How to position your cross-country saddle?

20 Jan, 2022
Written byG_fournier

Every eventing rider asks himself one day how to position his cross-country saddle. Indeed, the cross-country saddle, with its technical specificities meeting the requirements of the discipline, is not the easiest to position. 

At Arion HST, we know all too well the detrimental effects of poor saddle placement or an unsuitable saddle. In this new article, discover our advice on how to choose and position your cross-country saddle on your horse’s back! 


  • The importance of the position of the cross-country saddle
  • Positioning the saddle correctly

The importance of the position of the cross-country saddle

The cross-country saddle is a very characteristic saddle. It bears little resemblance to dressage or mixed saddles. At Arion HST, our cross-country saddle is a single-tier saddle. Single quarter saddles, unlike double quarter saddles, allow more flexibility in riding. Indeed, by being thinner, these saddles allow the rider to place his legs almost directly in contact with his mount. 

Single quarter cross-country saddles are therefore ideal for better communication between the rider and the horse on the cross-country. However, a saddle that is not adapted to the horse’s morphology can greatly compromise this communication. 

A well-positioned saddle for more comfort

Each horse has its own morphology. Some have more pronounced withers, others have wider ribs, others have a very hollow back… 

Mass-produced saddles, based on standard measurements, are therefore not suitable for all body types. 

A bit of anatomy.

Every horse has the same anatomy and biomechanics. The back of our horses is composed of bones (the spinous process that we feel when we touch the horse’s back), ligaments and muscles. These different elements, linked together like cogs, support the rider and train the horse. However, if only one of these elements is blocked, the whole chain is blocked. 

Blockages occur when an external element exerts pressure or stress. An unsuitable saddle is often the cause. 

Thus, choosing a saddle adapted to the morphology of each horse, respecting its movements and freeing the back, relieves the horse and increases its performance tenfold.

The need to limit the risk of injury

However, poor performance is not the most worrying result of an unsuitable saddle. In fact, a horse that is hindered in its movement will not always refuse work. Whether willingly or under duress, it will continue to obey its rider. This is when the most serious thing happens. By being blocked, a horse will work in the “wrong” direction, compensating by using the wrong muscles. 


A horse that compensates in work does not use its muscles and ligaments properly. Such riding leads to postural defects and other injuries, which must be identified early enough. 


To eliminate all these risks and to ensure the good physical health of our horses’ backs, it is imperative to have an adapted and well-positioned saddle. 

leather riding saddle

How to position the saddle on the horse’s back 

Beyond the importance of having a riding saddle adapted to your horse, it is also necessary to know how to place it properly. 

Taught by riding instructors to riders preparing the French Galop 1, the technique is often a little forgotten over the years.

Let’s go over some basics. 

In classical riding, teachers and riders agree that a horse “on its haunches” is a horse in the right position. This is entirely true because the horse works in this way by soliciting its hindquarters, its motor. 

However, anatomically, the horse carries nearly 60% of its weight on its forehand. Given the weight of the rider and the harness, the entire forehand must be free of any constraint. 

However, many riders tend to place their saddle too far forward. This placement on the withers completely locks this hinge zone, which then loses all its flexibility. 

Lynn Symansky Arion HST

Points to watch for a good positioning

Thus, to correctly place the saddle on the horse’s back, it is necessary to place it behind the shoulders. In this way, the saddle tree frees up the amplitude of the shoulder blade, which facilitates the movement of the forelegs at all three paces and particularly at the jump or in cross-country. 


The cross-country saddle being single quarter with a low girth, its position is all the more important. Indeed, a well-placed anatomical girth, setback from the girth passage, frees completely the pectoral muscles. Thus, the advancement of the front legs is done without constraint, in all their amplitude. 

To properly position your cross-country saddle on your horse’s back, it is technically necessary that it be placed on his 13ᵉ dorsal vertebra. This way it will rest on two muscle groups, the Latissimus dorsi and Trapezius. Such position on the muscles distributes the rider’s weight better.

Thus, the effort that the horse must provide is much less significant. In addition, this central positioning of the saddle allows the rider to be at the level of the horse’s center of gravity. Thus, his weight is distributed equally between the front and the hindquarters, which frees the whole body of the horse and allows the hindquarters to come under the horse. 

Finally, to check that your saddle is properly positioned, look at the lumbar vertebrae. If the lumbar vertebrae go under the saddle padding, the saddle is too far back. In this case, your horse will be in pain, and you may end up in the sand!

If you have any doubts about the positioning of your cross-country saddle on your horse’s back, contact one of our experts for a custom consultation!

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