How to adjust your saddle?

25 Mar, 2022
Written byG_fournier

The saddle is an essential element in horse riding. Adjusting your saddle is one of the least common techniques, yet the most effective in the search for comfort. 

Today, discover our five saddle-fitting tips to adjust your saddle in the best possible way.


  1. The appropriate saddle for each discipline
  2. Adjusting the saddle to the horse’s back
  3. Choosing the correct gutter depth
  4. Adjusting the saddle to the rider
  5. Choosing the proper materials

The appropriate saddle for each discipline

The more we practice riding, the more we understand the differences between saddles and their importance. 

To adapt the saddle to the rider, it is important to look at the discipline for which the saddle will be used. Whether you are a jumper or a dressage rider, you need to choose the correct saddle to progress in your discipline and keep a certain comfort for you and your horse. If your practice is rather versatile, a mixed saddle will be more than enough


In any case, ask yourself before selecting your saddle. Ask yourself what discipline you practice the most and what characteristics you expect from a saddle. The characteristics of a good dressage saddle are quite different from those of a cross-country saddle.

Adjusting the saddle to the horse’s back

The second point to consider when buying a saddle is the particularity of your horse’s back

Generally speaking, a standard mixed saddle with standard dimensions will suit most horses. However, as each horse has a different morphology, a standard saddle will not be perfectly adapted

At Arion HST, our ambition is to offer each horse a saddle that is perfectly adapted to its anatomy. Choose between a custom-made or half-measure saddle to free your horse from all the constraints that he could encounter with an ill-fitting equipment.

In the quest for comfort, we offer saddles with different pommel sizes or arch openings to fit the horse’s body.

The next time you saddle your horse, take a good look at his back. Here are a few things to consider when adjusting your saddle:

  • length of the back,
  • hollow or flat spine line
  • thickness of the withers,
  • shape and size of the scapulae,
  • width of the rib cage.
Adjust your saddle depending on your horse's backs

We believe that the equipment should be adapted to our horses, not the other way around.

Choosing the correct gutter depth 

On a saddle, the gutter is the “hollow” between the padding. The pads are in contact with the horse’s back and serve as a shock absorber, whereas the gutter should never touch the skin. 


There is a simple reason for this. 

The spine consists of vertebrae and ligaments. Just below the top of the spinous processes, from the withers to the sacrum, is the supraspinous ligament. This is a very sensitive ligament, which guarantees the proper functioning of the spine. It tightens and loosens as the horse lowers or raises its head. 

If the back area is strained, if the movement is not carried out properly, conflicts of the spinous processes can occur. These conflicts not only affect the horse’s locomotion, but also affect its health. 

For more information on the subject, we recommend reading an article from the IFCE on the functioning of the horse’s back and its consideration in training.


In concrete terms, the depth of the gutter guarantees the free functioning of the horse’s spine during work. 

Therefore, to adjust the saddle as well as possible, before buying a new saddle, or for your current saddle, check that the gutter does not touch the rug when you saddle. If it does, the saddle is not fully adapted to your horse and could injure him. 

Choose the proper materials

The last point that seems essential for a good saddle-fitting is the choice of materials

Indeed, depending on the quality of the materials used in the choice of your saddle, it will be more or less comfortable. 

To understand the importance of materials, let’s take a closer look at the saddle. 

Inside the classic saddles, there is a tree. The saddle tree can be made of different materials, with their positive and negative points. 

Adjusting the saddle to the rider

What is true for our horses is also true for us. 

As riders, we all have different body types. Therefore, a saddle with standard dimensions will not necessarily fit us. 

 It happens that we have wider or narrower pelvises, bigger or smaller hips, shorter or longer legs… A saddle that is not adapted to our needs will quickly slow down our progress. 

 Many riders reassure themselves that they do not ride enough to complain about an unsuitable saddle. However, if you don’t adjust your saddle, you risk developing bad habits. A saddle that is too big for us will cause us to ride too far back; flaps that are too short for our legs don’t help keep them in place; a seat that is too hollow will “hold” us too much.  

Adjusting the saddle to the rider-horse pair is a guarantee of comfort and performance

The wooden tree

  • A one-piece tree made of wood, reinforced with steel. These trees are strong and inexpensive, but a bit heavy. Their rigidity can hinder athletic performance.
  • The glued laminated tree. Made of glued wood slats, this pommel horse is light, flexible, and strong. Its negative point is its price because it is a high-end product.
  • A composite wood tree. It is found in entry-level saddles. Its price and its weight are advantages, its weak solidity is a defect. 

The synthetic tree

Whether they are made of fiber, resin or carbon, these trees are increasingly light. Their positive point is that the material allows you to adjust your saddle perfectly. 

In addition to the saddle tree, the general material of the saddle should be considered. At Arion HST, we prefer to use leather because it is a noble, durable and resistant material. Our top-of-the-line leathers are rigorously selected for their quality. The key to the longevity of natural saddles is regular maintenance of the leather

However, there are less expensive saddles made of synthetic material. However, the durability is not there. Neither is the comfort, knowing that plastic heats in summer and slips when wet. 

If you have any doubts about the proper fit of your saddle, our French saddlery experts will guide you from A to Z.

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