I have often been asked by clients why our saddles aren’t flat on the horse’s back all the way from front to back – which makes them look like they don’t actually fit and will probably rock. Many riders don’t understand that ideally the saddle needs to slightly ‘rock’ at the cantle as the horse’s back engages.
It is the duty of the saddle fitter to explain to the client that a slightly rocking saddle will never put so much pressure on the horse’s back that muscle atrophy occurs – in other words, resulting in actual visual indents under the panel wedge.
If the horse’s back is showing visual indentations under the panel wedge, this is a clear sign that either the saddle is too long or there is too much pressure on the loins because of the wedge itself.
This is also why it makes no sense to add longer spring steel to the tree to allow a beginner rider sit more balanced (i.e., quietly) and ride a horse that shows a lot of suspension and movement. The horse must be able to move freely under saddle; a saddle that has been fit correctly to the moving horse.
The rider has to be able to ride and use his aids, especially when the saddle is moving somewhat on the horse. The fitter should never make the rider feel like he is glued to the horse’s back, nor should he fit the saddle exactly to the static back, so that the rider can actually ride the horse in suspension, in motion.
The trainer teaches the rider to sit the horse lightly and freely. The saddle fitter needs to fit the saddle to the horse so that the horse and the saddle both can adapt themselves to the movement of the rider – only in this way can true harmony between horse and rider be achieved. The question is whether you want to have engaged, supple harmonious riding due to a properly fitted saddle –whether or not it ‘looks’ like it will work when the horse is not in motion. Or if you prefer to have a saddle that looks like it fits absolutely perfectly – when the horse is standing still in the crossties. I guarantee you that this saddle will no longer fit once the horse begins to move – and that this can result not only in discomfort, but potentially also long term damage.
Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE