t know everything. But I do know that I’d rather invest in a saddle that can truly be fitted to my horses and reassessed regularly. When saddle company reps say their saddles are custom, that’s not entirely the case. Sure, you can choose the leather, the seat size, and add or remove foam panels- but a truly custom saddle can be fitted by adjusting the gullet width or shoulder angle. That’s why I invested in my horse’s health and chose Schleese saddles- despite the fact that they aren’t well-known in the hunter/jumper world.
I’m going to stop there and tell you I’m not affiliated with Schleese saddles nor sponsored by them. I’m just a fan based on my years of experience. These opinions are my own!
Ferrous is neurological, with a short back and inconsistent exercise. Not a problem- I found the perfect Remonte saddle for him and have it evaluated, adjusted, and flocked annually. Because it is wool-flocked, my seat bones and body weight depress and move the flocking, so it tends to bridge slightly over time. It’s amazing the difference from one ride to the next when you have your saddle adjusted.
Because Ferrous is in and out of work due to health issues, we don’t need the saddle adjusted very often. So once a year is ideal for us.
Delight is a different beast altogether. Now that he is back under saddle, he’s been showing signs of rubbing/discomfort with the trainer’s equipment. Despite always being slightly lazy, he started to refuse moving forward and would even hump his back. He does have a history of bucking and rearing, so we are very careful whenever he tells us something is wrong. In the end, I bit the bullet and invested in a Schleese Jete saddle for him that he can do flat work or jumping. It is so comfortable! More importantly, I know that I can make sure it’s perfect for him and have it evaluated every three to six months. He is sensitive and I want him to enjoy being ridden again.
We had the first saddle evaluation and the Certified Saddle Ergonomist (CSE) loved the gullet width and shoulder angle of the saddle. Unfortunately, the panels didn’t give enough shoulder relief and he needed a rear wedge for clearance on his back. The beautiful thing is rather than send it away to insert some foam and make small adjustments, I am able to have a complete panel replacement and include PSI with the wool, which is great for a sensitive horse like Delight. Even then, I’ll need to keep an eye on it and likely have it checked regularly to keep him as comfortable as possible.
I know more than anyone how important equipment is to a ridden horse. With Delight’s traumatic history, I wasn’t sure he’d be ridden again. So for him to let us know that the saddle or pad was moving too much- and politely- I felt he needed to be set up with the best saddle for his body. I’m not just investing in a saddle, I’m investing in a high-quality life for my horses and me.
Whatever saddle brand you choose, make sure it fits your horse today, in six months, and even a year from now. It’s not about the brand, the cost, or the model- it’s about making sure as your horse changes that your equipment fits!