Fitting the Horse
When trying a saddle on your horse, we recommend using as little padding as possible - just a square jumper pad is sufficient. Make sure you evaluate the saddle both on the horse with him standing squarely in the aisle, and with a rider at all three gaits and over fences. The easiest way to accomplish proper saddle placement to evaluate the fit is to place the saddle on the horse’s back on the withers and gently press down on the twist area and give the saddle a little wiggle until the saddle comes to rest just behind the horse’s shoulder blade. With a jumping saddle, the tree points will be just behind the shoulder blade, however a portion of the panel under the knee roll will be on the shoulder blade, especially on more forward flap saddles.
First, with the saddle sitting on the horse’s back in the proper position, press down on the saddle with one hand and run the other hand between the panel and the horse. Check for good contact and uniform pressure throughout the entire panel. Ideally, the panel should fit the horse uniformly from front to back as well as from side to side so that the pressure of the rider’s weight is evenly distributed. If the panel is too tight in spots, this could indicate too narrow a tree, or panels that are too thick. If the saddle rests on the withers or rocks front to back, chances are that the tree is too wide. If the saddle is bridging, (making contact at the wither/shoulder area and at the cantle while gapping in the middle under the seat and there is little or no contact with the horse’s back in that area), it is most likely caused by the saddle not fitting around the withers properly, or the tree shape is quite different from the shape of the horse's back.
Next, check for a level saddle. You should be able to visualize a level horizontal line from pommel to cantle. If the pommel is higher than cantle, the saddle is probably too narrow and the rider will have a hard time staying with the motion of the horse. If the cantle is too high, the saddle is probably too wide and the rider will fall forward.
Finally check for proper clearance - both at the wither and throughout the entire gullet. A good rule of thumb is that there should be 3 fingers (2 ½ ”) between the gullet and the withers without any rider’s weight in the saddle. When mounted the saddle should not drop more than 1 finger, leaving 2 fingers (1 ¾”) worth of space. If the saddle measurement is less than 3 fingers then the tree is too wide for the horse. If there is space for more than 3 fingers, the tree is undoubtedly too narrow.