saddle fit and foot size

It seems impossible that a part of your body that is so far from the saddle affects its fit, but it does. Here’s how.

Good riders strive for balance. The classic ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment is more than good posture…. its perfect balance. If the horse were to instantly disappear, the rider with this alignment would land on her feet in a standing position. This balance, not strength,  is what keeps the rider on the horse. By being balanced, the rider helps the horse be balanced and therefore able to perform the tasks we ask of him, whether its leaping over an obstacle, performing dressage movements or safely navigating uneven terrain on a trail. It allows the rider to easily ride for hours without fatigue.  A well fitting saddle will allow the rider to effortlessly achieve perfect balance while a poor fitting saddle makes it difficult (or sometimes impossible) to achieve it.

Every saddle has a “working center”. This is the lowest part of the seat of the saddle and the place where your butt will land with each step your horse takes. The stirrup bars determine where your feet will be. (Think stirrup bar connected to the stirrup leather, stirrup leather connected to the stirrup, stirrup connected to the balance point on the foot, and balance point connected to the heel.) If the distance between the working center and stirrup bar is longer than the distance between the ball of your foot and the working center of the seat, your heel will not be under your hip joint. You will be out of balance. This is commonly called “the chair seat”.

When you ride in a chair seat position, it is more difficult to rise to the trot. It’s like lifting yourself out of an easy chair with each beat. You need to lean forward to maintain balance and this makes it hard for the horse to “stay under you”.

2 Responses to “saddle fit and foot size”

  • K:

    So what’s the fix? We cannot control the length of our feet and stirrup bars have a limited area they can be in. Are there any fixes that a rider can do without buying a whole new saddle?

  • Usually, we can replace stirrup bars with a different stirrup bar style. But construction of the entire saddle has to be evaluated. For instance, the cutout in the flap has to be large enough to accommodate the new bar and the skirt needs to be large enough to cover the new bar. These modifications need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. This not always an inexpensive project as stirrup bars are attached to the tree and we need to strip off a lot of leather to get to it. And the hardware alone, not counting labor, can cost up to $150. But, it’s still a lot less expensive than a new saddle. Give me a call at (860) 527-9117 and I’ll be happy to explain in more detail. Also, send me some photos.

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