Monday, August 6, 2018

Saddle basics

Millions of words have been written on the topic of proper saddle fit. It's a complex and hugely important subject for everyone who rides horses, regardless of discipline.
Fortunately, things are a lot simpler on the model horse front. Because we don't have to worry about injuring our models with ill-fitting tack, performance showers can boil down saddle fit to just a few key points. The first of these is saddle length. The weight bearing part of the saddle should fit between the base of the withers and the last rib. This area is the only part of the horse’s back that should support the weight of saddle and rider. 
Because so many model horses are sculpted with extremely short backs, it can be difficult to find saddles that are short enough. Most judges understand this, and will allow a little bit of leeway in regards to saddle length. However, no one wants to see a saddle sitting on top of the withers or extending out over the hips. Truly, there are some models that are just too short backed to be performance candidates.
The saddle's seat should be level, with a slight slope from front to back and plenty of room for the doll to sit in. The depth of seat and angle of slope vary across disciplines, but extreme uphill or downhill slopes are unacceptable. The only real exception would be a well-documented historic entry.
It's also important the saddles sit low and close to the horse's back. This is another  common problem area, particularly in costume entries and smaller scales. As a tack maker, I get it. It's really hard to make tiny saddles that aren't bulky. As a judge, however, I am less forgiving. It's not okay to have the top of the saddle's seat towering over the model's back. This is, in fact, my number one model horse saddle fitting pet peeve.
Finally, girths and cinches should be done up snugly, with no gaps between the tack and the model. 
As I mentioned in the post on bridles, there is, of course, a lot more to saddle fitting than this. However, for the purposes of model horse performance showing, these are the basic building blocks for success. The saddle should fit comfortably on the model's back, without infringing on the shoulder blades or hips. The seat should be level and close to the horse's back, and the girth/cinch should be snug. These are the non-negotiables. Correctly fitting tack is an essential part of every performance entry.

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