We all know that saddle shopping can very nearly be a fate worse than death. While I am still trying to sell my Dressage saddle (thus now actively buying anything), I thought it might be helpful to share some of the very bad advice I got from professional saddle fitters while shopping (and some good stuff).

The Lies

Your Draft Cross Must Have a Hoop Tree with an XXW Setting

No joke. My first Albion was stretched from a MW to an XXW. At that point, there was no going back with it, so I sold it once I realized that my horse really wasn’t THAT wide. (This was after ignoring May’s crow hopping after big jumping efforts and the saddle nearly sliding under her stomach in a clinic with the non slip girth pulled up as tight as it would go.) For the record, the horse does have withers.


The Longer Panels Will Just Stabilize The Saddle on Your Horse

May has a short back, and I need a bigger seat size. As a result, we need short panels. Why? Because there is no way that you can twist physics that will make panels stabilize the back of a saddle without exerting any pressure on the weak portion of my horse’s back… but thanks for trying?

Bigger Blocks Will Make You Feel More Secure

You know what actually makes me feel more secure? A saddle that has a good balance and helps me put my leg around the horse. Most of the time, blocks are not in the PERFECT place (yes, even though velcro blocks).

That Swelling Cannot Be Due to this Special Spring Tree

After receiving one saddle sent to me by a rep to try, I felt it was too tight a fit right behind the withers. The rep asked for pictures, and she said that the Spring Tree will make up for that minor issue. Three days later? My horse was visibly swollen behind her withers and that saddle rep no longer seemed interested in helping me.

Fun Fact: A spring tree cannot correct this level of Nope.

You Can’t Do Dressage Comfortably in a Jump Saddle

Fun fact, a jump saddle that fits you well is actually pretty comfortable for lower level Dressage work. If May and I suddenly decide that second level Dressage is something we want to pursue, I will probably buy a Dressage saddle again. But for now, a well fitting jump saddle will suit us just fine.

Whenever You Want to Sell This Saddle – It Will Go FAST

Wish I had just sold my Dressage saddle when I found a jump saddle to fit. It’s a great saddle but clearly fulfills a pretty specific need. Now that I really need to sell it, it is getting almost no attention.

The speed at which that saddle is selling…

The Good Tidbits

Your Horse Isn’t As Wide As You Think She Is

I spent A LOT of time looking at extreme hoop trees. I mean like this:

Image result for hoop tree

Then, someone pointed out to me that my horse has withers and a decent, but wide, A frame to her back.

Listen To Your Horse

May has some pretty subtle (and a few) not so subtle clues when things don’t fit. They range from sucking back, to crow hopping, to, in one case, seriously considering throwing the brakes on over a 2′ jump… My opinion, and a professionals opinion, on whether a saddle fit means NOTHING to this mare. Her opinion is the only one that matters.

The Fit For the Riders is JUST AS Important As Fit For the Horse

The first time I heard this, I was convinced this woman was just trying to sell me a saddle. If my horse is comfortable, I can adjust my riding to accommodate for whatever the saddle throws at me. I mean… maybe… but the far more likely scenario is that you end up slightly out of balance all the time, which is not comfortable nor fun for your horse. No matter how well the saddle fits.

What about you? Have you learned any lessons through your adventures in saddle shopping?

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  1. AMC

    I have also been told the “must have wide hoop tree” lie a few times. Then why did my regular tree set to wide on my old saddle sit on my horse’s withers (yes, he has them!)??? Ugh. Now I want to call that person and tell her try riding him bareback and see if she still wants to sell me that saddle..

    1. Emily

      Yessss lol It’s like if your horse falls somewhere in between a thoroughbred and a flat-backed cob… people just don’t know what to do.

  2. Nadia

    Totally agree! Especially about using a jump saddle at the lower levels. I am currently borrowing a dressage saddle until I figure out what I am doing, and Trainer Sarah rolls her eyes every time I insist on riding in a dressage saddle (with huge blocks) every time we are doing flat work. I totally understand the jump saddle works, but sometimes it’s just easier for me to pretend we need a dressage saddle lol

  3. roamingridersite

    My favorite was with Gem when I was told by a well respected dealer that she would never fit into any english saddle and to just expect all to ride up her neck during canter work so just buy theirs and deal with it. HAAHAHA! Needless to day I did not purchase from them and I did go on to find a saddle that stayed where I put it.

    1. Emily

      Omg! Haha that one might take the cake. I would just love to know if these people actually BELIEVE some of the stuff they say, or if they are all that delusional.

      1. roamingridersite

        Right? Like are you for real or just really wanting this sale to happen?

  4. the_everything_pony

    Yeah people told me a lot that Amber didn’t have withers, which….she actually does lol. I actually went through this issue fitting western saddles. I never really put much stock into it at the time, but I didn’t have a saddle to ride Amber with, and as she grew as a 5yr old things just didn’t fit her anymore. It was actually quite informative going from saddle to saddle before I found one that did fit her, and the difference it made in her way of going was immediate. It really opened my eyes to how many wide QHs are in ill-fitting western saddles (and somehow still manage to do their job) just because “if it says full QH bars then the saddle fits” which is totally untrue. I think a lot of people unfortunately brush aside saddle fit in western because the large tree should just distribute everything fine. Which….yeah, doesn’t work if the saddle gets narrower in back and your horse is wider.

    1. Emily

      Ugh yeah, I don’t envy you the nightmare of fitting a western saddle. I have played with the idea of getting May a western saddle, but I just can’t bring myself to jump down that rabbit hole.

  5. the_everything_pony

    Yeah no one pays attention to the back, just the shoulders, which doesn’t help either party. The western saddle we have now both Amber and I adore. I feel like I’m sitting in a dressage saddle just without the thigh blocks lol. I don’t blame you at all. It’s a crazy rabbit hole lol

  6. eventerinprogress

    I’m lucky in the sense that I work with an independent fitter, so no reps lying to me. Unfortunately she’s very busy and super far away which is why it took so long to set up an appointment for B

    1. Emily

      I have had the hardest time finding an independent rep in KY. Which you would think wouldn’t be a problem here!

  7. draftmare

    Oh man, as you know you and I could trade plenty of horror stories. Your first points about width and tree shape really hits home for us. My saddle fitter’s solution to EVERYTHING was to make the saddle increasingly wider, which it turn made it increasingly more unstable, so he would make it wider yet. We were in the xxw gullet of my saddle by the time I started to look for outside help. I adjusted it back down to the wide/xw gullet and things are already much better. Not perfect, but much better.

    Also I have heard a few times people say that a spring tree will adjust from way too narrow to just right. Uh, I don’t think it works that way?

    1. Emily

      Even if the spring tree “opens” to a wider width, it is still trying to push closed constantly… which creates pressure. Right? Lol I just wonder about these people…

      1. draftmare

        I had a girl trying to sell me her MW County saying that because it’s on a spring tree it will adjust to my wide/xw horse. ?

  8. martidoll123

    Ugh hate saddle shopping totally. And yeah imagine my surprise when Remus was a 29 in a Stubben but wide in everything else. I kept arguing with the Stubben rep (nicely of course) saying she must be mistaken. (From all the lies other fitters told me!)

    I hope you can sell your dressage saddle and get a new saddle that fits both you and May. Also I am also a one saddle all three divisions kind of person! 🙂

  9. Cathryn Kozak

    “fit for the rider is just as important”
    My dressage saddle flaps are only 13″ and I really needed that for the saddle to fit ME properly.

    1. Emily

      Finding that unicorn saddle is SO HARD, but I have spent way too much time telling myself that “as long as it fits her, it’s fine”. Congrats on finding your unicorn! 🙂

  10. L. Williams

    I bought one saddle in my life and it was easy and honestly magical and I don’t want to try my luck again.. lol

    1. Emily

      Bahahah! I wish! I am on jump saddle 2 for May… and my 6th saddle ever

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