Saddle fit issue - why is this happening?

My young mare has been described by the 5 fitters who have seen her as “level” - not downhill nor especially uphill. She has a very average medium width back, and while sensitive seems to find most saddles pretty acceptable.

Me? Not so much - they ALL seem to make my lower back sore, and they ALL feel 100% better with a THICK riser pad under the back. Without it, I am constantly crouching forwards, struggling to balance, finding my legs too far forwards. In pictures my stirrup leathers are never vertical - always angled backwards 15-20 degrees.

Why is this? Does she move so uphill that it tips the saddle back? Is it my long thigh? Am I just a big floppy mess who needs to get stronger? Are the saddles actually NOT sitting on her level? I was always told the cantle should be higher than the pommel… how much depending on how deep the seat. Some of these look… questionable. Maybe I need to get out a level…

Finally, supposing I can never find a saddle that fits both of us, am I seriously spending $5-7k on a saddle that needs a riser pad? (snark!) :neutral_face: Or can a custom panel that does the job be made? I expect that’s going to affect resale…

I have this issue as well. I’m most saddles the stirrup bar seems to be placed too far forward, and the low spot on the seat is too far back. I don’t know if there’s something weird about how our pelvis’s are shaped, but it’s DEFINITELY a problem. A riser can help, but I just tell my saddle fitter that I want the balance further forward, and have them fit it that way. Isn’t always easy to get them on board though.


Need to see pictures of the saddle on the horse and you in the saddle before I can really comment on the issues. Balance, seat profile, seat size, blocks, etc all play into it. Also the type of saddles you have tried.

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I will PM you!

YES: all of this!


Perhaps try a saddle with an adjustable stirrup bar? Do saddles make you feel tilted back? I have this issue with saddles that have a steeper rise in the pommel, saddle sits level on the horse but I feel tilted back (though no back pain from it). I have since bought and ride saddles with a lower pommel and problem was solved.


We need photos.

How are you on other horses in other saddles? That will tell if it’s you or not.

What style saddle? Bad knee roll fit can mess up a dressage saddle. Wrong seat size can mess up any saddle.

You mention you have a long thigh. Are you riding in a dressage or close contact saddle?

You may need a forward flap, not necessarily a long flap. Start there. Go up 1/2 inch in seat size… Stirrup bar placement can make a difference so you may need to go custom.

Jump saddles. Same issue on other horses. Meh.

CC - the 17.5” Stubben has a very forward flap and fitters have said I could go down to a 17” seat so it’s already maybe big-ish? I feel I’m swimming in an 18” and not secure but it’s been a while since I tried so will try again. Have also tried different stirrup lengths. No luck.

I have a long thigh, too. Like, really long. I could fit, butt-wise, in a generous 16.5 saddle but I always ended up in a 17.5, even with a forward flap. My issue— which may also be yours— came in trying to find a saddle that, when I sized up, didn’t then also force me to sit in the wrong part of the saddle’s seat. I often felt the need to scootch my seat forward, toward the pommel, to get over my horse’s center of gravity.

Deeper-seat saddles only made it worse, and that’s when my lower back pain started. If I’m sort of locked into a deep seat it somehow strains my lower back (?).

Eventually I did have luck with a close contact Stubben with a forward flap, but I can’t recall exactly what model. Don’t despair and keep looking, even if you have to try some less than fashionable brands.

Have any of the saddles you’ve tried been French, or Italian? Most have a more forward balance, which might alleviate you of the feeling you need to tip forward or sit on your pockets. I have a Prestige (dressage, though) right now and it was a game changer for me - I no longer have to fight to keep my seat bones neutral or my leg underneath me. When I was fitter I could just ‘ride around’ whatever didn’t fit me on a saddle, but not anymore.

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I had all these issues - Deepest part of the seat was too far back making me lean forward, and the stirrup bars too far forward giving me a chair seat. I have heard this same complaint so often - why arent saddle makers listening??
Finally resolved with a Schleese Obrigado. I did not think I would like it - a few years ago I sold one because I could not ride my new horse in it - but now, I guess I have changed and I know he ahs changed and the Schleese was the fix.
Based on suggestions from you all here, I tried various french and italian saddles borrowed from the local consignment shop (they were very kind!) and they were improvements, but it took a ride in an Obrigado to really feel right.

For whatever it’s worth … could the knee blocks, upper thigh blocks and lower thigh blocks be interfering with your leg placement?

I really don’t know how people managed to ride for all those thousands of years before these giant blocks were added to saddles. I also have a very long thigh bone, proportionately (my tailor said that is why no off-the-rack slacks ever fit me). The blocks are never, ever, in the right place. Also they do not help me at all - I learned to ride for many years before someone added the blocks.

The blocks are the bane of my riding. The deep seats are also a hot mess, for me. I look for the flattest, least contoured saddle made (least contoured for the rider). I can’t find a balance at all in a saddle with blocks.

In case it could be a factor for you, OP.


Honestly, I’ve heard of others having the same problems you are having with Stubben saddles. I think another poster recommended you try some of the French or Italian saddle makers. I would agree with this. Good luck.

I’ve tried Devocoux, CWD, Bruno Delgrange, Voltaire and maybe another French brand. All the same. :confused:

Is there any chance that the saddle is creeping forward on your horse? This would cause the saddle to tip backwards. Does the saddle look to be in the correct position when you get off your horse?

Also, when you describe the deepest part of the seat feeling too far back, and the stirrups not hanging correctly - do you only mean the way they feel when you’re seated or also the way they look when you’re judging the fit of the saddle?

I don’t think the saddle is creeping forwards. It seems to stay put pretty well and I place it well back. My back is struggling immediately without a thick riser pad.

The waist and the bars feeling too far apart is when I’m riding.

As far as I’m aware there are only two brands with that - per the OP I tried two Bates saddles and it helped but wasn’t a real fix. The other is Lovett & Ricketts and there are no fitters for that brand here. I have found the manufacturers of three different kinds of adjustable bars and have asked some saddlers and brand reps if they can install but no luck yet.

I don’t think so - I’ve tried saddles with no calf blocks and ones with thigh blocks that my knee doesn’t come near. Same result. Sore back.