As an independent saddle fitter I am happy to work on most brands of saddles. Your saddle fitting will begin with a personal consultation where I will be able to get to know you and your horse’s needs better. For pricing on my services please refer to the pricing page.
What to expect at your saddle fitting consultation:
When I arrive I will hope to find a clean and dry horse standing in cross ties or tied waiting for me. I will start off the process by asking some basic questions about the horse, such as age and height. I will also ask about any history that either you or your horse has had that may affect how your saddle will ride (asymmetries). It is in your best interest to be open and honest about all issues you have with your confirmation, aches, pains, breaks, replacements, and anything that can cause you to ride “different”.The same goes for the horse. If he has had a prolonged time off due to injury or lameness it is best to share this information with me. Working together, we will be able to get the best outcome for your saddle fitting, so let’s try to get all the information out in the open! I will also ask what you use the horse for and what your future intentions are. I will need to know how often you ride, duration, and what condition your feel your horse is in.
2) Horse and saddle assessment
I will then start my assessment of your horse. Starting with running my hands over his major muscle groups, over his back, and haunches. I will also palpate his muscles to look for normal or abnormal reactions. I will look and feel for heat, tension, rough hair patches, asymmetries, and anything else that may be associated with saddle fitting. I will assess your horse’s symmetry through his feet, shoulders, back and haunches. I will point out my findings to you and maybe ask a few questions about things you may have noticed riding. I will also record all of my findings on my form. I will then take 1-3 tracings of your horse’s back. These will be used later to assess your saddle’s tree, for use in measuring a new saddle, or to keep on hand for comparison at the next fitting. At this stage we will discuss what you want from me, be it assessing your current saddles fit, or discussing the purchase of a new saddle. It is important for me to see your existing saddle even if you no longer intend to use it, as it may help in explaining any findings from my earlier assessment. I will carefully look over your existing saddle for any faults or problems that may affect its use. If the saddle is sound I will then put the saddle on your horses back while he is tied to assess the fit. I will then run my hands under the panels, down the gullet angle, and check the stability and balance.
3) Reviewing the options
When I feel I have a good understanding of the situation I will explain my findings to you. If I am able to alter or adjust the saddle to make it a better fit for your horse I will explain what can and cannot be done. If you have a positional issue with the saddle, this would be the time to explain this to me. With an existing saddle there may be little I can do to improve your position; my main goal is to make the saddle better for the horse. That will, in turn, make the balance better for you. However, if you are expecting more than what the saddle has to offer, this is where a new saddle may actually be what you need.
4) On-site alterations
If you decide to go ahead with the saddle modifications or alterations I will in most cases do them on-site in my saddle fitting van. That way I can do the work, go check it on the horse’s back and go back and do more if needed. It may be required to lead the horse in a walk and trot to assess what happens when the horse lifts his back. When I get it where I am confident there is nothing more I can do, we will discuss if you need to ride in the saddle while I am there. For this reason, it is important that you are dressed and prepared to get on your horse if required. It’s crucial that we give your horse the best opportunity to move as freely under his saddle as possible. I will take into consideration your shape, weight, injuries, needs and wants.
5) Fitting a new saddle
If you have decided you want a new saddle we can discuss the saddles I have with me. I will show you a selection of saddles I feel will be able to be fitted properly to you and your horse. At this point we will get the horse and yourself ready to ride. You will need your saddle pad, girth, stirrup and leathers. Don’t worry, I have everything if you don’t have this or forget yours!
Many of the saddles we try may just be demo saddles and not fitted perfectly to your horse at this point. Please try to concentrate on how the saddle feels for you and less about how you feel the saddle fits your horse. Fitting the saddle comes after you choose one. We will start with the first saddle. You’ll get up and can warm up a bit, then move up to trotting. If you like the saddle you may choose to canter, or in the case of a jump saddle pop over a fence or two. It is important you attempt to at least trot in all the saddles as they are going to feel different to what you already have so you need to get moving in them to see how they actually feel in action.
After you give a saddle a little ride, we can move on to the next one. If the saddle is very uncomfortable or painful then there is no need to do much in it. After a couple of saddles you will be able to give better feedback to help me find what saddle to try next. It is my job to assess the saddle fitting on your horse’s back. I will watch your horse move under his saddle to assess if anything is hindering his movement, or if the saddle is too far from a good fit to continue. Having your instructor attend the fitting is encouraged as they know how you ride normally. Since we are trying to find a saddle that improves the overall picture this is where their input would be useful.
I will keep a record of the saddles we try and your feedback, so you can concentrate on finding a saddle that feels just right when you sit in it. I have had many situations where people are coming out of, say, a jump saddle and wanting to get a dressage saddle, and because they are not used to the new feel or position none of the saddles feel right. This may be where I will leave a saddle with you to try for a week, and we will continue the saddle fitting after your body has had time to adjust to the new position.
Sometimes when doing saddle fits on young horses it is crucial we do the saddle fitting over two days as horses get grumpy and stop giving us positive or helpful feedback. This is all part of what you are paying for and you will not be charged more for the second round (not available on saddle fitting trips outside the BC Lower Mainland).
After we are confident we have tried all the potential saddles we can discuss our findings. I will not choose the saddle for you. I will offer my input as to which one I feel was the best for your horse. In some cases we may need to order the saddle custom made. In other cases, if the saddle is available for purchase off the truck I will then check the fit to the horse and make any necessary alterations. In all saddle purchases you get 5 days (10 for Custom Saddlery saddles) to try the saddle and make sure you are happy with your choice, take a lesson, and make sure your horse is comfortable with the new saddle.
All brand new saddles need time to break in and soften the flocking. Also, horses can change quite a bit when we have fitted a new saddle that allows them to move more freely under it. For these reasons we offer a free re-fitting within 3-6 months of purchase.
To extend the life of the saddle, make your saddle nicer to ride in, and to keep an eye on stitching, etc., I highly recommend you clean and condition your saddle regularly. With most cowhide saddles it is okay to use a mild saddle soap to clean the saddle, then use a saddle conditioner to keep the leather supple. On buffalo or calfskin saddles it is recommended you use a damp sponge (just water) to clean the saddle, and then use a cream leather conditioner (I recommend Effax Ledder Balsam). This should be a weekly ritual.
It is normal for a saddle’s stitching on girth billets to wear out, so please be sure to have a careful look at these quarterly. It is best to have any wearing looked at and fixed before it becomes a bigger problem.
All saddles need regular check-ups, especially wool-flocked models. It is recommended that your saddle be checked every 8-12 months, depending on the amount of riding you do. Even if you are using your saddle on multiple horses or it has foam filling, things can break and you will unknowingly be hurting your horse’s back. Flair panel saddles require even more maintenance: I recommend every 3 months to have the air checked for evenness and potential leaks. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to monitor your saddle for potential problems, watch for changes in your horse’s behaviour under saddle and while tacking up, and be aware of any gradual difficulties you are having with your position under saddle. If you start noticing that you get a sore back after riding, it may mean your saddle’s balance is out.
With the purchase of most saddles we offer a free re-fit within 3-6 months of purchase. There may be a charge for travel depending on whether we have to make a special trip, or extra charges if the horse has changed so rapidly that the amount of work needed on the saddle now is more than a minor alteration (i.e. a young horse grows, injury, weight gain, etc.).
We can help make your riding experience world class. For a custom saddle fitting call us today at 778-240-9072 or complete our online form.