Saddle – One Size Fits All

Duett Saddle

I have taught saddle fit for a dozen years and now have an online course covering the topic. And I’m ashamed to say that I have a saddle fitting failure story.

My husbands two hunt horses both have extra wide gullet measurements. One is 4 cm wider in the shoulder and about an inch (2.54 cm) wider in the withers. I know from the saddle fit studies that 2 cm is the measurement that delineates good fit from too narrow fit or too wide fit and that slightly too narrow of a fit had lower pressure point readings than the too wide fit.

So I decided to split the difference between the two horses and look for one saddle that would work on both. I know, you’re probably shaking your head wondering why. But hear me out … I thought my husband could use a thick pad on the smaller horse and a thin pad on the slightly larger horse and everything would be fine. I even decided that because both horses were so wide that I would search for a hoop tree saddle. A type of saddle that has a U shape instead of a V shape in the withers area. I reasoned the hoop tree would offer a bit more room for the saddle pads I planned to use.

I took my measurements and started shopping online for a deal. I love deals. I was looking for an extra-wide 8″ gullet, 34cm hoop tree english all-purpose or jumping saddle with an 18″ seat and I found one right away.

The saddle arrived a couple of days later and I was excited and anxious to try it out. I brought the horses in and tried the saddle on each one. The first thing I noticed was how low it sat on the smaller horse. There was only 1 finger of clearance at his withers even without being girthed up. The U shape hoop was a good match on this horse since he has a mutton type wither but the saddle was just too wide. Next I tried it on the larger horse and there was only 1 finger of clearance at his withers too, yet the saddle fit his shoulder fairly well. Why? The larger horse has a tall wither and the U shaped hoop tree was not the right match for him, he needs the typical V style to clear his dominate withers.

I couldn’t have been more disappointed but I shouldn’t have been trying to fit two horses with such different shapes and measurements with one saddle. I should have known better and now I have the extra fees to return the saddle or the hassle to resell it.

As a last ditch effort I re-measured the horse I thought the saddle would fit best and his measurement width had decreased by 1/2″- he has lost weight and I had purchased the saddle based on measurements taken four months ago. Again, I hang my head because I know better, I should have retaken his measurements and paid closer attention to his weight loss. The one positive light is that if he gains weight and I still have the saddle, it will probably fit. But I know I should really buy a saddle specifically for him and this time I will take into consideration his measurement variations over the past year.

The moral of the story – there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to saddles.  It’s important to consider each individual horse and their size changes throughout the year.

Everything is in Blossom

Crabapple blossom

Crabapple blossoms in a spring rain above.

Below, lilacs in bloom, creating a crown over the old milk house.

Lilacs in Bloom Lilac crowning milk house

May is morel mushroom time and my husband enjoys the “hunt.”

Morel bag of mushrooms with Joe

Morel Mushroom

But what has been blossoming for me is ideas … I can’t believe how open and flowing everything feels right now – in the Spring. Maybe it really is a renewal?!

I’ve been doing saddle fitting since I first started offering therapeutic riding lessons over 20 years ago. The saddles needed to fit the horses to avoid the pain related equine fight/flight response with this group of special people who lacked the ability to sit evenly in the saddle and whose balance could be easily challenged.

About 10 years ago I began to offer saddle fitting on a 1:1 basis with my Centered Riding lesson clients – usually professional adult women who were newer into horses.

Over the years, I’ve perfected my saddle fitting system and now I’m creating an online product so everyone, no matter where they live, can learn basic saddle fitting principles and find the best fitting saddle the first time out.

I haven’t launched Saddle Fit Simplified – Lesson in a Box but here’s a sneak peak of some of what will be available in the next month or so!

Nicci Chalk drawing

Determining the Saddle Fitting Area on the Horse.

Measuring gullet width

Measuring Gullet Width and Shoulder Angle.

Saddle Fit Simplified

Stay in tune! It’s coming soon! Updates are available on and at my Facebook group

Titles and Roles

Saddle Fit Book Cover

I’m on to a new project.

I can’t sit still long.

I’m easily bored and love learning and meeting new challenges.

I’m not sure I’m taken seriously in all my roles or all the areas I have “titles” and “credentials.”

I mean how can someone do so many various things and be good at them all?

What titles? Occupational Therapist, Manual Medicine Technician, Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist, Centered Riding Instructor, PATH certified riding and driving instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, Certified Fear Releasing Method Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified in the Emotional Freedom Technique and Certified in AromaTouch.

What roles? I’m a therapist providing wellness and rehabilitation services using a variety of natural methods including animals, plants (essential oils), and a simple hands on approach with bodywork and tapping. And I’m a horse professional and offer more than lessons, I offer a method to become one in partnership with a horse.

And that leads me back to that new project. Part of partnering with animals is making sure they are comfortable in their job and so I’ve gathered some of the information I teach in my saddle fitting education session and placed it in a stand-alone book with colored pictures. The book is intended to be a part of an in-person saddle fitting session but will also be available for purchase on Amazon.

I can’t sit still for long. So many titles and so many roles, I wonder which one will inspire my next project!