A saddle for a horse and rider is like skates for a skater or sneakers for a professional runner. It should be reliable, convenient, practical. And the task of the rider is to take care not only of his own comfort, but also of the comfort of a combat partner. How to choose a saddle? A certified saddle fitting specialist, the owner of the Tech Sport store, an official representative of the brands Prestige, Bruno Delgrange, Euroriding, Devoucoux, Equiline and candidate for master of sports Karina Polyantseva spoke about the basic principles of fitting the saddle.
Saddles are different – black, white, red … Cavalry, cowboy, ladies’, racing, racing … any! There is no exact information who and when invented the saddle. Historians claim that the first semblance of saddles appeared in 800-700 BC. The military actions contributed to the progress – it was necessary to fix the fighter so that he would think about the battle, and not about how to get to the enemy without falls. The first saddles are more like dense blankets or slats, which over time began to be attached to the horse by belts – the predecessors of the current cinch, props and henchman. Years passed, centuries … The world changed, needs, requirements, preferences changed – the saddle also changed.
Further the word was behind the cavalry: the saddle for long trips should be comfortable, light, reliable. Actually, these three criteria are basic for modern sports saddles (competitive, triathlon, saddles for dressage and runs), which will be discussed later. For the cavalry, the saddle was part of the military equipment, and the saddles for hunting, or ladies’ ones, were and are some kind of image object – here, concern for the comfort of the horse is in last place. But in professional sports, a thorough “fitting” of a saddle is a matter of paramount importance.
Step 1. First of all – consultation with a veterinarian!
The process of fitting the saddle is as jeweler and painstaking as the work of coval. This procedure cannot be neglected, as the slightest flaw can affect the horse’s health and athletic career. To improve the quality of work and the accuracy of the result, often fitting saddles works closely with the veterinarian. As they say, one head is good, and two is better. The task of the veterinarian is to identify possible problem points and set clear tasks for the porter. We can say that the veterinarian represents the interests of the animal. Osteopathic doctors are especially competent in this matter. They know well the geometry of the horse’s body and the mechanics of its movements.
Step 2. Saddle Size
The first step is to set the size of the saddle. Size is the angle of the opening of the lenok, and it is determined solely by the shape of the withers. In addition, attention must be paid to the degree of development of the trapezius muscle. “The trapezius muscle is a common problem when fitting saddles for stallions,” says Karina Polyantseva, “usually the angle is small, but because of the pronounced muscle, you have to make pillows of a special shape so as not to pinch it. The trapezius muscle constriction leads to its degradation. ”
Step 3. Choosing a Lenten
Crates come in different materials – plastic with fiber, carbon fiber and wooden. “In my opinion, the most optimal is plastic with fiber, since this material allows you to change size, simplifying the process of fitting the saddle. Carbon fiber belts are not the most reliable – they are prone to deformation, shape change. Moreover, they can crack. And finally, wooden. Over time, the metal staples that hold the parts of the wooden lenok together gradually unbend under the weight of the rider, making the size of the saddle bigger and bigger, so old saddles with a wooden lenght fit only on very wide horses. ”
Sizing can cause panic in inexperienced people, so we advise you to seek help from professionals. What is the difficulty? Let’s compare saddles with shoes again. How many sizes are indicated on the sneakers of any famous brand? Minimum 5: USA, UK, EUR, CM, mm. And everywhere different numbers. With saddles, it’s even more complicated: how many countries and firms – there are so many symbols: numbers, numbers, sometimes letters or just words (narrow, medium, wide).
For example, the Prestige brand has a standard size of “33” (for a medium-wide back), but this is because the saddlecases of this company go from “29” (narrow) to “37” (very wide back). Due to the fact that the lenghts of the saddles of this company are plastic with fiber, the size is easily adjusted on the machine to the specific back of the horse. At Stubben, the size designation starts from “27” (narrow back) and to “32” (very wide back). Kentaur and Pfiff have simplified the size system: “1” (narrow), “2” (medium), “3” (medium-wide), “4” (wide).
Some firms, for example, Wintec, completely got rid of the numbers. Their saddles have interchangeable forks of different colors, each of which corresponds to a certain size: narrow (N) – yellow (narrow back, high withers), medium-narrow (MN) – green (medium-narrow back, high withers), medium ( M) – black (medium back, medium or medium-high withers at show jumping and medium or high withers at dressage), medium-wide (MW) – blue (medium-wide back, average withers at show jumping and medium or high wither at dressage) ), wide (W) – red (wide back, medium or low withers), very wide (XW) – white (very wide back, low withers).
Step 4. Next Step – Balance
The rider should not just sit on the horse – he must be in perfect balance so that the horse moves freely and calmly, as if there was nobody on it. This is the perfect balance. In most cases, the right size ensures the right balance of the saddle. However, there are exceptions to all the rules: horses with a low back and a high withers, a high back in relation to the withers (the so-called “remodeled horse”) require a special approach. In such cases, the shape and thickness of the pillows in certain parts of the saddle change. There are two types of pillows: latex and stuffed. Stuffed is preferable, since with such a pillow the saddle adjuster can completely repeat the architecture of the horse’s back.
A correctly selected saddle should be evenly spaced on the horse’s back. If a “bridge” forms between the front and back of the pillow, the saddle is narrow.
“There is a practice that is completely wrong when people try to fill that“ bridge ”with various shock absorbers or the manufacturers themselves offer to equip the saddle with pillows thickened in the middle. You can’t do that. This is just self-deception. After all, the pressure, as it was at two points, remains. In addition, in such situations, the withers are clamped. Therefore, if you see such a situation – change the size of the lenok or simply refuse this saddle, ”Karina insists.
Step 5. Using Shock Absorbers
If in the case of the “bridge” the shock absorbers are hopeless, this does not mean at all that they should be thrown out of the ammunition. They can solve certain problems in the same technical way as changing the shape of the pillow. It’s certainly good to individually select and buy saddles for each horse, but it’s very expensive for economic reasons. Therefore, many riders use one saddle on several horses. And it is shock absorbers that save in such a situation. One of the best and most popular external proofreaders is natural fur. He is able to cope with a host of nuances alone – weight distribution, shoulder freedom, achieving a safe distance between the withers and lenok. There are shock absorbers that adjust the balance and minimize the sliding of the saddle – gels and meshes.
“In horses of a certain anatomy, saddles move forward, falling to the withers, or drive back. For a horse, gel under the back of the saddle is always good, ”Karina comments. “He can only hinder the rider.” From the front, on the contrary, it is important to be extremely careful, because by lifting the front of the saddle, we immediately increase the load on the back of the back. This is a pretty sensitive place to be protected. ”
“Not so long ago, the whole process of fitting saddles began to change,” continues Karina Polyantseva. “If we used to fit saddles to a horse standing at the roundabout, now we are checking how its back changes during movement.” In front, we often leave a small “margin of distance”, a void, so that the horse has more freedom when moving. If the rider wants such a saddle not to move even on a standing horse, we will adjust the position with the front trapezium pad shock absorber. He does not constrain the movement of the shoulder, as this is, in essence, a piece of fabric. At the same time, this shock absorber keeps the saddle in the right position. ”
Of course, the topic of choosing and fitting saddles is very deep, each situation requires a comprehensive analysis, and it is not possible to give a universal recipe in a short article. Practice, the exchange of experience, the desire to learn and try different approaches – this is the way to learn this fascinating, and certainly useful thing. In general, you should not go to the store with the thoughts “the most expensive, then the best.” The choice of corrector must also be approached wisely and after consultation with experts or experienced equestrians. For example, we have a narrow saddle. In order to reduce pressure on the back, a caring owner buys an expensive shock absorber and some gel. In this case, the duo of the shock absorber and the saddle can only do much harm, because the space between the pillows becomes even narrower and more uncomfortable for the horse.
In conclusion, I want to say: be patient and attentive. Few people dare to buy new shoes “by eye”. We will go to the store, select several models, try on each several times. After much thought, we decide or go to the next “show room”, repeating all the same actions. With the same attention and care it is worth approaching the selection of saddles. Wearing them for horses, so you need to take care of the comfort of your sports friend first. A perfectly matched saddle, comfortable for both the horse and the rider, is one of the most important factors on the path to success.