Independent Saddle Fitting

Teaching you how to understand saddle fit!


Susan & David Hartje

Plymouth, CA





Do you have the SYMPTOMS?

               What is your horse telling you?

Is your saddle fighting you?


Why are there so many Saddle Fit Problems?

    But I had a custom saddle made...

My horse doesn't complain, but we can't progress...

When it might Not be your saddle's fault...



Learn how to tell what fits for yourself!

Hands-on learning opportunities - Clinic Schedule

Elements of Saddle Fit

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Experience really does count in resolving saddle fit problems.


Get an Independent opinion

                  The importance of checking

Food for Thought

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Centered Riding - Level I Instructorl




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But I had a custom saddle made…
Why doesn't it fit?

Horsemanship trainers Julie Carpenter and Harry Whitney work with a troubled young horse. After Harry worked with the mare without a rider, Julie got on to help her overcome her fear of being ridden.

A quick check of the saddle that was custom made for this horse revealed it was very tippy side to side and front to back. It also pinched the horse's shoulders and forced Julie forward and out of balance. Read below to find out how such fit problems occur.

1.  There are thousands of English and Western saddle manufacturers. But there are very few major tree makers, and they make 95% of the trees in all saddles. Most custom saddle makers buy their trees from these big tree makers who offer the sizes they always have because that’s what they’ve always done. Then most saddle makers choose just a few tree options to use in their saddles. We have met several who only use ONE Tree Option!
In effect, most saddle makers are custom leather artists. And that beautiful $4500 ‘custom’ saddle may not fit any better than a $1700 off-the-shelf version.

2.  If you can find a saddle maker who makes their own trees or who will adjust them to meet the needs of your horse, then you need to find out what that saddle maker’s philosophy on fit is. Most saddle makers and fitters have different opinions about what constitutes fit.

a. Some saddle makers believe if the front angle fits your horse, then the entire saddle fits. This is not true. The angles in the middle and back of the saddle tree bars, and the amount of rock in the bars can make a big difference. And angles change once the horse moves.

b. If a saddle maker or sales person tells you a specific size will fit based only on the type or breed of horse, they are totally guessing.

c. Some saddles are actually fitted too narrow, which induces discomfort (by concentrating all the weight onto the front and/or rear points of a saddle) in order to encourage the horse to perform a specific animated action. Unfortunately, these designs have been accepted by sub-cultures who value looks more than the long term health of their horses. Many “gaited” saddles are in this category.

d. Some saddle makers believe in ‘flexible’ trees that move with the horse.  Most of these still contain immovable or hard structures for the pommel and cantle and are in effect only 'barless'. Saddles are meant to distribute the rider’s weight evenly and quietly over the horse's weight bearing surface. When parts of the saddle flex, weight is concentrated in the hard surfaces that remain.

Further, flex tree saddles usually result in an unbalanced rider and consequently a very sore horse, and tissue damage over time.

e. Most saddle makers and fitters only put what they think is the best choice of tree on the hose. They never offer options. If you don't compare multiple options, then you can't know if another tree or angle of saddle would have felt better to the horse.

Every horse and rider has their own physical history that affects what will allow them to comfortably work more effectively. Sometimes what looks like it should work, is not what feels the best to this horse and rider pair. (We have not even begun to discuss how greatly the saddle design affects the rider!) The best option cannot be determined without riding in at least three choices, preferably a lot more.

But Choice takes Time (to figure it out by riding in multiple saddles back-to-back) and Money (to stock more options). And why do that if people will just accept the first saddle the maker or fitter says is "The One".

The Bottom Line
You have to educate yourself and match the right saddle/tree to your horse's back. The only way to know for sure if it fits is to put it on your horse and check - first on the ground, then while riding.  It helps to see and feel good fit and bad fit, and to learn to see what the horse is telling you about it. Start by reading the Ten Elements of Fit. And seek out an experienced saddle fitter for help with this.

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