Archive for March, 2015

Why you should never ride in a Too Small Saddle.

A few years ago, when I began riding a different lesson horse, the owner of the horse requested that only her own custom fitted saddle be used.  Fine, except…..the saddle was too small for me.  After one lesson, I was bruised and extremely uncomfortable.

I have options that are not available to most riders. I am able to have custom fitted and use any saddle in our demo program.  I selected a different saddle to use that was my size and had it custom fitted to the horse.  Subsequent lessons were far more pleasant.

A frequent comment that I hear is “I want my horse to be comfortable. I know my saddle is too small for me, and I can deal with that. But please, adjust it so that my horse is comfortable.”  This has prompted me to write this post. Here is what happens when a saddle is too small for the rider:

  1. Rider is uncomfortable.  Rider can become bruised and/or chafed from constant contact of the ramp of the saddle with the pubis. OUCH! It is impossible to ride correctly and this makes carrying the rider more difficult for the horse.
  2. It is impossible for rider to sit in the “working center” of the saddle.  The rider sits in a position further back towards the cantle:  The dreaded “chair seat” position.  This off balance position makes riding more difficult for both horse and rider.
  3. There is proportionally less bearing surface for greater weight. And most of that weight is concentrated at the rear half of the saddle.  The cantle drops under the added weight while the pommel becomes higher, relative to the cantle., The rider is thrown off balance even more.
  4. With every beat of the trot, the saddle is pushed forward because the rider’s weight is not evenly distributed.  As the saddle moves forward, it eventually meets the horse’s shoulders. Shoulders become pinched and sore.

I have never been able to measure the distance that the saddle moves, but if the saddle moves forward 1/100 inch (the thickness of a human hair) with each beat, in 100 beats the saddle will be 1” closer to the shoulders.  200 beats = 2” closer. If the saddle was appropriately placed 2” behind the shoulders to begin with, after 200 beats, the saddle is banging into that shoulder muscle with each stride.

I counted beats during a recent training session.  My count was 60 sitting beats around  the arena. A little over 3 times around the arena and an undersized saddle, moving only 1/100” each beat would have moved forward almost 2”.  And I know I go around the arena at least 40-50 times each practice session.  Number of strides will vary from horse to horse, but you get the idea.

If you really care about your horse, you will invest  in a saddle that fits you and can be custom fitted to your horse.

A sweaty saddle pad can tell you a lot about saddle fit since the sweat marks happen dynamically as the horse is moving.


Saddle was too small for rider. Lots of bridging and heavy contact at cantle. Also pressure at shoulders.

This sweat pattern was from saddle that correctly fit me. Notice lighter pressure at cantle and less bridging. Still some pressure at shoulders, but less.