What is saddle fit

What is Saddle Fit?

Finding the right saddle is key to maximising comfort, enjoyment and performance for both you and your horse. However, the initial purchase is only the beginning of the journey. The Society of Master Saddlers, share their top tips for maintaining your saddle’s condition and fit.

4-minute read

How saddle fit affects the horse

For many of us, buying a saddle will be one of the biggest horse-related investments that we will make – so it makes sense to look after it. The Society of Master Saddlers recommends that the fit of your saddle is assessed by a Qualified Fitter at least every six months and more frequently with a young horse as it develops, or with a horse coming back from illness or injury.

We need to be especially vigilant during the changes in the seasons. Most horses change shape throughout the year, we all associate that time in spring and summer with tighter girths, and a gain in weight can have a considerable impact on the fit of your saddle. Fitters often find that a change of just 5cm in a weight-tape measurement can change the balance of the saddle and require an adjustment to fit.

We all lead busy lives and it can be difficult to find the time to stand back and take a good look at our horse – but if we don’t keep on an eye on their shape and condition, we can easily find that we may have missed an opportunity to address a small gain in weight before it becomes a bigger problem.


Ultimately, any change to our horse’s routine can affect the fit of the saddle. Even small changes like a change in grazing, a change in training intensity, a change in training type (from eventing to dressage, for example) or a stressful event (such as a long journey or moving yards) can all have an impact. Be mindful of all these things in relation to your saddle fit and keep a close eye on how it could affect it.

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Why is saddle fit so important?

“It’s important for your peace of mind that your horse’s wellbeing is protected, so they are as comfortable and willing, as they are free to move naturally under saddle. Riders in the UK are particularly lucky to have such a high standard of saddle fitting readily accessible and a wonderful range of saddles with adjustable features.”

Ron Bates of Bates Saddles

How to know you have the right saddle fit

One of the easiest mistakes to make when tacking up is to place the saddle too far forward. This can inhibit the movement of your horse’s shoulder and makes the saddle unbalanced, as it will be too high in the front. It also affects the position of the rider and can cause pressures points for your horse. A top tip for avoiding this is to ask your fitter to put the saddle in the correct position and then take a photo – leaving you with a handy reminder of where your saddle should sit.

Top Tip to help you know if you have the right saddle fit...

One of the easiest mistakes to make when tacking up is to place the saddle too far forward. This can inhibit the movement of your horse’s shoulder and makes the saddle unbalanced, as it will be too high in the front. It also affects the position of the rider and can cause pressures points for your horse. A top tip for avoiding this is to ask your fitter to put the saddle in the correct position and then take a photo – leaving you with a handy reminder of where your saddle should sit.

How to check saddle fit

Signs that may indicate the fit of your saddle is not quite right, include:

  • Unwanted behaviour around being tacked up – such as moving away, biting at the rope if tied up, putting ears back, kicking or nipping during girthing
  • Moving away from the mounting block
  • Your horse not wanting to move forward when ridden or rushing (especially into and out of jumps), being unable to bend evenly, running into or out of transitions, or bucking
  • You may even see that the posture or muscling of your horse changes if the cause of discomfort is not addressed
  • Back or joint ache for you as the rider may indicate that the balance of the saddle is not correct, or that the design of the saddle is not right for you
  • A feeling that you just cannot improve or progress – this may be down to poor saddle fit for you, your horse, or the pair of you.

How to determine saddle fit

Your Qualified Saddle Fitter (QSF) will check your saddle for safety and symmetry during every visit, helping to keep it in the best condition. However, there are a number of checks that you can make regularly in the meantime – ideally every time you ride, but at least once a month:

  • Check the edges and underside of your girth for any cracking
  • Check stitching for any broken or rubbed stitches – especially your girth straps, your girth buckles, and stirrup leathers
  • Check for stretched or torn holes on your girth straps or leathers
  • Check the stirrup bars for any movement or squeaking. If you have thumb-bits make sure they work properly – they should never be used in the up position due to the risk of not releasing the leathers during a fall or if the stirrups get caught
  • Listen to your saddle – yes, literally! – get it checked quickly if it starts to squeak or make grinding sounds.
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How do I look after my saddle?

In order for the saddle to maintain all its aesthetic value over time, it is important to perform the cleaning and hydration treatments of the leather regularly and with specific products. These are simple but indispensable attentions, which allow you to create a natural protective barrier, allowing the leather to defend itself from natural agents such as light and heat, which would otherwise cause premature ageing.

Leather and hide thus retain their characteristics of softness and elasticity, extending the life of the saddle and its aesthetic excellence. It is therefore essential to use products suitable for the type of leather with which the saddle is made, avoiding aggressive products that can irreparably damage it.

Thank you to Equipe for the top tip on saddle care.