Step 2-Angle of the points
To find the points, lift the flap of the saddle and look for a leather pocket into which the wooden processes of the pommel
are fitted. This is the point pocket and there is one on both sides of the pommel just under the saddle bars. (It becomes
important to know the terms used in saddle making and the internal structure of a saddle.) These points should lie parallel
to the withers and not contact the back musculature. If the angles are too narrow the points will dig into the horse's muscles
and the middle of the saddle will not evenly contact the horse's back. If the angle is too wide the saddle will sit down in
front and will put pressure on the withers. To assess the point angles, stand looking from the front of the saddle with the
flap lifted. The points should be parallel with the musculature. Some points are concealed on certain saddles. In these cases,
one must rely on the panel pressure procedure.
Step 3-Panel pressure & contact
Panels are the wool-stuffed underside of the saddle that rest on the back of the horse. Place one hand in the center of the
saddle and press down to secure the saddle in place. Put your other hand between the front of the panel and feel for any uneven
pressure under the points. The front panel should not pinch the withers in any area. Run your hand, palm up, along the entire
panel feeling for even pressure. You should raise the sweat flap and check that the panels fit snugly and evenly all along
the back. Panels may be made of materials other than wool, such as foam. Wool is generally considered superior, though, because
it can conform to the variations of contour in the horse's back better than foam and because it can be adjusted to correct
for a multitude of balance and symmetry problems. Panels on whatever material cannot correct, however, for a poorly designed
or incorrectly fitted tree.
Step 4- Pommel to cantle relationship
Visualize a straight line parallel to the ground from the pommel to the cantle. (Photographs can be taken with a digital camera
and lines drawn to more accurately evaluate this relationship.) In saddles with deep or moderately deep seats, the cantle
should be between 2 to 3 inches higher than the pommel. In shallower seats, such as in close contact jumping saddles, the
cantle may be only 1 to 2 inches higher than the pommel. In almost any saddle, however, if the cantle is level with or below
the pommel then the saddle is not properly fitted.
Step 5-Level seat
Visualize the same straight line parallel to the ground and look at the deepest part of the seat. This area should be level,
in order to put the rider squarely on their pelvis (seat bones) and in balance. This shows the importance of evaluating rider
balance. A proper fitting saddle will still result in uneven forces on the horse's back and potential problems if the rider
is not correctly balanced.
Step 6- Wither clearance
There should be adequate clearance between the pommel and the top of the horse's withers - approximately two to three fingers.
If there are more than three fingers then the pommel may be too high and the tree too narrow. Less that two fingers clearance
may mean that the pommel is too low and the tree too wide. Either condition can lead to performance issues and possible lameness.
Wool-stuffed panels will settle a half inch or so and should be factored in. Some horses have flat round withers and may
need more clearance under the pommel and one may need to rely more on cantle to pommel balance as an indicator of fit in these
Step 7- Channel clearance/gullet width
There should be adequate clearance over the spinal area and throughout the channel of the saddle. A narrow channel will restrict
the horse's movement dramatically and may cause soreness. The channel of the saddle should completely clear the connective
tissue of the horse's dorsal midline and rest instead on the musculature of the longissimus dorsi. Because the saddle will
press downward and outward under the rider's weight, steps 6 and 7 should be repeated with the rider in the saddle. Adequate
clearance over the withers and the spine should be observed with the rider mounted as well.