1. Download your intake form, fill it out, then return it to email@example.com.
This form helps me better understand your budget, riding discipline, and other key aspects of your fitting situation.
2. Send these 3 critical photos to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Below, I describe these photos in detail and show examples. But in brief, I need…
- One side shot of the rider, in or out of the saddle, showing the relative proportions of your torso, rear end, upper leg, and lower leg.
- One side shot of the horse, showing the entire horse, with its front feet lined up and its back feet lined up.
- A shot of the horse from behind and above, showing the shoulders and bearing surface for the saddle. Don’t get kicked when you take this photo!
Options for delivering your photos:
- email them to email@example.com
- post them online to a sharing site like TinyPic or Imgur and send me the links, or
- post them in a public Facebook photo album, then send me the link.
Critical Photo #1: The horse’s primary rider, shown from the side, in or out of the saddle
People are surprised, sometimes, that I ask for a photo of the rider. But when it comes to saddle fitting, your comfort and the horse’s comfort are two sides of the same coin. The saddle needs to fit the horse so that he can move comfortably underneath you. But if the saddle doesn’t fit YOU, then your riding aids will be muddy and unclear, and your weight might distribute unevenly across the saddle’s panels That’s not good for your horse.
So I need to see your body and get a sense of your body proportions. Any shot of you from the side, in or out of the saddle, would be fine. I’m looking especially at your torso, legs, and behind.
For extra brownie points, send me a picture of you riding in your current saddle. This helps me assess stuff like whether your current seat size might be too big or small for you, whether you would benefit from a different flap cut/angle/length, etc.
Critical Photo #2: Side shot of the horse, standing as square as possible.
The perfect side shot has three features:
1. Show me the whole horse, nose to tail and ear to hoof. This is really, really, really important. If I can’t see the whole horse, then I’m playing a dangerous guessing game. For example, suppose I can’t see that the horse is cocking one rear hoof because that’s not in the photo. I might incorrectly assume that the horse’s topline is more curvy than it really is. If I can see the cocked foot, I can use my imagination to visualize what the topline really looks like in a neutral position.
That said, I know this is a difficult shot to get by yourself. If you absolutely 100% cannot get someone to hold the lead rope while you take this picture, just do your best. I’m happy to look at your photos and tell you whether they’re workable.
2. The horse’s head and neck in a neutral position. This means not grazing, not looking up at the clouds, not looking at the camera.
3. The horse’s feet are square or close to it. In short, the front feet line up with each other, the back feet line up with each other, and the horse isn’t really camped out or really tucked under. It’s okay if the rear feet don’t line up perfectly, as long as I can see the whole horse.
Very-Nice-to-Have Photo #3: Horse from behind and above, showing the spine and shoulders
This photo shows me whether or not your horse is asymmetrical and gives me a feel for the shape of his shoulders. It’s also very helpful for assessing the right panel shape, and panel height, for your horse.
Stay safe when you take this shot! Stand outside the kick radius, and stand on something sturdy and level, like a mounting block. Raise your camera high enough to see the horse’s back/saddle area, not just the rump. Your horse’s head should be relatively straight, if possible.
For Overachievers Only: Optional photos to send, and only if you feel like it
1. The horse, wearing whichever saddle + pad + girth you typically use.
If you are currently riding your horse, it can be useful to see the full saddle getup that you’re currently using. This helps me assess whether there might be a much simpler fix than buying a new saddle–and sometimes there is.
2. If you’d like me to assess the fit of a current saddle, or a saddle you’ve got on trial, there’s a few more photos you should send.
- Basically the side shot I describe above, showing the entire horse, BUT this time put the saddle on the horse’s back. For this shot, don’t use any pads or girth up the saddle. Just park the saddle on the horse’s back, even if it looks goofy.
- The horse wearing JUST the saddle and no pads, showing the front of the saddle (the pommel arch and the area under the pommel arch, near the withers). You can take this by standing up by the horse’s head and holding your camera up near the horse’s neck.
- The horse wearing JUST the saddle, showing the saddle from the rear and above. Aim to be at about the same angle as you see in Photo #3 above, the photo with a big horse-butt in it. Don’t get kicked!
- Repeat the three shots I just described but this time, use your pads and girth.
- For extra extra credit, show me the saddle AFTER you’ve just ridden in it, so that I can see where it settled on the horse’s back after a ride.
Whoa, back up the truck, Jen. How come you didn’t ask for [fill in whatever photo here]?
If you want to send me more photos, I’m game. Send ’em along. But in my experience, the photos I describe above are the mission-critical photos.
Some other fitters like to see oblique shots of the shoulders, or rear shots, or shots of your handsome horse gallivanting in the field, or free-jumping shots, or blahblahblahblahblah. And it doesn’t hurt to send these to me.
But in my experience, the photos above are the million-dollar shots that give me the most valuable information.
If in doubt, go ahead and send me too many photos. I don’t mind getting photo bombed. It’s fun to see your lovely horses.