How’s your saddle fitting?

Hay there, I used to be the new girl. . . .
Hay there, I used to be the new girl. . . .

When I purchased Chica last Fall, it was obvious that I would need to get a wider saddle for  her.  Even though she needed to lose some weight, she is built quite broad, with a nice broad back!  That was not going to change!

Along the way, I was fortunate enough with networking, to be able to trade one of my saddles for one that would fit her.  Even though I was confident with my choice, I wanted to go through the exercise of making sure.

Getting Miss Muddybottom clean was a challenge in itself, but I managed to clear the way to get the job done.  Of course, it is nice to be able to ride as the next test for how your horse moves under saddle, but I elected to wait until I could get to the arena.  I felt confident with the Parelli Natural Performer saddle with the shim pad, a saddle and pad system that I have been using since 2008.

topline observation
topline observation

First, a look at her topline.  She has been used occasionally for arena riding by her last owner that had her approximately a year, but not consistently, and indications are that she has been bred.  She is 17 years  young, with a “let’s go have fun” attitude, everyone should have one of these in their stable!

the longer pad, since switched to the 30" pad
the longer pad, since switched to the 30″ pad

I looked at the shim diagrams on the Parelli website, and shimmed accordingly.  The pad I initially used here was a longer one, I’ve since switched to a shorter one.  She has a big shoulder, making it necessary to have the saddle back some so as not to interfere, and a shorter pad also accommodated this.

A good test is how the saddle fits and sits without a saddle pad.  Check for shoulder clearance and interference.  I skipped this part, since I was confident this would fit, and the Natural Performer has good flare in the front.  (And while a nice mid-Winter day, it was still a bit chilly!)

check for flare tightness
check for flare and tightness

Check if you can get your hand in the shoulder area to check for tightness.  I like to check overall for any area that might rub, in the croup area also.  Cinch up and repeat.  Walk about and see if they are relaxed, wanting to move forward.  Do a little groundwork.

even sweat pattern with the middle channel dry
even sweat pattern with the middle channel dry

The real test is if you will have an even sweat pattern with the middle dry from the saddle channel.  It ultimately passed this test for Chica also, since we have been getting tuned up at the arena and riding out.

Does this saddle make my butt look fat?
Does this saddle make my butt look fat?

Since Chica is getting into shape, I can adjust how I shim the pad.  Her cinch is sitting more in the proper place since she is losing belly fat.  I’ll keep bringing her fitness along with lesson work, and long, slow miles on the trail, throwing in some trotting and hill work for conditioning.

How is your saddle fitting these days?

I’d love to know!


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Terri Hughes

I live, work, and play in Spokane, Washington with my daughter, and a variety of four-leggeds, all of which you will meet in the published articles! I am a student of natural horsemanship. A lifelong love of horses has led me to backcountry riding and camping, lessonwork in reining and dressage, previously experiencing endurance riding and gaming. I'm always learning from my horses!

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