If you have a horse and a saddle you need to read this!

I'm going to take a stand for Saddle Fitters, Saddlers, Saddle fit evaluators, and any other names those in the saddle industry may call themselves. Whether they are here in NZ or around the world, whether they are in training, fully qualified or an apprentice. We are human too.

I personally have clients come to me sharing their not so pleasant experiences with other fitters. I can tell you now that every fitter has these situations pop up.

The thing with saddle fitting is, horses change!!! Wait what? Are you serious? Yes. Horses change.

There is this thing called the circle of influence. The circle of influence may include, but is not limited to:

• Rider - your own fitness, strength, balance, weight changes and HOW you ride alters the horse. New horse? New rider?

• Age & Condition - horses age, we do to, it is a given! Their condition changes like you wouldn't believe, be that through age or seasonal changes or the circle of influence.

• Farrier - long toes? Massive change to posture = change. A barefoot horse who may really benefit from shoes may perform so much better = change.

• Body Workers - a compensating/sore body now corrected? = change.

• Trainer - perhaps you've had a change in instructor, or your instructor has stepped you up = change.

• Nutrition - seasonal changes comes with nutrient changes and altering requirements. Perhaps you have got a new horse and have completely changed its feed?

• Veterinarian - perhaps you're at wits end why your horse is not performing, you may find yourself requesting injections or treatments, have you looked at your saddle? Your style of riding?

• Tack - your gear has the ability to allow communication and freedom, or complete physical restrictions and pain. Which would you rather?

You buy a new horse, "oh it was fitted by a saddle fitter 5 years ago" well..... circle of influence

"My horse has just come back from 8 weeks schooling and her saddle fitted by a reputable saddle fitter no longer fits and makes her sore!!!" ..... circle of influence.

horse just been turned out for winter, it's now spring "I'm bringing my horse into work but she's really sore, my custom made saddle is no longer working, my fitter is useless" .... circle of influence.

"I share the ride of my horse with another person" .... circle of influence.

at the time of fitting the horse was several weeks overdue for farrier with very long hooves "I had a saddle fitter only 4-6 weeks ago, why is this saddle making my horse sore?" .... you've now had the farrier and your horse has undergone postural changes.... circle of influence!

"I bought this horse and this saddle is what the old owner rode in so I want to buy the same saddle".... circle of influence.

"I just bought this 3* dressage schoolmaster, he came with his custom made dressage saddle fitted by a saddle fitter. I am only going to low level dressage days and over the last 2-3 months his back has become very sore and the saddle appears to no longer be fitting." .... circle of influence.

Just remember, a horses muscles will only be that, of what the horse physically requires. This goes for any living being. I don't have the body of a body builder! Why? Because they train and work their bodies to be physically capable of lifting the weights that they do. My body does not require this! That 3* dressage horse who is actively competing at that level has the physical stature of what a 3* dressage horse requires. You will see massive changes in his body if he is only required to do the odd low level day.

Now about the humans.

Not all humans get along or connect, you may not connect with your fitter and that is OK too. For me personally, the clients that I get along with so well, they become friends, some even family! Ones I don't particularly click with I may not see again, they may not wish to use me and seek another person to help them and that is OK too!

Moral of the story is please don't be quick to judge. Be open with your saddle fitter about any issues that may arise, most of the time they will be more than happy to help! They should look at the circle of influence and discuss any changes that may have risen since your last session with them.

On a side note, remember there are only so many hours in the day. We have families too, did I mention we were human as well? Please also remember that the ratio of horses:fitters anywhere on the globe is few and far!! Fitters are very busy people, much like farriers, bodyworkers and so forth. Some may prioritize the aftercare of their clients more than others (for me this is a lot of computer work and report write ups after a day on the road), but the best advice I can give you, is to educate yourself. The world wide web is a big place! Educate yourself, pay attention and learn to identify when things go wrong!

A fitter should be someone you can trust, much like your farrier, bodyworker, vet or equine dentist. In every session of mine, I take a great deal of time to thoroughly educate my clients about important landmarks of the body and why they should and should not have any pressure in those areas from the saddle. I explain where their saddle may be going right/wrong and how this will be positively or negatively impact the horse. This allows you to be basically competent in identifying where a saddle may be going wrong, whether that be for your horse(s), a friends horse or a troubled one you see playing up out at a show.

I am a voice for the horse. He tells you by hollowness, bucking, resistance, rearing, they communicate in the only way they know how. Listen to them.

There is no event or situation that has caused me to write this, it is just something that has been on my mind and I have finally found the time in my busy days to put it down. Back to work I go!

Be kind to your fitter

- the blog of a training fitter Saddle Fit Evaluation - Education - Equissage "One stop saddle shop"

Please share this far and wide. Support those who work long hours, dedicate a lot of time, money and experiences to caring for your horses.

Change the lack of awareness around the world. Get on a routine round with your saddle fitter like you do with your farrier. We are just as important!

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