Here is a question from one of my saddle fitting colleagues that represents a problem some of you may have experienced:
She wrote:
When I have the saddle on the horse, the tree fits, the panels are leveled (flair), the rider is sitting on both his seat bones, the rider is sitting in balance, so statically everything looks ok.
And then the horse start moving. The saddle does what is has to do, it stays in place and at this moment I am satisfied what I see, how the saddle is working for the horse. But then the rider is sitting "crooked" in his saddle. 9 out of 10 times the problem begins in his pelvis and legs. Most riders compensate in the lumbar part of their back. Then the upper body - most of the time they have a rotation somewhere in their back, one of their shoulders is higher than the other shoulder and on that side they have their hand higher.

When I take the saddle off then the dust pattern is good, but I always have the impression that I have a little more dust on one side, mostly the side where the rider is "heavier".

When I look at the form and the experience I have, then I think the rider has a big influence on how "straight" the horse is.
I have only seen 2 horses where the trapezius and the long back muscle were even. Both horses where ridden with a saddle with an adjustable tree, and their riders where almost "straight".

My question and dilemma: when you want to protect the horse against long term damage, you also have to "help" the rider. But that isn't our job. Then the trainer says the horse is the problem because it is crooked. So do I adjust the panels so the rider is less crooked or leave it as it is? Does the rider have the responsibility to take care of his body so he won't ‘damage’ his horse?

I replied to her: There are 3 possibilities which the saddle fitter, trainer and rider have to choose from based on the individual circumstances, which will work for today - as I have written about before, there is more than just one factor which can influence the horse’s or rider’s physical conformation within a very short time frame.

(A) The air in the Flair panels can be adjusted to compensate if the rider is ‘structurally uneven.

(B) if the rider has poor posture then I agree that the rider needs to work on his/her straightness. The saddle should never be a seat prosthetic. The saddle is there to protect horse and rider from long term damage and not to be used as a crutch if the rider has no body control.

(C) If the horse has a larger left shoulder, then the saddle will sit straight in the static fit but in the movement the larger left shoulder will push the saddle to the hollow side (the right side). In this case you need to do a geometric adjustment on the saddle by opening the left by ‘x’cm and supporting the right by the same amount of ‘x’ cm as well. This way the saddle has an opening on the left side and room for the larger left shoulder to come through without pushing the saddle to the right during movement.

Jochen Schleese, CMS

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Comment by Jen B on October 18, 2010 at 9:37am
I just found this post on a search to find a way to address uneven shoulder in a horse. My gelding's saddle twists to the right when I ride. I looked at his shoulders and his left is a lot larger. Is there a way to even out the horse (chiro, excercise...) or is that just how he is built? (I always ride equally on both reins). Also, my saddle has foam panels so is not adjustable. Can these be changed to wool? Or is there any other adjustments that can be made to a foam saddle. The saddle is a Crosby All-Purpose.
Comment by Diane Blakeman on February 5, 2010 at 6:09pm
I have one of those very short backed, large barreled Arabs. It took me along time to learn What saddle we needed, then try to find one! Too many saddle makers work off stock trees, and won't do a true custom saddle, those few I found that would do a true custom saddle wanted way more $ than you charge. I found an old saddle ($200) made alterations to it ($100) but knowing that both me and my horse where going to change I made everything to be easy to change or remove. Friends and fellow riders say my saddle is ugly, but it is a God send to my horse and I. After two years and many saddles tried, now we are doing limited distance endurance and we both feel great at the end 25 or 30 miles. Keep up the good work, because the right saddle is so important for horse and rider. Diane

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