The first thing you need to know about English saddles, is that they are measured differently than western saddles. If you think that fitting a western saddle is complicated, you will find that fitting the English saddle can be even more so. So lets go step by step. First of all if you have been using a 15 inch western saddle you will need to go two sizes bigger for an English saddle. The 17 inch and 18 inch being the most popular for the average sized rider. Now we need to consider the saddle tree. The tree of the saddle is built according to the length of the back, height of the withers and slope of a horses spine. In order to get the right fit many things must be considered.
1. There should be no limit of movement of the horse’s shoulder blade when in motion. The points of the saddle should sit an inch or two behind the shoulder blade to allow for it’s full rotation.
2. Pain and or damage can be caused by the back of the saddle sitting behind the last rib. The weight of rider and saddle cannot be supported beyond this point on the horse’s back.
3. The gullet or ‘pommel’ of the saddle should have full clearance over the withers, and not be tight laterally so as to ‘pinch’ the withers. As a rough guide, with a seated rider there should be at least two to three fingers’ width of vertical clearance between the horse’s wither and the underside of the arch of the saddle.
4. The central gullet of the saddle or panels (underside) must ALWAYS maintain sufficient clearance above the horse’s spine. Not having full clearance here can have dire consequences to the comfort and well-being of the horse, as sores, bruising, discomfort and at worst, damage to the vertebrae can be caused by direct pressure here.
5. Any pinching of the spinal areas of the horse’s back caused by a ‘too narrow’ gullet can also cause soreness, soft swelling and discomfort which will again detract from the horse’s ability to move freely and happily.
6. You need to be sure of all the points listed above, and that the saddle sits comfortably with an even bearing surface at the front and the rear, and that the balance of the saddle is correct
English saddles come in measurements by width. Narrow. Medium. Wide and Extra wide, it has many types, see types of english saddles.
The narrow width is most likely to fit skinny horses who’s withers are more pronounced
The medium width is most likely to fit most of today’s horses excluding Gaited horses, Morgans and Arabians.
Wide is most likely to fit Morgans and Arabians and Gaited horses.
Extra wide is most likely to fit large breeds such as draft horses.
Special breeds such as thoroughbreds need to be fitted by an expert who will take a full wither tracing and spinal measurement.
This is just a general guide to saddle fitting. This is why concerned riders will take a wither tracing of their horse to be sure.
A wither tracing can be sent to any reputable saddle maker. The saddle maker can then tell you if you need a narrow, medium, wide or extra wide saddle.
So how to take a wither tracing?
This is easily done with a piece of bent wire approximately 20 inches long. All you need to do is bend the wire over your horse’s back, just behind the wither, at the point where the front of the saddle will sit. Make sure it is pressed firmly to shape…then carefully lift the wire from the horse and place it on a piece of paper. Hold the wire steady and trace it with a pencil or pen. It should look like a sloppy curve. But what you will have is the exact shape and slope of your horses withers. The saddle maker can now tell you what saddle measurement you need. (narrow, medium, wide, or extra wide). Remember a concerned rider wants a happy horse.
A good fitting saddle is one of the things that will not only make him happy, but will allow him to perform to his best ability.
What is English Dressage Riding?
Dressage is described as the systematic training of the horse. However, this definition does not do the art of dressage justice.
A way to envision dressage, would be to imagine an Olympic dance couple that has worked together for many many years refining their routine. Now move that vision to horse and rider.
In essence a horse and rider will work together for at least 8 years before their training is complete.
Dressage is all about learning how horses move. It’s about strengthening and developing muscles of both the horse and rider. It’s about exceptionally trained horses performing incredible acrobatic acts. It’s about the deepest form of discipline and love between the horse and the rider.
Dressage is all about classic movements that a horse performs with cues from the rider.
Dressage is a very big subject and deserves a great deal of study.
To be successful at dressage it takes a mountain of patience and determination. It takes a willing horse, who is loved and cared for.
A rider should seek out a credited riding stable who’s main focus is on the art of dressage. Learning from any stable that provides riding lessons simply is not going to cut it.
Dressage is an art that will test a rider in ways he may not have thought possible.
The dressage horse is normally calm and well mannered. He has incredible strength and flexibility. He will continually look to the rider for guidance, affection and friendship.