Questions & Answers
Q. What is your saddle fitting based on?
A. I have learnt from an eclectic mix of many, many professionals over the years. They come from all sorts of backgrounds - vets, saddle fitters, bodyworkers, trainers, etc. I have also learnt so much from the owners and horses themselves. I base my approach on equine behaviour, coupled with their anatomy and biomechanics. Horse behaviour is their only form of communication.
Q. Can you fit 'hard to fit' horses?
A. Yes! I get many horses whose owners come to me having exhausted both English and Western options. As far as I can tell, I sell the both the widest, narrowest, and the shortest western trees in the UK. I am very particular about the horse not carrying the main rider weight behind the last rib. This enables horses to move freely and have the full range of movement in their lumbar area that they need in order to carry a rider as comfortably as possible. Fitting this way also has stopped many horses being sore in the loins and stopped (and prevented) issues with bucking.
Q. Do you carry a large range of saddles? How long have you beed established?
A. I cannot say I carry the largest range of saddles in the UK, as I have no idea how many saddles others carry. But I do have a sizeable range of new and second hand saddles in stock at all times, and I also offer a unique and bespoke custom saddle fitting service too.
I have been western saddle fitting since 1999. I am one of the longest running and most experienced western saddle fitters in the UK.
Q. Do you recommend synthetic western saddles?
A. Not so far. On a well-made western saddle the skirts join almost seamlessly to the tree. When made of good quality leather they gently add to the weight-bearing area. Synthetic saddles have flimsy skirts that add nothing to the weight bearing area. This means that the weight bearing area of these saddles is not much bigger than that of an English saddle. Also, all the synthetic makes I have seen have very limited tree choice, thereby meaning they don’t fit many horses well.
Q. Do you recommend adjustable front arch western or English saddles?
A. No. I trialled an Iberian saddle with an Allen key arch adjust system. The Allen key only changes the angle of the front of the saddle. It does nothing for the width of the gullet or the amount of flair the shoulder needs, or how the rest of the saddle fits over the ribs etc. These saddles will fit a small proportion of horses that have right gullet width and back shape for the saddle, but changing the gullet with the Allen key when the horse gets wider or narrower in the gullet will not help, it will just cause a pressure point. It is better to go for a tree that fits the skeletal angles in the first place with a wider gullet to allow for changes through the season.
Q. Do you recommend saddles where you can shim the tree?
A. Sometimes. I have seen some of these saddles nicely fitted. The downsides are that you may need to have a fitter out regularly to change the shims when your horse changes muscular shape; the other downside is the weight bearing is similar to an English tree as the skirts are not attached to the tree like a traditional well-made western saddle. The saddles are lighter weight but should only be used with lighter weight riders due to the smaller weight bearing area.
Q. What age should my horse be when I invest in a saddle, as I don’t want to waste money on my young horse as they will change shape?
A. If you fit a saddle from age 3.5 to 4 years old then the horse shouldn’t change skeletally too much more. If the saddle is fitted wider in the gullet then it should fit for many years allowing for seasonal and work variations in muscle and condition. Both the Equiflex and AK Saddles have a swell that can be changed by the saddle makers, although this is very rarely required.
Q. Is a lightweight saddle better for the horse than a heavier one?
A. Depends on the weight and how the saddle is constructed. Some saddles really are too heavy for everyone! On the other end of the weight spectrum I have not seen a light weight western saddle that has a decent weight distribution for the horse, other than the TWS Custom saddles (the lightest I weighed was just over 8kg). It also depends what is classified as light weight. Equiflex and AK saddles can weigh as little as 10kg (22lbs) which is light for a well-made, comfortable (for both horse and rider) western saddle. When we reduce weight we often reduce weight bearing capacity which can damage the horses muscles and tissues over time.
Q. Do you fit or sell English saddles?
A. I am very happy to (and regularly asked to) check English saddles. I don’t do flocking. The only English-type saddles I sell are ones in the Barefoot & Edix ranges. I recommend LM Saddles for English saddle fitting.
Q. What cinch should I order?
A. This depends on your horses conformation. Please send in photos if needing advice as to which cinch you need.
Q. Will a pad help my saddle fit better?
A. Maybe. It depends what is wrong. If a saddle is too long, too narrow, or bridging due to the tree being too straight for the horses back, all without a pad, then a pad won’t help. If a saddle is too wide in the gullet then a pad can definitely help. Photos again would help.
Q. Why have you chosen the saddles you sell?
Continental Equiflex saddles are the most popular make sold by TWS. I chose Continental Equiflex as they have one of the widest range of trees (over 300 different shapes) which means a great chance of finding the right tree to make the saddle truly comfortable for the horse to carry. Pullman has the same tree range and fittings for the horse as Equiflex. AK Saddles are new to the UK scene, but have a wealth of experience as they worked with Continental Equiflex for years. They also have a huge range of trees and all trees can be adjusted in many ways (shortened, more flair added front and back etc). The Equiflex and AK trees are quite thin thereby giving a much closer contact to the horse. English and other flocked saddles feel much more perched in comparison. I am always looking out for cheaper alternatives that are as good for the horse which is why I offer Barefoot saddles as they have a good chance of fitting a number of horses and are cheaper than the treed ranges.
Q. Can you fit mules and donkeys?
A. Yes! I have fitted both mules and donkeys over the years. TWS Custom Saddles are especially good due to the tree being made via template of the donkey, mule or horse's back. Equiflex and AK Saddles also do an extensive range of different tree shapes and can also alter the trees too. I am also in the process of adding more mule, donkey and packing equipment to my website.
Q. I live abroad, can you still help me with a saddle that fits my horse?
A. Yes! I have helped many people that live outside the UK, from the USA and Canada, to Australia and the Middle East, to Spain and Norway. See here.
Q. Do you offer second hand saddles?
Yes! I usually have quite a few in stock, and a dedicated section on my website. I can help source second hand saddles too. I will do my best to keep my website updated, but do contact me to ask.
Q. Why are you sometimes hard to get hold of?
A. I have a very busy family life, including numerous children. Business is incredibly busy too. There is a waiting list to be seen at present. If you haven’t had a reply please do get in touch again.
Q. How do I know who to believe for saddle fitting advice as everyone says different things?
A. Good question! Believe your horse, as Mark Rashid would say: “Horses don’t lie”. Their behaviour is their communication. Sadly though, many horses do not show behaviour that would communicate pain, or have been trained to just ‘get on with their job’. That is why I check the horse for pain in their back as part of the consultation. Often a lot of money is spent in the process of finding the right saddle. I have had many customers come to me after sometimes spending thousands of pounds elsewhere. When contacting saddle fitters ask lots and lots of questions. Test the fitters knowledge. Phone around and get a feel for what the different fitters say, then go by your instinct as to what makes sense.
Q. How do you differ from other saddle fitters?
A. Having actually not met any of the others personally, I am not quite sure. I have been told that I am very thorough in my appraisal of the horse and their comfort or discomfort – I am very, very caring. I am very particular about the tree fitting properly as it is not fair for the horse if it doesn’t fit. I have a genuine empathy for the horse and my absolute priority is the horses comfort first and foremost. I do not let the tree do main weight-bearing beyond the last rib. I fit for long term comfort. This allows the saddle to be used on the same horse for many, many years with the only alterations needed are the shims in the pad. These can usually be done by the owner/rider (with my support) and therefore you wouldn’t need to call me out for regular consultations. I can usually help via photos/videos though if required. I help teach the owner/rider during the consultation about how to spot changes in saddle fit and when to contact me for advice.
I will not compromise your horse's wellbeing for a 'sale'.
I do my job for the horses, as they suffer silently.