Friday, November 6, 2015


In an ongoing attempt to educate myself on saddles, and perhaps someday follow Saiph's most excellent advice in becoming a saddle fitter myself, I decided to look into what the process would entail. After I had posted my last blog, one of the WE people I know said that finding someone to work on Spanish or Iberian saddles is difficult. Perhaps there is a niche for me to fill, since it is also difficult to find a saddle fitter to do Western saddles as well. I took to the internet and what I found is pretty interesting.

There are several options for learning to be a Master Saddler or saddle fitter, depending:

Saddlefit4life - a program developed by Jochen Schleese out of Ontario, Canada. This actually seems to be a pretty comprehensive program that covers anatomy, biomechanical movement, rider balance, reflex points and the structure of the saddle. To take all of the classes looks like an investment of $2500 or so, with the classes scheduled as clinics, to become a Saddle Ergonomist. This is my first choice, just because it would be easier to schedule clinics than take a full week at a time class. The only drawback is that the class focuses specifically on English constructed saddles (jumping, dressage) and does not address western or spanish/Iberian saddles. Yeah, I just added up the cost calculations and it would be close to $15,000 to become a Saddle Ergonomist and two years of schooling with extensive travel. They compare it to degree from an University.

The Saddle Guy: This program only accepts 2 - 3 students a year, takes six months to complete, must have equine anatomy knowledge (vet tech level) prior to class, horse experience, and access to a saddle fitter for an apprentice type relationship. There are three classes held in SC. They are Wed - Sat for each class and each class is set three months apart. This is the class schedule and expectations:

Classroom hours, homework, research etc.
Documented case studies
Volunteer Hours
Presentation and preparation of class project,
final written test and final practical test
Approximate Total

The cost for the class is $4500 and it only covers English saddles.

Master Saddle Fitter Certification Course (MSA CSF): This program is a week in class, six months practicing what you learned, then a final week in class and the test for certification. I could not find a price for the certification. And the six months of practice seems to be entirely on your own, without the apprentice type environment.

Saddle Fitting for a specific brand: the final way to get training for saddle fitting is to become a rep for a specific brand, get training from them on the saddles you will sell for them, then use your knowledge to sell their saddles under the guise of a saddle fitter. It seems that a lot of saddle fitters actually rep for several brands and have received specific training for the saddles they carry.

From our first saddle fitting April, 2013

After assessing cost and time commitment, I decided to educate myself as thoroughly as I can without enrolling in a formal program. I'm sure there are lots of things I can learn about saddle fit, at least until I'm retired and then maybe I will take the course. To that end, I searched on Amazon and found this book:

A saddle fit book for the man who created SaddleFit4Life

According to Schleese,"the term 'saddle fitter' is pretty much ubiquitous worldwide, without any commonality in qualifications or certification." There is no standard of apprenticeship, no requirements for quantity or quality of experience needed before one can become a Master Saddler. And even the term Master Saddler does not necessarily mean someone who makes equine saddles: it can also be someone who makes 1) luggage, bags and purses or 2) does the interior work in cars and trucks. The industry in Europe is heavily regulated and the standard included steps to ensure that the Master Saddler had constructed actual saddles, from tree to finished product, but that process has fallen away due to assembly line construction of saddles.

So, in North America, there is no regulation of what entails a Master Saddler, let alone a saddle fitter. My experience has included one saddle fitter that I am positive reps for a number of brands, carries their saddles and only works on the saddles she reps. Once saddle fitter I watched was a woman with the worse bed side manner of anyone I've been around and although she didn't rep saddles, she did sell a very expensive saddle pad that was supposed to fix any saddle issue. The last one I dealt with, briefly, didn't do anything to help my situation except tell me my saddle was messed up. She did help K evaluate her two saddles and come to the same conclusion I had come to in regards to the Tucker, and was able to make recommendations to K on her other saddle. This last saddle fitter does own a tack shop and reps her lines of saddles when doing saddle fitting.

Is it possible to be a saddle fitter that just evaluates the saddle, the saddle fit, the horse and the rider and makes suggestions for a better fit? What is one to do? I have some ideas I got from the book and some suggestions that I will share later.


  1. Very interesting! Thanks for doing the research! I almost worked for a saddle company doing design work (ReactorPanel). Everything went really well in my interview way back when until they found out I rode in an Antares.. :/

  2. Ahhhh the age ole saddle issue. I am going to talk with a saddlemaker and design a WE saddle..Western style. I have a horse that i have tried way to many saddles to even count. i think it will be my only choice..

  3. Great article,thanks a lot for sharing this useful post with us, keep it up

  4. If you ever decide to do the SC classes you can always come crash with us.