Saddle Fitter Career Profile
A Growing Niche in the Equine Industry
A saddle fitter consults with equestrians to ensure that their saddles are properly balanced for optimal performance.
A saddle fitter is an equine professional that helps a horse and rider to perform more effectively by evaluating and adjusting the fit of the saddle. The fitter makes sure that there are no areas that would pinch the horse or cause them pain while they are under saddle. They perform their evaluations with the rider mounted and dismounted, checking all pressure points and observing the horse’s movement and behavior closely. Saddle fitters are extremely well versed in saddle construction and customization, and can often provide adjustments on site (or ship the saddle back after performing more advanced changes in their workshop).
This career path can be travel intensive, as the saddle fitter must travel throughout a designated region to provide consultations to their clients. The hours may be long, especially during the busy show season. Fitters working for major saddle brands may also have to attend numerous trade shows and events to promote their products.
Saddle fitters must have excellent organizational skills, with an ability to keep track of their appointments and budget their time. They must be prepared to perform a significant amount of work in an outdoor environment subject to changing weather and temperature conditions, as many riders do not have access to covered arenas.
Saddle fitters may be independent contractors or they may work for saddle manufacturers or tack suppliers. They may specialize in representing one brand of saddle or one discipline of riding, or they may choose to service a broader spectrum of brands and disciplines.
Most fitters cover a specific territory (often an entire state or some portion of a state), though some are able to travel throughout larger regions.
Education & Training
Candidates for the saddle fitting career path should have a strong background in equine conformation, anatomy, exercise physiology, behavior, saddle construction, dynamic saddle fitting, and saddle adjustment techniques. They must be extremely comfortable working around horses. They must also have excellent communication and customer service skills, as they will be dealing directly with clients during the evaluation and fitting process. Prior experience in the specific discipline that the saddles are designed for (dressage, jumping, etc) is particularly valuable.
Saddle fitters working for a saddle manufacturer will usually go through a company sponsored course that teaches them about all aspects of the fitting process. They may also be involved in some on-the-job training, shadowing an experienced fitter to learn the ropes.
The Master Saddlers Association (MSA) offers a Certified Saddle Fitter course that leads to CSF certification with the organization. The course involves two weeks of intensive training spaced 6 months apart. The certification exam includes both written and practical elements. Those achieving the MSA CSF designation can use it as a part of their professional profile and marketing materials.
The Society of Master Saddlers (in the United Kingdom) also offers a Qualified Saddle Fitter program. This pathway requires an introductory course, three years of experience working with a qualified fitter, a four-day final course, an assessment exam to achieve the certification, and a refresher course every two years to maintain certification. This is a particularly well known and well-respected program on the international scene.
The salary a saddle fitter earns can vary widely based on factors such as whether they are an independent contractor or employee, whether they offer additional services such as classes or clinics, the number of clients they serve, and the geographic area where they practice their trade.
A saddle fitting consultation generally starts in the $75 to $100 range, with additional charges possible for travel, significant saddle adjustments, or multi-hour appointments. Fitters may choose to discount their fees if a barn has multiple clients seeking saddle consultations at the same location.
Saddle fitting is not a prominent career path in the equine industry but it is a growing niche in the market. The number of candidates seeking saddle fitter certification increases each year.