Crooked rider saddle fit
A saddle-fitting colleague recently presented this dilemma: “The saddle is on the horse, the tree fits, the panels are leveled (flair), and the rider is sitting on both his seat bones in balance, so statically everything looks OK. Then the horse starts moving. The saddle does what is has to do; it stays in place and I am satisfied with how the saddle is working for the horse. But then the rider gets crooked in his saddle. Nine times out of 10, the problem begins in his pelvis and legs. Most riders compensate in the lumbar area of their backs, frequently resulting in rotation elsewhere in their back, which can lead to one shoulder being higher than the other.
“When I take the saddle off, the dust pattern is good, but I always have the impression that I have a little more dust on one side, mostly the side where the rider is ‘heavier.’
“I have seen only two horses where the trapezius and the long back muscle were even. Both horses were ridden with a saddle with an adjustable tree, and their riders were almost straight.
“When you want to protect the horse against long term damage, you also have to help the rider. But then the trainer says the horse is the problem because it is crooked. So do I adjust the panels so the rider is less crooked or leave it as it is? Does the rider have the responsibility to take care of his body so he won't ‘damage’ his horse?”
Schleese Saddlery’s response:
More than one factor can influence the horse’s or rider’s physical conformation within a very short time frame. The saddle fitter, trainer and rider have three options, based on the individual circumstances:
1. The air in the flair panels or the stuffing in a wool-flocked saddle can be adjusted to compensate if the rider is ‘structurally’ uneven.
2. If the rider has poor posture, then the rider needs to work on his/her straightness. The saddle should never be a seat prosthetic. The saddle is there to protect the horse and rider from long-term damage and not to be used as a crutch if the rider has no body control.
3. If the horse has a larger left shoulder, then the saddle will sit straight in the static fit but in the movement the larger left shoulder will push the saddle to the hollow side (the right side). In this case you need to do a geometric adjustment on the saddle: open the left by ‘x’cm and support the right by the same amount of ‘x’cm. This way the saddle has an opening on the left side and room for the larger left shoulder to come through without pushing the saddle to the right during movement. Shims can be used to even out the difference in balance temporarily.
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