Choosing a saddle fitter.
What a task. This modern age of incredible marketing and misleading advertising how do you chose the best fitter for you and your horse ?
In my opinion, take it in stages.
First identify your needs.
Are you shopping for a new saddle or looking to have old faithful refitted ? Some fitters are clearly saddle sellers not fitters, great if you are shopping for new but useless if you need work done.
What’s your preferred fit frequency? If you are not sure, commit to twice a year and adjust once you have a found a great fitter to work with.
Is your horse in good health and steady work ? A horse in rehab or with health complications requires a fitter with considerable experience.
Is your horse a difficult conformation to fit ?
What are your expectations? How high up on your list is professionalism and integrity.
Next stage. Referrals ! This isn’t as easy as it sounds unfortunately. A quality referral is hard to find and they are usually given with a high degree of bias. Also what works for one rider might not work for you. The purpose of the referral is to help you create a short list that you will evaluate further. Also when asking for a referral ask why they are giving that name out and how long they have been dealing with that fitter. If the answer is “I used them once and they seemed nice” then keep investigating.
Yet another stage. You have your short list.
Question everything! Keep in mind saddle fitting is basically unregulated, You can become a fitter with zero training if you so chose.
What do the letters behind behind your name mean ? Who issued them ? Why are they important to me as a client ? Is there a governing body with a professional standards act that overseas your work ? How long have you been in business? Do you work with any massage therapist, vets, chiropractors or other similar specialists? What’s included/involved in my first consultation? How often do you service my area ? I found some negative reviews online, can you expand on why the clients felt this way ? When was the last time you did any professional development? If they use the term master have them explain in detail why (Master is a serious title. If they use this without having earned it exclude them from your list!) and what this would mean to you as a client. What is your warranty and refund policy ? What brands are you affiliated with and authorized to work on? What if … let’s say you damage my saddle (it can happen) are your able to repair it ? Properly! Fit philosophy in detail. What are your views on tree adjustments? Is the work done on sight ? Can you remove a panel inspect tree and webbing and reassemble? Can I watch ? If you take the saddle away, who is performing the work and why ?
So the questions might seem over the top but it gives you and the fitter an opportunity to get a feel for things. Let’s face it, they might decide you aren’t the right client for them and you both win and no money and very little time has been wasted.
To be fair and realistic my list of questions are to keep the fitter honest. They might have less than stellar answers to your questions and you are not necessarily looking for the fitter with the most positive answers, you just need to have your eyes open going into the relationship and they need to understand what’s important to you. At the end of the day it’s not a sexy social media presence or even qualifications that matter the most. In my opinion (that word again) it’s honesty, integrity and how a person responds to and performs when things are less than ideal. A newer fitter with a good mentor can potentially be a way better solution than a veteran fitter.
Next stage. Consultation.
Let’s hope you have 2-3 fitters you like, that’s fantastic. My plan would be to set up a consult with each one. Let them assess you and your saddle but don’t have any work done. You haven’t decided on who yet ! Do they explain everything clearly in simple language? Are they patient with you and your horse? If they were running late did they call ? ( we all run late at times !) Were you left feeling confused or confident? Was the fitter arrogant, that’s a deal breaker for me ! If horses haven’t taught them humility they sure as hell won’t have learned how to fit a saddle to them.
Final Stage!. Compare notes. You should have a clear sense on who is right for you.
Getting your saddle fitted should be a pleasant experience with someone you trust. If you feel like you’re being railroaded into work you don’t need or anxious that the work being done isn’t having a positive impact it’s time to re-evaluate your choice in fitters. They may be a great fitter, just not the right one for you.
I trust my thoughts on choosing a fitter are helpful!