By Nancy Shedrick

 One of the most important issues in saddle fitting is ensuring correct placement of the saddle. The best fitting saddle in the world does not fit, if the saddle is placed in the incorrect position. A saddle that fits the horse and rider and is correctly placed, will allow the rider to be balanced and the horse the ability to move more freely.

 The rider must be familiar with some of their horses’ anatomy prior to placing the saddle on the horses back see Photo 1A.


 First you must be able to locate the edge of the scapula (shoulder blade, it is edged in blue on photo 1A). When working on the near side of the horse, take your left hand and cradle the edge of the scapula with your fingertips, see Photo 2B. As a visual reminder, you can also take some chalk and mark the edge of the scapula, see Photo 3C.


 I’ll start with the placement of the dressage saddle. Gently place the saddle on the wither/shoulder area of the horse. With the right hand, wiggle the pommel back until your fingertips on the left hand can cradle the edge of the scapula. The front edge of the dressage saddle can go up to the edge of the scapula. The saddle must never go over the edge of the scapula. The dressage saddle with its straight flap, is easier to identify correct placement. Any saddle with a forward flap may be a bit more challenging to determine correct placement, see Photo 4D.

A very common error is placing the saddle too far forward. Make sure that you are locating the absolute end of the scapula blade. When doing this, try to make sure that the horse is standing reasonably square. Often people feel that the most prominent point of the scapula is where the blade ends. This prominent point of the scapula is called the spine of the scapula. This spine separates the supraspinatus muscle from the infraspinatus muscle. The trapezuis and the rhomboid also attach to the upper scapula and scapula spine. A saddle that fits well and is placed in the correct position will allow optimum freedom of motion for the horse. At this point, lets get a little more familiar with the tree of the saddle, see Photo 7G. The tree is the framework of the saddle. Distance between the points determine the tree width. Saddle with head nails, falldown staples identified, see Photo 8H. Point pocket identified, see Photo 9K.


 When looking at this saddle, observe the location of the head nail, saddle nail and fall-down staple. These nails and staples are inserted into the pommel or points of the tree. The points of the tree are inserted into the point pockets. Sometimes you can see the point pocket, as shown in Photo 9K. Sometimes they are obscured from view by thigh rolls, flock points, padding etc.

 Now to determine correct placement of a forward flap saddle. Place the saddle on the wither/shoulder area. Slide it back with your right hand until the top forward edge of the pommel lines up behind the edge of the scapula. It is acceptable for the padded flap to go over the shoulder because everything in front of and below the points of the tree is flexible. You can also cradle the scapula with the fingertips of your left hand, step back and look at the saddle nails to make and sure that they are a couple of inches behind your fingertips.

 Remember that the saddle nails are inserted into the points of the tree. Another check point is to visually look at the point pocket to verify it is behind the edge of the scapula . You need to confirm that the rigid part of the saddle; the tree, is placed clearly behind the rigid part of the horse; the scapula.



Nancy Shedrick resides in New Hampshire. She is a certified saddle fitter for the society of Master Saddlers of the U.K.