A client recently came to me to check the fit of her saddle to a new project horse. Would this saddle sit comfortably, allow freedom, and offer stability to horse and rider? Was it in safe condition for use? Fortunately for this pair, the well-loved saddle, although it had some miles on it, had a tree that sat parallel to the new horse, and the saddle was wool flocked. Because the tree fit, I was able to proceed with addressing the flocking to fine tune the fit to ensure horse and rider could begin their relationship on the right note.
Considering that this horse had not been in regular work for some time, we can expect that the saddle fit will need to be evaluated in 3 to 6 months as new flocking settles quickly and horses' musculature can adapt to work at a surprisingly fast rate.
Whenever considering the fit of a well-loved saddle to a new horse, in addition to questions of fit, a vigilant safety inspection must be performed to evaluate the overall health of the saddle. In this case, I identified some minor stitching damage to the thigh block, which was easily repaired. Broken and/or rotted stitches can go unnoticed. The more dangerous location for me to find these are on the billet straps. These can be repaired, but if they go unnoticed, failed stitches on a billet strap can lead to a fall.
What should you do? Love your horse, yourself, and your saddle! Periodically check the fit of your saddle to your horse, recognizing that levels of work can and will affect fit. Dust off your saddle after each ride, cleaning it more thoroughly if mud, sweat, or other build up are apparent, and plan to condition when it feels dry. Inspect stitching on a regular basis, and call MacLean Equestrian Company to schedule your fitting assessment and saddle health check: for the horse, for the rider.