Saddle Fit for the Rider

Most of us these days know that it's important to get our saddles fitted to our horse, but how many people get their saddle fitted to themselves?

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) recently completed a pilot study investigating some basic aspects of rider position and saddle fit for the rider. 34 randomly selected horses and riders were assessed, and included pleasure, amateur and professional riders. The assessors were asked to determine if the rider sat correctly, with the shoulder, hip and heel in alignment; whether the rider was too large for the seat of the saddle or for the saddle in general; whether the rider sat too far towards the back of the saddle; whether the fit of the saddle to the rider was likely to adversely affect their position; and whether the rider was too big for the horse.

The results were rather concerning.

  • Only 12% had correct alignment of their shoulder, hip and heel
  • 41% were judged to be sitting too far towards the back of the saddle
  • 59% were considered to be too big for their saddle

These findings have implications for the balance of the rider and the horse, and the rider’s weight distribution on the horse relative to its centre of gravity. These preliminary results will form the basis of a much larger scale study of saddle fit to horse and rider and the influence on rider position.

Take home message

  • Ensure that you have your saddle fitted regularly by a professional, and that the saddle is assessed with you riding in it. We recommend Performance Saddlefitters here in Australia. All of their saddle fitters are qualified Master Saddlefitters, and fit the saddle to both the rider and the horse.
  • Work on your position and seat in the saddle. Spend some of your riding lessons focusing purely on your own position. We see many riders competing at reasonably high levels that demonstrate quite poor posture and alignment in the saddle.
  • It's worth spending the money to get the right saddle for both you and your horse. Another study, by the same researchers that conducted the one above, found that riders with ill-fitting saddles were more likely to suffer low back pain. Within our patient population, we've found that pain or discomfort experienced when riding can often be significantly improved by changing saddles.
 A prime example of a rider in a saddle that is too small for them.

A prime example of a rider in a saddle that is too small for them.