Whether you have owned and ridden your horse for many years, or have just found a new equine friend, it is vital to make sure the saddle fits correctly for your horse’s welfare and, in turn, for you both to enjoy your time spent riding.

For our Horse Insurance team at SEIB, our horse’s welfare is paramount, so we spoke to the Society of Master Saddlers, Master Saddler, Registered Master Saddle Fitter and Registered Qualified Bridle Fitter, Helen Reader for her advice on the steps we can take to ensure our saddles, and bridles, are fitting correctly and horses – and humans - are comfortable.

How often should I get my saddle checked?

Helen advises that the fit of the saddle should be checked regularly by a qualified person. “A routine check should be made every 6 to 9 months with an established horse. If the horse is young or old or is in a lot of work and frequently out competing, then I would advise a saddle check every 4 to 6 months. If the horse suddenly starts doing anything unusual then it is important the saddle is checked straightaway.”

“Make sure that the person you use is qualified to do the job. The best way to find a qualified saddle or bridle fitter is to visit the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) website https://www.mastersaddlers.co.uk/. The SMS website allows you to find a member by searching both name and area. The list of SMS qualifications each member holds are listed on the website, so it is straightforward to make sure that the person you plan to use holds the relevant qualification.”

All SMS members adhere to a code of conduct, maintain professional standards, are regulated and fully insured. By using a SMS Registered Qualified Saddle/Bridle Fitter you are making sure that you have a well-trained professional backed up by the Society who are respected worldwide.

Helen continues: “The welfare of the horse is always our priority when it comes to saddle fitting. With a new horse, it is important to get a qualified saddle fitter to check the fit of the saddle, ideally within the first month or so of owning the horse. A change of home can often lead to changes in the fit of the saddle. There are many reasons that a horse can change shape and therefore affect the fit of the saddle, these can include a different routine, workload or simply a change of season.”

What else do I need to think about?

Qualified saddle fitters often work with other equine professionals as part of a holistic approach to equine welfare. Helen explains: “I frequently work with vets, physiotherapists and farriers. We work together and combine our experience to ensure the best outcome for the horse.”

“It isn’t just the fit of the saddle that is crucial to wellbeing, the bridle fit is equally important. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) which connect the mandible to the temporal bone can be put under pressure from the bridle and cause pain and possibly increase the chance of headshaking. The tightness of the noseband can affect the overall movement of the horse, especially the engagement of the hindquarters.”

“An SMS Qualified Saddle Fitter or Qualified Bridle Fitter will also check the safety of all saddlery equipment. Cracked leather and broken fittings can cause accidents and lead to injury to horse and / or rider.”

Helen has run her company, HR Saddlery since 2004 and has been qualified and working as a saddle fitter for 25 years. In addition to this she is regularly out competing and is also a Harness Maker. For more information, please visit www.hrsaddlery.com.

The Society of Master Saddlers is the most highly respected saddlery-related body in the world and its members work hard and are extremely proud to promote the craft and skill. As well as educating horse owners about the welfare and safety of correctly fitting tack.  All SMS members are qualified within their category determined by which City & Guilds qualifications they hold. A SMS Saddler is a craft member who makes and repairs saddlery, whereas a Saddle/Bridle Fitter undertakes the fitting elements of the trade. Some members maybe qualified in more than one category.

About SEIB

SEIB have been arranging insurance for horses for over 60 years. As part of our Horse Insurance policies, we can arrange tack and saddlery insurance to help you protect your equipment.