Growing up as a young rider, most of us saddled up with whatever saddle was available never thinking about saddle fit. Unless you grew up with someone knowledgeable about it, those white spots that appeared on the horse’s withers weren’t alarming.
Today as more emphasis is placed on the horse’s comfort, those white spots are like smoke coming out of a burning building – HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM! At Circle Y, we believe achieving proper saddle fit is the first step to an enjoyable ride.
Our introduction to saddle fit will get you on your way to understanding and deciding if you have a saddle fit issue.
Is your saddle too far forward or back?
The illustration below is a simplified view of the goal of saddle fitting: to achieve bar contact between the tree and the horse. With a good fit, the bar angle matches the angle of the horse for maximum contact, and there is sufficient clearance between the wither of the horse and the swell of the saddle.
When there is little bar contact and the pressure is concentrated in a particular place, the result can be pinching, rubbing, or white marks. Note that pinching does not always mean the horse needs a wider fit – in fact, concentrated pinching often means the fit is TOO wide, as seen in the Tree Too Wide illustration.
The rock of the tree should also match the rock of the horse (amount of curve in the back). A horse with a very straight back may have issues with the saddle rocking from front to back and require a mule tree which has less rock, or corrective padding. Likewise, a horse with a swayback will require a bridge pad to keep the saddle from bridging. Bridging occurs when the tree does not make contact in the middle because the back is dropped. A bridge pad will fill in the gap between the horse and saddle. A horse with high withers and hollows behind the withers will also need a corrective pad – see the full collection of bridge pads to find your horse’s pad solution. Watch this helpful video to see how a bridge pad aids the comfort of your horse and if you might need one.