Dressage Saddle Fit Question


My dressage saddle appears to fit. But I feel out of balance ever since having it refitted to my new horse. What can be done? I know that it’s not just me.


I had the same experience when I recently started leasing a new horse.   Saddle fit it more that fitting the pommel of the tree to the horse’s back. The new horse was slightly downhill, meaning his rump was higher.  While there was good contact throughout, the saddle was too high in the cantle. We adjusted the flock to make the panels softer for the back half of their length. Now, when I mount, my weight squishes down the back of the saddle slightly. It was better, but not perfect.  Then we looked at the girthing system. This particular saddle had point billets. We changed the point billets to standard billets. Now we have a perfect fit. The point billets were actually pulling down the front of the saddle.

When fitting a saddle, it is important to evaluate the entire saddle — not just the pommel. If you think being out of balance might be the case, try adding a little padding under the points of the tree. Something like a folded leg wrap  will do. If this fixes your problem, bring or send your saddle to your saddle fitter. Be sure to explain what you did and that you want panels softened — NOT to narrow the tree. A competent saddle fitter will be able to adjust flock smoothly and evenly. But your weight and the quality of the flock stuffing will determine how much it will squish down. This is not a science–it’s an art.  Just be certain that enough flock remains to keep the spring steel bars of the tree off the horse’s back.  Purchasing a saddle with flock stuffed panels rather than foam allows this sort of adjustment.

CAIR panels


I have a Bates Caprilli AP saddle with the CAIR panels that I need to replace with wool. I really like the saddle but my mare is downhill and I need the ability to flock my saddle up in the front for better fit. Can you provide an estimate for time and cost to accomplish this conversion?


We have had many people ask us to remove the CAIR panels, but we have NEVER had anyone ask us to install them. Yes, we can replace with wool flock. The cost will be between $300 $325 and we will need to keep your saddle for a few days.

saddle width

Hi,  I am a tack consignment shop and I just received a Smith Worthington S Bar W saddle to sell.  Are these saddles stamped anywhere to tell the width?  I am not sure if it is a wide or Xwide and would like to correctly advertise it!  thanks!  Suzi
All Smith-Worthington saddles are able to be modified to fit an individual horse.  Since most saddles we sell are custom fitted to a particular horse before it leaves our warehouse, there is no way of telling what your saddle’s present width is. In fact, it may have been refitted several times. It might be in-between sizes.  I suggest that you advertise the saddle as “between Wide and Extra Wide” if that is your best guess. Then say that “the saddle can be refitted to your horse”.  A fitting guide can be downloaded from our website www.smithworthington.com. Current cost (June 2016) to adjust the tree is $90.

Hamilton Ontario Mounted Police ride Smith-Worthington saddles

The Hamilton, Ontario mounted police ride on Smith-Worthington saddles. These saddles are basically the Ultimate Dressage saddle with modifications for police use. The Hamilton mounted unit, like other mounted units, participates in ceremonial occasions where their impressive horses add dignity and power. Here is a photo of the Hamilton

unit marching in the funeral procession of a fallen officer.

Mounted Police Unit in funeral procession

How to design a saddle part 5

Deciding on a billeting system was one of the easier decisions. While there is nothing wrong with traditional billets, many new saddles have a “humane” or “swinging” billet in the rear. This allows more versatility in girth placement and helps keep the cantle of the saddle from lifting.  To allow smooth swinging of the rear billet, we would need to use slippery nylon webbing as opposed to linen webbing. (The seat would continue to be strained with traditional linen webbing) Then rugged chrome tanned dressage billets would be stitched to the webbing.


How to design a saddle Part 4

The flap would be wide enough so that those of us who have gained a little weight over the years , a flap that is flattering to our unfortunately larger thighs. Riders are not immune to the obesity epidemic  that is raging across the nation. While we’re not as heavy as the general population, we are larger than in years past. And it’s these heavier riders that are using the larger horses  like the draft Xs and baroque  breeds that this saddle is designed for.  Therefore, the flap would be slightly broader at the top so a rider’s thighs would always be on the flap — not on the horse.


How to design a saddle Part 3

Leg support was our next consideration.  A few of our customers are elite, grand prix riders. But most are not. Most of our customers, (and I include myself) are of intermediate abilities, constantly striving to learn and improve.   We want our saddle to feel secure, not restricting.  It’s not easy to find the balance between the two.  We eventually decided on moderate sized thigh blocks that would be short enough to not bang on the rider’s knees yet thick and soft enough to gently support the leg. This would be underneath a traditional styled flap.  After riding the demo saddle, we decided to add a soft bulge in the padded portion of the flap that would give further, gentle support.

Hartford Mounted Police and their horses

While a couple of Hartford’s finest are longtime riders, many started riding as adults.  All of them are experienced police officers who have years of experience doing everything from patrolling the streets, to narcotics, to undercover operations. No one joins the force and immediately steps into the mounted unit — no matter how good they may ride. Their abilities as an officer must be proven first.

Each horse is selected and specially trained for temperment and soundness.  Not all horses pass the test just as not all officers pass the test.  Each horse must be calm and confident,  and able to respond instantly and accurately to the rider’s aids.  Since they are often used for ceremonial occasions, and crowd control at rock concerts they must be OK with sounds of gunfire, fireworks,  jets flying overhead, loud music, etc.  They must also be rock solid in the presence of school children.  Think “bombproof”.

When accepted into the unit, the officers and their mounts spend 6 weeks taking riding lessons. Then they spend several more weeks learning about the techniques used for crown control, traffic control and other police duties done on horseback.  Each officer is assigned a horse which they use exclusively. When the officer has a day off, so does their horse. They work 6 hour shifts, rain or shine.  During a shift the officer will rarely dismount. To place a parking ticket on the windshield of a car sometimes requires serious leaning to the side. The horse must not be disturbed by this “unbalance”.

Each officer is responsible for mucking out the stall of their horse. They also groom and pick out their horse’s feet.  Each officer also tacks up their own horse. As any horse person knows, these duties are part of bonding with your horse.   These officers and their mounts are in all ways….partners.


Hartford’s Mounted Police

The Hartford Police department is purchasing new police saddles from Smith-Worthington for their mounted unit. After trying some demo saddles, the unit decided to purchase a modified version of our Ultimate Dressage saddle. Basically, they are dressage riders without the formal attire and arena. Side passing, leg yields, turning on the haunches or forehand… all classic dressage moves done for crowd control, parades, ceremonial occasions and, yes…even giving parking tickets.

On Thursday Corey and I went to the Hartford Police barn. We met with the officers to determine exact design and placement of the baton or “night stick” holder and dees for saddlebags. The baton must be attached in a manner so that when trotting, the baton won’t flop around and hit the horse’s shoulders. It also cannot interfere with the reins. The saddlebags have to be accessible since the officer needs to carry all the same equipment as any other officer — radio, handcuffs, ticket book, water bottle, etc.  Front placement was considered, then discarded. Too much stuff in front interfering with the reins.  Placement behind the cantle was chosen, even though it was a little less accessible.



How to design a saddle Part 4

The flaps:

The flaps would be flattering to those of us who have gained a little weight over the years. Riders are not immune to the obesity epidemic  that is raging across the nation. While riders are not as heavy as the general population, we are still heavier than in years past and dressage riders tend to be a little older and a little heaver. The top of the flap would need to be wide enough so that thighs remained on the saddle and not on the horse.  Somehow, the thigh looks bigger when it is not contained by the shape of the flap.