What Does a Saddle Fitter Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
A saddle fitter is an equine professional who helps a horse and rider perform effectively by evaluating and adjusting the fit of the saddle. They are extremely well versed in saddle construction and customization. They often provide adjustments on-site or ship the saddle after performing more advanced changes in their workshop.
Saddle fitters may be independent contractors or work for saddle manufacturers or tack suppliers. They may specialize in representing one brand of a saddle or one discipline of riding, or they may choose to service a broader spectrum of brands and disciplines.
Saddle Fitter Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following:
- Consult with equestrians to ensure saddles are properly balanced.
- Evaluate the fit of the horse and rider, dust pattern, and saddle support area of the horse to identify any issues.
- Make adjustments to saddles to resolve any issues.
- Stay current on construction for all types of saddles.
- Adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.
- Make recommendations on products and solutions for optimal fit.
- Train apprentices and give workshops.
Saddle fitters consult with equestrians to ensure saddles are properly balanced for optimal performance. The fitter makes sure that there are no areas that would pinch the horse or cause pain while the horse is 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 Fitter Salary
A saddle fitter's salary 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.
Education, Training, & Certification
Candidates for a saddle fitting career path should have the following education, experience, and licensing:
- Education: Aspiring saddle fitters should have a bachelor's degree in animal anatomy, equine studies, equine biology, or another related field. A strong background in equine conformation, anatomy, exercise physiology, behavior, saddle construction, dynamic saddle fitting, and saddle adjustment techniques is helpful.
- Training: Saddle fitters who work for a saddle manufacturer usually go through a company-sponsored course that teaches 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. Prior experience in the specific discipline for which the saddles are designed, such as dressage or jumping, is particularly valuable.
- Certification: 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.
Saddle Fitter Skills & Competencies
To qualify for this career, you should have the following skills:
- Organizational skills: Saddle fitters must have excellent organizational skills, with an ability to keep track of customer appointments and manage time.
- Communication skills: They must have excellent communication and customer service skills, as they deal directly with clients during the evaluation and fitting process.
- Love of horses: They must be extremely comfortable working around horses to keep them calm and cooperative during evaluations and fittings.
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.
Most fitters cover a specific territory; often an entire state or some portion of a state, though some travel throughout larger regions. 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.
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 attend numerous trade shows and events to promote their products.
How to Get the Job
BECOME A MEMBER
Join an industry organization such as the Master Saddlers Association (MSA) or the Master Saddle Fitters Association International (MSFA) to stay current on the industry and connect with others. Attending conferences, seminars, and other events can lead to job opportunities.
Comparing Similar Jobs
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Source: PayScale.com, 2019