Whether you’re learning to ride a horse for the first time, of have been riding for a while, it’s essential to know what horse tack to use and the correct size of saddle and equestrian equipment. So here’s a guide to get you up to scratch on your equestrian know how.
In the same way that you wouldn’t be comfortable wearing the wrong sized clothes or shoes, horses are not fond of being strapped into an ill-fitting saddle either.
A saddle that’s too small could dig into their skin, causing rubbing and discomfort and even sores in some areas.
But if it’s too big, it could move around and come out of its ideal position, compromising the safety of the rider.
Neither the horse nor the rider wants to be put in an awkward position, so it’s vital to ensure you know how to choose and fit the right size of saddle before you set off on a ride.
Finding the Right Size of Saddle
Horse saddle sizes are determined by two key measurements – the back width and wither size of your horse. If you’re a novice rider and new to equestrian activities, then it’s best to leave the art of measuring the horse to someone more experienced.
Once the measurements are known, the correct size of saddle can be selected.
As well as getting the right size of saddle for the horse, it’s also important that it’s the right size for you, the rider. If it’s too small, your riding position and comfort may be compromised.
To find which size of saddle you need, sit down on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and, using a tape measure, take the measurement from the back of your bottom to your knee. This will give you your upper leg length.
Saddle specialists should then convert this length into a recommended saddle size – usually these range from about a 15” saddle through to an 18” saddle, but varies according to your individual build and requirements.
When a saddle is fitted correctly, it should be positioned levelly, shouldn’t pinch the withers at all, shouldn’t be lying on the loins of the horse and shouldn’t be on the spine.
As a rough guide, with a good fitting saddle you should be able to put at least the width of your hand both in front and behind you when you’re sitting on the horse.
Finding the Right Riding Hat
It’s essential to wear a riding hat every time you’re riding a horse, as it offers vital protection to your head in case you have an accident and fall off. It’s also useful to be wearing a hat in case your horse acts up and unexpectedly kicks you, as can happen on occasions, so be sure to keep wearing the hat both on and off the horse.
The shell of a riding hat is very hard, and it’s lined with special forms of material that act as shock absorbers.
The hats do deteriorate over time, so it’s advisable to replace them every four years, if you’ve used them regularly, and at once if your hat has had any knocks or damage.
There are three main types of riding hat available – the classic riding hat, the skull cap and the endurance skull protector.
Both the classic riding hat and endurance skull protector can be worn by most riders, whereas the skull cap is primarily aimed at horse racing jockeys and competitors in equestrian riding events.
Riding hats and skull caps come in a variety of sizes and, in order to find your size, you first need to know the measurements of the circumference of your head.
Use a tape measure and measure around the head, just above the ears. It’s best to use centimetres where possible, as this is generally what the sizing guide is based on.
Most riding hats range in size from 49cm, size 6, to 63cm, size 7 ¾.
The skull caps are designated different sizes, with the smallest (49cm) being a size 000 and the largest (63cm) a size 5. All good horse riding tackle and equipment shops will have hat measurement guides available and will be able to assist you if you’re in any doubt.
A good fitting hat should be both secure and comfortable to wear. All types of hat have a strap under the chin which allows them to be adjusted according to your individual needs.
You can tell if a hat fits well by shaking your head – if the hat falls off, it’s too big.