I decided to research the ‘owners’ perception of saddle fitting’. I have learnt a lot about the construction of saddles and how this impacts the horse and rider through working for Kruger saddlery and therefore wanted to expand my knowledge by looking into the research behind saddle fit and use.
I could not find any published research on the owners’ perception of saddle fitters when I decided on my research project. However, there were already lots of research papers on the impact of the saddle on both the rider and the horse. The most interesting research paper I found on saddle fitting was by Guire et al. (2017) that investigated the repeatability 20 Master Saddle Fitter observation. This study found majority of the saddles agreed on the clearance of the saddle and the panels contact with the horses back. However the saddle fitters in this study struggled to agree on the tree width and length even though they had all been trained and examined.
The project consisted of sending out a survey via social media, which gained 213 responses. The respondents all owned or loaned a horse but varied in age, riding ability, amount of horses and saddles owned.
· 193/213 participants used a saddle fitter
· 186/213 participants used a qualified saddle fitter
· Use of saddle fitter or qualified saddle fitter was not significantly affected by the owners age, number of horses owned, level of training, employment status or working in the equine industry.
· A significant correlation was found between the number of times the horses were ridden per week and how often the saddle was fitted.
· Majority of participants reported used a saddle fit to achieve optimal fit for the horse as the saddle fitters have experience and training to achieve this.
· Owners who did not use a saddle fitter stated this was because they could fit a saddle themselves or they had a bad experience in the past with a saddle fitter
· Owners most commonly found a saddle fitter through word of mouth
· 78% of participants were aware of the Society of Master Saddlers list of qualified fitters.
· Owners were most often prompted to contact a saddle fitter due to their horse presenting with back pain
· If owners were advised to have their saddle checked it was usually by a veterinary physiotherapist.
· There was a significant correlation between owners’ confidence fitting a saddle and attending a saddle fitting course.
· It was shown that owners who were aware of the list of qualified saddle fitters were more confident fitting a saddle.
· Financial and time constraints did not have a big impact on the use of a saddle fitter.