• Paige Hazell

The importance of regular saddle checks

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

It’s regularly said that you need annual checks for your saddle. But is this enough? Does everyone do this or are we only calling out our saddle fitters regularly when it’s too late and there’s a problem?

I understand with the current issue that most people have had to leave their fittings for a lot longer than they anticipated, and most fitters are probably booked up at the moment.

But why do our fitters (me included!) recommend a 3 month period in between saddle checks?

It’s not a money driven motive – it’s because a lot can happen in those 3 months! I’ve attached a picture of a regular client of mines template. Red 6 months ago, black recently, templated at the withers. Because of the pandemic, said client has had to leave it 6 months between saddle checks, rather than me coming out in March as planned.

In those 6 months, she’d moved yards, finished winter and gone through the spring grass flurry, and had to give her horse 6 weeks off. Nothing particularly extreme had happened to this horse, just a simple “that’s life” situation.

What you can clearly see is the size difference in these templates. This horse, in these 6 months, has gone from an extra wide saddle, to a medium wide. That’s two whole gullet sizes.

And while the owner had recently bought her horse a lovely new HM FlexEe, I had also found from my initial fit of the saddle, that some of the flocking had congregated into (not a particularly large, but said horse is very sensitive) clump in the back right side of the panel.

Now, what would have happened if I had not been called out? This horse would have developed muscle injuries from having a 2 sizes too large saddle on his back. He could have developed a bucking habit from the hard point (which is likely for him.) And most importantly, the riders safety would have been compromised!

I can never stress enough that your horse, much like your farrier or chiro, needs to see a saddle fitter regularly! 3 months is enough time to check over your horse and saddle and make sure it’s a good fit. During these 3 months, muscle can be lost or gained, or flocking moved. You need, and should, have a plan in place with your saddler in regards to your goals, as these will affect your saddle. Shimming can be so useful for saddle fitting when you have a horse with atrophy that needs muscle build up. Or if you have a horse with some balance issues in the back, or with their movement, shimming can massively help with a horse that’s typically a “saddle fitters worst nightmare”

Make sure you have your saddle checked after horse/rider injuries. Any time off. Any gain or loss of weight. Any increase or decrease of work. You really can be surprised how much change can happen.

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