Teaching you how to understand saddle fit!
Susan & David Hartje
Frequently Asked Questions
When we first talk to our customers, they often have many of the same questions. Here are the short answers.
1. What does a fitting cover?
- First we walk you through the mechanics of how, why and where fit happens. Then we train your eyes and hands to look and feel for what fits and what doesn't by trying on 10 to 40 saddles and comparing the good and bad. Soon we come up with the ones that look like they fit the best.
Then we saddle up and try each one we like with the rider in the saddle. We evaluate your horse's movement, and help you feel the differences between when your horse likes or dislikes each saddle. If necessary, we help you work on your seat to improve the way you impact the saddle and your horse. All the while, we are answering your questions and helping you come to a conclusion about which saddle(s) will work best for you and your horse(s).
2. If I do a fitting, will you have a saddle that fits us at the end?
- That is our goal! We have never been unable to fit a horse, so we always know what will work by the end of a fitting. However, we may not have a used one in the right seat size and tree size to fit both horse and rider. When that happens we help our clients through the process of ordering a saddle to their specs directly from the saddle maker. This is part of our service.
Alternately, we will help clients find a used version of the saddle that fits their specs. We help screen out saddles that may have flaws that most people don't think to ask about or look for prior to buying a used saddle from an individual. Saddles That Fit! is happy to be as involved as you need in finding a saddle that fits for you and your horse, no matter how long it takes.
We have had a couple clients whose cost or material requirements were so constraining that it was a stretch to match them with the right saddle. We do our very best, but it may take longer to meet extra special requirements.
3. Can you fix the saddle I have?
- We encourage riders to have their saddles fit-checked if they suspect problems. We can schedule a visit specifically to evaluate only your saddle(s). If your saddle is close enough to improve the fit with shims or other simple changes, we will do it and see how your horse responds to the changes. However, if a saddle is too narrow or fits so badly that we can't fix it, we will tell you that too. Then you can decide what to do.
4. Do I have to spend $3000+ to get a good saddle?
- Absolutely Not! Most of the saddles we like range between $600 and $2400. The majority of the saddles we recommend average about $1350. If you would like to pay more, we can find you ways to spend more, but spending more doesn't guarantee you will get a better fitting saddle.
5. Can you bring more brand choices from a saddle store?
- We don't normally arrange to bring in extra saddles that are not the brands we find work best. Why? Because we've done it many times over the years, and the answer is the same 95% of the time -- horses may go in them, but they go better in the ones we already know fit better. We don't want to waste our time or your time. You are paying us for our experience and our ability to help you feel the difference between your horse going OK and him going GREAT! We've already done that homework.
However, we never say never. Nearly every saddle made will fit at least one horse. We encourage owners to have us help evaluate their own saddles -- and any they are considering buying -- during a fitting. We are continually looking for more great saddle brands. Unfortunately, they are rarely the mass produced, off-the-shelf names that we see in many tack stores.
To date, we have identified 10-12 brands of saddles in English, Western and Endurance models that horses tell us fit better than most other brands and have balanced seats for the rider. We have at least one of each of these in our mobile saddle trailer so we can always have the widest choice available.
6. Will my horse change and need a new saddle?
- It is possible for a horse to change their shape enough to need a different saddle. Most often this can happen with a young horse who is still growing. That is why we don't like fitting young horses. Their bones are not even done growing before six years old. THE most important time a saddle should fit well is when a horse is first started. Since most people do this before age five, your horse will probably change. He may or may not change enough to need a different saddle. Past the point where their bones set, horses can change in their muscling depending on how they are ridden, but their bones don't change.
The biggest changes we see often occur when a horse is first started under saddle because they are being taught to use their bodies differently than they did without a rider -- sometimes in ways that nature never intended. Or, if a horse goes from competition fit to injury recouperation, he may need a different fit. Over a horse's lifetime, the rider has the most impact on whether a horse changes. We discuss these variables during each fitting.
The good news is that the saddles we find work best also fit a wider range of backs. This usually means that unless your horse's back changes drastically, these saddles will probably continue to work just fine despite winter and summer variations in your horse.
7. Should I wait until he is in shape to have my horse fitted?
- If your horse is extremely fat or skinny you might want to get her to a better weight before you get her fitted. But if your horse is a good weight and healthy, it is better to get a saddle that fits than to wait for the 'perfect' conditioning. We take their current conditioning, as well as your planned use into consideration when fitting your horse. For example, we would fit to accommodate growth for a young horse expected to develop further.
8. What if my horse does change after I buy a saddle?
- If your horse or your needs change down the road, all of the saddles that we recommend have very good resale value. We can often resell your saddle for you for close to the price that you paid for it -- if you keep it in good condition. Selling a saddle averages 3 months. If we have something else available for sale that fits your new needs better we will happily let you trade in anything you bought with our guidance.
Once they have done a fitting, many of our clients want to sell their old saddles that don't fit. We can help you decide on a price and selling strategy, but we won't usually add anything to our fitting trailer that doesn't meet our fit standards. In those situations we will share with your our selling tips and direct you to the best places to sell your saddle.
9. What if I want a totally custom saddle?
- Several of the saddle makers we work with will make your saddle exactly to your specifications using one of their standard high quality trees. A couple of these saddle makers can have a tree made specifically to fit your horse.
10. What if I don't know what kind of saddle I want?
- That gives you more options. That is also why we have saddles from all three riding styles: Western, English & Endurance. We always have all of them as options for our clients. You may try all three styles during your fitting if you wish. Unless a rider is totally sure they don't want to, we encourage them to try different types of saddles.
Many of our clients call us a year or two later to help them get an additional saddle because they want to learn a new discipline. For example, a rider who only wanted a Western saddle to get back into riding after 20 years, might want us to help them find an English so they can do some dressage showing. If we fitted them for both during their initial fitting, the process will go much quicker for the new saddle.
Every now and then we have clients who want to ride in one style of saddle. But during the fitting we see that the rider or horse may be better suited to a different style saddle at their current experience/fittness level. If we see that, we will strongly encourage trying some alternatives that might work better.
For examply, a rider who is convinced she could never feel her horse with a Western is often pleasantly surprised by the feel of some of the ones we have. When a rider feels their horse sigh with relief and then walk out more relaxed and willing than they have ever felt before, it is totally clear what the horse thinks. Our goal is to find the right saddle that provides that "I'm Home" feeling for both horse and rider.