Normal post saddle fitting

How to choose a saddle

The saddle is an essential bit of kit for the event rider and getting a correctly fitting saddle is crucial for you and your horse. Getting it wrong could affect your performance. Chairman of the British Eventing Risk Management Committee, and BE Life magazine columnist, Jonathan Chapman gives some pointers on the dos and don’ts of choosing a saddle. 

Go to a trained saddler

I think eBay has a lot to answer for. Thousands of saddles are available relatively cheaply, and riders are bypassing the trained saddler to save money. But they fail to realise that a 17.5” medium will not fit every horse. If only saddle fitting was that simple. Now my vain side would love to say I ride in a 17.5” saddle, but the fact is I have long legs and a large back side, and I require an 18 to 18.5” saddle. This in consequence limits what horse I can ride, a fact I have to accept. And a good saddler would tell me so. 

Take your coach

Saddle fitters are not trained equestrian coaches. Some are scrupulous in their advice, and some less so. I would advise that if you are trying a new saddle, make sure your regular coach is present to pass comment and perhaps even ride in it. It is not an insubstantial purchase. It is worth paying a bit extra to have your coach there to help you make the right choice. 

Look after your saddle

Check the flocking regularly. Horses change shape with age and season, and flocking compresses and shifts. It needs checking at least annually and makes the difference between a happy, forward-thinking horse and a grumpy, backward-thinking horse. If a saddle needs completely re-flocking it may need to be taken away to be done, but normal ‘tweaking’ of the flocking should be carried out at the yard with the horse present to check the fit. 

Buy the right saddle

Do not buy one cheap dressage and one cheap jump saddle and never buy a general purpose saddle. They are a ‘jack of all trade’ and master of none. You can do a perfectly good dressage test in a jump saddle, but not vice versa, and since our sport is two-thirds jumping it’s an obvious choice. 

Substance over style

Remember that whatever the discipline, the horse should be the star of the show. The horse should catch your eye and hold your attention, not the diamond-encrusted bridle, stirrups or multi-coloured saddle. We as riders are there to demonstrate how well we have trained our horses. We are the supporting cast only. Dress smartly but not loudly, complement them by what you wear and the tack you use, but let the horse do the talking.

You've got the tack sorted - now find out what you can do to keep your stabled horse happy and healthy.