Why a balanced saddle matters

From an old German book riding. Balance as a basic concept of saddle fit. The correct balance is on the right.

“Love this saddle, fits every horse!”

Have you ever heard someone say that? I have, and it makes me cringe. While certain horse types share similar features (e.g. the Thoroughbred “shark fin” withers), it is important to look at every horse as a distinct individual.

There are several factors to consider when evaluating saddle fit, one of them is BALANCE.

Why Balance Matters

A balanced saddle distributes your weight evenly across the horse’s back and thus prevents discomfort.

In our example image above, the rider sits too far back on the saddle, putting increased pressure on the rear part of the horse’s back. This can lead to:

  • Back soreness
  • Hollowing and unable to step under
  • Rushing under saddle
  • No bascule over jumps
  • After some time in a compensatory posture, also to hock and stifle problems
This horse’s saddle is balanced.

A balanced saddle will put the rider in the right position,…

…namely aligned with the horse’s center of gravity, able to be “in the movement”, not behind or in front.

In our example on top of the page, our rider will be:

  • Behind horse’s movement
  • Having a hard time keeping secure balance
  • Having to use the wrong muscles to keep up with the horse’s movement
  • Not able to maintain a balanced, independent seat.

How to recognize a balanced (English) saddle

Place a round piece of chalk or a round piece of wood on the saddle. It will roll toward the lowest point. This lowest point should be in the middle or the saddle. If you do not have such an item, imagine you did. You will quickly determine the right spot.

Ideally, this lowest point should also be aligned with the horse’s center of gravity. But, that is another topic (see ‘saddle position’ in Saddle Fit).

horse saddle fit
This horse’s saddle looks balanced, but it is too far back.

Basic saddle fit concepts must be part of every rider’s “Basic Rider Training”.

Exploring saddle fit with your horse can be fun, interesting and quite the eye-opener… I am happy to help you with your saddle fit questions.

I also recommend to add a book about saddle fit to your library. Here some I really like:

The Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book 

The Western Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book: Soundness and Comfort with Back Analysis and Correct Use of Saddles and Pads

Also read about Saddle Fit here.

As always, enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold