Horses change physically (like people do!) all the time. That saddle you had fitted for your green broken four year old warmblood will probably look like a different saddle (in terms of fit) by the time he has had twelve months of work, been fed accordingly, developed a topline and grown another inch! Your 17 year old pony who has had 2 years spelling in the paddock? She will likely be a very different shape when you bring her back into work, compared to what she was when she was being ridden 5 times a week. Your OTT thoroughbred will look very different even three months after finishing his racing career and starting a new career in the show ring.
As a horse ages and changes their work program and diet etc, their body shape changes. Just like wearing a pair of shoes that don’t quite fit can cause you ongoing discomfort, which can lead to long term and even permanent damage to your feet, an ill-fitting saddle can cause the same damage to your beloved four legged friend. Discomfort caused by a saddle can lead to naughty behaviour (which, if not corrected can lead to dangerous behaviour such as bucking and rearing), resistance, crookedness, uneven gait, stiffness, lack of willingness to stretch and move forward and can limit jumping bascule and scope. It doesn’t matter if you are an elite professional rider or a weekend trail rider, saddle fit is an important part of managing your horse’s wellbeing.
The ASFA (Accredited Saddle Fitters of Australasia) recommends that in general, saddles need to be fitted at least every 6 months to ensure correct fit, however if you are unsure, a good start is checking in with the ASFA Saddle Fit Checklist below.
If you notice any changes or answer yes to any of the ASFA 15 Saddle Fit Check Questions you need to consider getting your saddle checked.
The ASFA 15 Saddle Fit Checks
5 Horse Behavioural Checks
1. Does he wince when you touch his back, or try to kick, bite or is generally not happy when you groom him or saddle him up?
2. Is he cold backed when mounted?
3. Does he generally resist your aids or does he go with False Collection?
4. Does he have muscle loss, dry spots, broken or white hairs?
5. Is he difficult to shoe or resists raising his legs?
5 Saddle Checks
6. Does your saddle tip you off balance either forwards, backwards or to one side or does the saddle just not feel right?
7. Is there less than 2 fingers clearance along saddle panels to his spine?
8. Does the saddle seem to have uneven pressure through the panels down behind your horse’s shoulder or along his back?
9. Is your saddle new and has not been fitted?
10. Has it been more than 6 months since your last Saddle Fit?
5 General Checks
11. Has your horse recently come into work?
12. Has your horse’s diet recently changed?
13. Has your horse recently recovered/recovering from an injury or illness?
14. Is your horse new?
15. Are you sharing a saddle with other horses?