How to adjust and fit a DP Saddle:

Hire a Demo Saddle:

If you'd rather try a saddle before placing an order, why not hire a demo saddle? Then I can assist with fitting via photos, video, phone or email. This works very well and is the most popular option. Out of pocket expenses are postage costs and an $80 demo fee if a saddle order is not placed. If an order is placed, you are out of pocket for postage costs only.

Hire a Fittiing Grid:

So how do you know if your saddle fits your horse well?

Is he moving in a relaxed manner, happily complying with your aids? Or is he stiff, moving crookedly or resistant and disagreeable about being ridden?

If he falls into the latter category, chances are his back hurts. Astoundingly, Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS, reveals that 75 percent of horses showing poor movement and exhibiting a bad attitude do so because of pain caused by an ill-fitting saddle.

Imagine hiking or dancing in shoes that don't fit - maybe one size too small. Feeling fine for a few minutes, you begin to notice the pain gradually increase where the shoes rub or cause pressure points, then become unbearable. An agonising experience! The horse can feel this same sort of pain from an ill fitting saddle.

A good fitting saddle is not determined by brand, cost (though cheap is usually cheap) or style of a saddle - an expensive saddle can cause just as much harm as a cheap saddle if it has not been fitted correctly or sufficient steps taken to ensure as good a fit as is possible. A well fitting saddle is determined by one that allows the horses back to function correctly while at the same time keeping the rider in a well balanced position.

It is also very important (and often overlooked) to use a saddle fit for its purpose. This means if you wish to go for long trail rides, use a trail riding saddle such as a good quality Western or Western or Endurance type saddle. Not a flocked paneled saddle such as a rigid tree Dressage or All Purpose saddle which is designed for short (under an hour) arena type work-outs. The panels on the underside of English saddles are not made for long hours of riding. They are far too narrow to provide enduring comfort for the horses back. The narrow panels give the rider a closer leg contact for the ease of applying clearer leg aids such as are required during a dressage test for instance. A trail riding saddle should have wide, generous panels such as are found on Western and Endurance saddles.

This horse is moving along nicely with no signs of discomfort: his ears are relaxed but attentive to his rider, his eye is calm, tail is relaxed, the stride is long, neck is 'telescoping' forward and he is lifting through his withers.

Performance Problems Indicating Back Pain:

Performance problems can range from a mild protest when mounted to an explosive "bucking bronco" episode. Many if not most other difficulties encountered when training challenging horses can be traced to back pain and training usually becomes much improved when the saddle fit has been addressed.

Some horses either sink down when being mounted or tighten and 'hump' their backs during the first few minutes of riding. Others may actually buck early in the ride then settle down after warming up. This is what is commonly known as being "cold backed". However this is always an indication of back pain usually caused by an ill fitting saddle.

Some horses are very tense or stiff for the first part of the ride and then appear to relax after a period of time. This can be as a result of old injury or arthritis but often the saddle is to blame here also!

Many horses that tend to shy frequently or rush downhill in an unbalanced manner on the forehand should also be checked for saddle fit issues.

For horses that seem incapable of travelling in a straight line, even on flat ground, please have your saddle's tree inspected by a reputable saddle repairer. There is a very real possibility the tree is twisted or broken.

All too often the horse is blamed sighting bad attitude and sold on - which is a crying shame. The saddle should ALWAYS be investigated before such extreme measures are taken.

Behavioural Evidence of Poor Saddle Fit:

* Objects to being saddled: ears back, fidgeting etc.
* Unable to stand still when being mounted.
* Hypersensitive to brushing.
* General "bad attitude".
* Difficult to trim.
* Bucks or rolls excessively in paddock.
* Rearranges stall bedding.
* Displays repetitive behaviours.

Physical Evidence of Poor Saddle Fit:

* Obvious sores
* White hairs or Roaning
* Swellings after saddle removal
* Hard spots of muscle under skin
* Muscle wastage around the withers
* Friction rubs on the hair.

Examples of INCORRECTLY fitting Saddles:

Examples of CORRECTLY fitting Saddles:

Flexible saddle trees are becoming increasingly popular, reflecting the growing awareness and concern of today's riders for their horses' well-being. Why a flexible tree ? As with many consumer products in general, technology has evolved products throughout the years. We watch flat screen colour TV's and no longer 10" black and white TV's - we drive technically advanced cars, the same goes for the saddle tree - it has evolved into a new, advanced generation of saddle tree that is quite different from conventional trees being used for centuries made out of wood and covered with hide or fibreglass.
Riders, trainers, and constructors of equipment developed the flexible tree saddle after becoming dissatisfied with traditional saddles. They kept encountering poor performance saddles that caused sore muscles, white hairs, muscle wastage or a "deadened" communication between horse and rider.
Building a saddle with a flexible tree that can adjust to the conformation of the horse significantly widens the range of horses that the saddle will fit. Perhaps an even greater benefit to a flexible tree is the fact that the tree will move with the horse instead of against it. When a horse turns or bends his body the tree will "get out of the way" of the horse's shoulders and hips. Close contact, lightweight and relief from pressure points to the horse's back are primary benefits to the flex tree, achieved by using materials that result in a thinner, lighter tree bar.
Do I need a saddle with a flexible tree ? Of course if you use a western saddle for heavy duty ranch work or steer roping a flexible tree is not for you, but most other horse sports such as reining, dressage, jumping and even endurance are based on 'feel' and being felt by your horse.
Bridging and pressure points are virtually eliminated by the saddle's ability to conform to the horse's back as compared to a 'rigid' piece of wood placed on a horse's back. Borderline fitting problems can be solved by the ability of the bars of the tree to conform and 'give' just enough to avoid pinching and bridging. One of the commonly used saddle trees for flexible western style saddles is the Equi-Fit. Equi-Fit saddle trees are made up of separate components. They retain a traditional rigid fork and cantle in order to avoid wither pinching and spine irritation caused by tree spread or flattening. The traditional rigid bars, however, are replaced by bars moulded of a specially developed elastomer, a material similar to a rubber-like work boot sole. Equi-Fit Flexible bars are moulded to shape, not cut from a flat sheet. The flexibility 'enhances' an already proper fit, it doesn't attempt to create it.
Article by Cynthia Cooper

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