To get the most out of your appointment whether it be to test ride new saddles or re-fit an existing saddle it is important that you supply your saddle fitter with appropriate facilities so that he/she can offer you the best service and advice possible.
You may be surprised to know that quite a large proportion of horse owners, including some who ride at a very high level, have little understanding of the facilities the saddle fitter will need on the day of the fitting. It isn't unknown for the saddle fitter to arrive at the client's premises to discover the 'facilities' consist entirely of an extremely muddy field, a paddock that is totally dried out and rutted on the side of a hill or a wonderful arena that is already occupied because the client omitted to pre-book!
Planning ahead and providing the 'right' facilities helps the saddle fitter to give the best possible service. Ideally you should fulfill the following criteria:
A LEVEL SURFACE where the horse can be stood up for assesment, templating etc.
AN AREA WHERE THE HORSE CAN BE RIDDEN. Your saddle fitter will need to see your horse under saddle at all paces so an arena or flat, level paddock with enough room for this is essential.
SHOW JUMPS/CROSS COUNTRY FENCES. If you are opting for a saddle designed specifically for dressage or showing it is very unlikely you will be wanting to use the saddle for jumping! If you are considering purchasing a saddle that will involve jumping, it is essential to ride over a few fences. Make certain that these are erected before the arrival of the saddle fitter.
RIDER'S PRESENCE. Although this will appear remarkably obvious to the vast majority of riders, it is a fact that some believe their presence isn't a necessary factor! Occasionally horses are 'shared' or ridden regularly by more than one person and, in this case, both riders should be present. (In such cases the saddle fitter will have in mind a list of priorities: the horse followed by the larger/taller rider. When riders of substantially differing physiques are involved there is necessarily a degree of compromise but fitting the horse will always remain the top priority - and will NEVER be compromised.)
BE SUITABLY ATTIRED. Correct riding gear including jodphurs/breeches, boots and a helmet are a must - Jeans, trainers and shorts are always inadequate and they certainly aren't the most comfortable clothes in which to try out short-listed saddles. (nb: The Society of Master Saddlers always advocates that riders wear a correctly adjusted and well fitting riding hat.)
EXAMPLES OF NUMNAHS, GEL PADS, ET CETERA. The Society of Master Saddlers generally cautions that the well fitting saddle does not require the addition of anything under it other than a thin saddle cloth. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. When there is a valid reason for using a numnah or gel pad the saddle fitter will need to allow for the addition in exactly the same way that you take into account wearing extra thick socks or in-soles with a pair of well-fitting new shoes. Many dressage riders like to make use of a pad under the saddle. While occasionally being temporarily beneficial, in general a riser pad tends to unbalance the well-fitting saddle and, in extreme cases, can be the cause of serious problems. Always discuss possible use with your saddle fitter.
HAVE YOUR OWN STIRRUP LEATHERS AND GIRTH AVAILABLE. The saddle fitter will be carrying new girths of various types and sizes but it is a good idea to have your own available (although, in some instances, it may not be the correct type and length for the saddle you are purchasing). Using your own stirrup leathers is generally more comfortable and avoids the possibility of the saddle fitter's new leathers becoming marked and therefore difficult to sell.
If your horse is cold backed, fresh or takes a while to warm up it is a good idea to lunge or work the horse before your fitter arrives, that way they can get started straight away and don't have to waste time with activities not relevant to saddle fitting.
If your horse has been recently treated by an equine professional (Physio, Vet, Chiropractor etc) you should notify us before your appointment and also supply a report or any information that may affect your saddle fitting.