You may be surprised to know that quite a large proportion of horse owners, including some who ride at a very high level, have little understanding of the ideal facilities the saddle fitter will need on the day of the fitting. It isn't unknown for a saddle fitter to arrive at the client's premises to discover the 'facilities' consist entirely of an extremely muddy field a good few inches deep in boot sucking mud… a paddock that is totally dried out and so rutted anything could break it's leg in it… or a wonderful manege that is already occupied because the client forgot to pre-book! Whilst we appreciate that a lot of us do not have access to top class facilities, somewhere we can see the horse stood up square and see it walked and run up and ridden is pretty essential to us being able to do our jobs and in turn provide you and your horse with the best service possible.
A FLAT, HARD SURFACE
Where the horse can be stood up and run up in hand.
AN AREA WHERE THE HORSE CAN BE RIDDEN.
When the horse is kept at livery or in a training yard or similar, this may mean pre-booking the use of the school or menage. Saddle fitting can take a considerable time and the saddle fitter is likely to want the horse owner to ride in their saddle or a number of short-listed saddles, an essentially important part of the fitting procedure. It is better to overbook than to find time is running out. Make certain the arena will be ready on time and in good workable condition.
SHOW JUMPS/CROSS COUNTRY FENCES.
If you are opting for a saddle designed specifically for dressage, polo or showing it is very unlikely you will be wanting to use the saddle for jumping! If you are considering purchasing a saddle that will involve jumping, it is essential to ride over a few fences. Make certain that these are erected before the arrival of the saddle fitter.
Although this will appear remarkably obvious to the vast majority of riders, it is a fact that some believe their presence isn't a necessary factor! Occasionally horses are 'shared' or ridden regularly by more than one person and, in this case, both riders should be present. (In such cases the saddle fitter will have in mind a list of priorities: the horse followed by the larger/taller rider. When riders of substantially differing physiques are involved there is necessarily a degree of compromise but fitting the horse will always remain the top priority - and will NEVER be compromised.)
BE SUITABLY ATTIRED
Sometimes clients are unsuitably dressed. Shorts and trainers in the summer are always inadequate and they certainly aren't the most comfortable clothes in which to try out short-listed saddles! We would always recommend our clients be riding in riding hat to current standards.
EXAMPLES OF NUMNAHS, GEL PADS, ET CETERA
The Society of Master Saddlers generally cautions that the well-fitting saddle does not require the addition of anything under it with the possible exception of a thin saddle cloth. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. When there is a valid reason for using a good quality sheepskin or indeed prolite pad the saddle fitter will need to allow for the addition in exactly the same way that you take into account wearing extra thick socks or in-soles with a pair of well-fitting new shoes. Many dressage riders like to make use of a riser pad under the saddle. Horses are by their inherent make up asymmetrical and where necessary different girthing options and the use of shims / shimmed prolite pads may be recommended. Please always discuss the use of anything else but the pads mentioned above with Juliette.
HAVE YOUR OWN STIRRUP LEATHERS AND GIRTH AVAILABLE.
The saddle fitter may be carrying girths of various types and sizes but it is a good idea to have your own available (although, in some instances, it may not be the correct type and length for the saddle you are purchasing). Using your own stirrup leathers is generally more comfortable and avoids the possibility of the saddle fitter's new leathers becoming marked and therefore difficult to sell.
PRESENTING A WELL GROOMED ANIMAL ISN'T MERELY A COSMETIC EXERCISE.
The saddle fitter would obviously prefer to preserve the condition of his new saddles but, in addition, the marks left on the well-groomed horse's back after removal of the saddle are significant because they indicate bearing surfaces and further identify unwanted movement. When the horse is ill-groomed, the marks left by the saddle may be blurred or indistinguishable.
THE BACK ASSESSMENT
The saddle fitter will make an examination of the horse’s back. While it is emphasised that the fitter is not a vet, it is crucial that he or she is able to recognise (but not diagnose) the existence of problems that might adversely influence the saddle and the way in which it fits. This includes recognition of asymmetrical development, the existence of white hairs (indicative of earlier pressure points), sores, ‘tightness’, tenderness, scabs et cetera. Occasionally the Saddle Fitter may decide that the degree of tenderness / soreness exhibited by the horse necessitates delaying the fitting until the horses’ back has improved. He may suggest that, in the meantime, exercise is restricted to lunging. In some cases he may recommend the owner to seek veterinary advice.