Saddle Fitting Advice with Tricia Bracegirdle – My Horse Has Changed Shape
Saddle fitting question: “HELP – I THINK MY HORSE HAS CHANGED SHAPE!”
With the competition season upon us, your focus is probably more on your schedule than your saddle fit. However, keeping an eye on your saddle can make a huge difference between your horse being happy, healthy and in winning form or in discomfort with reduced performance in the arena. Tricia Bracegirdle Saddle Technician at Childéric Saddles UK shares a case to illustrate the problem.
When a client called me to say that her horse wasn’t moving well, she explained that she had bought her saddle 5 years ago and whilst I had checked it 2 years ago and all was well, she had noticed recently that he was not moving through his shoulders so freely. My client wanted to know if there was there anything I could do to help, so I paid her a visit and took a look at the current situation. You can see from this picture he has a high wither, but with no muscle deterioration. After riding in the saddle we noticed that the saddle moved back and dropped down behind the shoulder, which made it tight.
The horse is a dressage horse and through his training has really built up behind the shoulders compared to the last visit I made some time ago.
How’s the saddle looking?
You can see from this picture that from the side everything looks OK, however from the front when you felt down the side the pressure was tighter at the top than at the bottom. When looking at the fit of a saddle, you also need to remember what the horse looked like without the saddle on. The tightness at the top could only be relieved by the saddle moving back to a narrower part of the horse and thus cause problems.
After looking at the saddle, we put in new panels. Here you can see the differences in the sizes, the old panel being on the top. Not much difference, just 15mm extra under the saddle and less at the front, however, this was enough to make a significant difference.
The new fit
Here you can see the saddle with the new panels – not really that much to look at from the side, but from the front a huge difference.
Well-balanced stable partnership
Once the new panels were attached, I asked the rider to ride in the saddle. She said it felt great and the horse was certainly moving freely through the shoulder again in all paces. I also suggested a new girth (one with excellent quality elastic which was wide in order to distribute the pressure), otherwise nothing else needed to be changed. Now the horse and rider can continue to develop together, however I would always suggest that you get your saddle checked regularly every six months ideally. A trained saddler can see minute changes, which you may not, which over time can have a detrimental effect on your horse and even start to cause uneven muscle development, so make sure you book in some time to have your saddle checked, it could make a huge difference as this case shows!
About Childéric Saddles:
A bespoke collection of saddles and accessories for the discerning rider, Childéric are the choice of top riders across all disciplines including Olympic dressage riders Fiona Bigwood and Anders Dahl and Olympic eventer Gemma Tattersall amongst others.