Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saddle fit part II: Characteristics of the horse's back

Photo of Ri's first saddle, the County Perfection
So Part I of my saddle fit series gave some of the characteristics of the horse's back that affect saddle fit (per an expert saddle fitting system). Here are the rest of them. I found it hard to find illustrations for these characteristics, so you'll just have to imagine them :-).  Again, I've bolded the asessment of Ri's back per the saddle fitter...

  • Wither shape: long, medium, short -- truthfully I'm not sure how this is different from some of the other wither measurements, but Ri's wither is pretty big all over.
  • Wither muscle: broad, medium, narrow -- anyone care to jump in on what this refers to? If I had to guess I'd say they are looking at a bird's eye view (looking down, from above) of the horse and assessing the width of the wither area as determined by the muscling.
  • Loin muscle: left side high, right side high,  even -- assymmetry across the loin
  • Saddle support area: Long, medium, short -- this is the part of the back where it is "safe" to put the saddle, well behind the wither but before the last rib.
  • Back shape: high spine, normal, barrel -- this is how protected/exposed the spine is or whether it is surrounded by muscle. Ri's back is slanty -- it "drops away" from the spine while there is a Friesian at our barn with a back you could serve dinner on.
  • Back curvature: straight, normal, curvy -- This is how the saddle area is shaped. A curvey back may require a "banana-style" saddle while a straight back might work better with a gusseted saddle.
  • Back build: uphill, normal, downhill -- most of you likely know this.
  • Sensitive back: withers, kidney, ligament, lumbar -- Riley had ALL circled. Geez.
  • Vertebra width: N 1-2, M 3-4, W 5-6 -- Ri is huge, with huge joints, so it would not surprise me if he were a Wid,  but he measured a 3-4. I'm not sure what the numbers refer to, maybe the width of the gullet he needs? The number of fingers across?
BTW, this saddle fitting "system" is from Schleese. I think it would be very useful to assess your horse along all of these traits...


  1. Have to run this by my friend who is a saddle fitter for another company. I'm not at all sure what she uses for an evaluation of saddle fit.

  2. Well, you got a wholehearted guffaw out of me in regards to the Friesian with the tabletop back. LOL. But, lemme tell you ... if you want a bareback ride on something that won't make a man blush and cringe, those "dinner table" horses can't be beat! I could sit on mine all day. However, fitting the saddle was fun. He's an extra wide with those danged deep pockets behind the wither. Or, you might say, "WHAT wither??"

    Then, there's my precious 14hh pony mare. After riding my Friesian couch, I had to reacquaint myself to what a wither feels like. I learned ALL about shape anomalies when I had the saddle fitter out for her!!! Round barreled, yet high-withered. Ah. Joy.

    I also learned something: If you are not a 16-year-old with a size 0-2 waistline, saddle shopping can make you feel like an elephant. I am a slim 5'2" but not a 0-2. Yet, I have to get a 17 or 17 1/2 seat. My husband recently pointed out most of the non-customs only go to 18". Yup. Just another reminder that the horse industry is geared toward teenagers built like pencils. LOL.

  3. Seat size for the rider is based on the length of the femur/thigh bone. I take an 18-18.5 and I'm 5'7 and weigh about 150. Heavier than I'd like to be, yes, but the weight is NOT in my rear end. ;o)

    My problem with saddle fitting by whichever expert one uses is, it's all so much oo-ee-oo because they like to KEEP it that way. Spine width (with no information on exactly what that is), saddle support area, spine shape, wither height ... if the fitters made this all make SENSE, we'd be able to fit saddles ourselves and we wouldn't need them to convince us that we should spend lebenty-seben thousand dollars at their shop. And two years later be looking for another saddle because the piece of ... stuff they sold us was wrong.

    (Sorry. Bad week at work, it's too hot too early in the summer AND I am NOT looking forward to saddle fitting, which if I ride dressage anymore, I'll have to have done so I can get somewhere before my horse and I are old enough for the Century Club (where our ages combine to 100 years).


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