A saddle is constructed right if it gives the horseback rider the greatest possible comfort and the most secure seat, with almost total absence of exertion of muscles of the legs in order to maintain the horse rider's balance.
Almost every horseback riding instructor prefers a certain make of saddle, and teaches a certain style of seat as the best, and their pupils, taking perhaps little or no trouble to study others and to investigate further, tend to adopt the instructor's.
But, irrespective of the science of riding, there is one shape of horse saddle
which is the most comfortable, viz., the saddle which is so constructed that, in accordance with the laws of gravity, the rider’s body will and must sit in balance without trying to do so. Much has been said and written about "how you should sit on the horse".
Perhaps you have been told to grasp the saddle or the horse firmly with your thighs or knees, to have your toes higher than your heels, to keep the heels away from the horse, to bend your back to be springy or to straighten yourself to sit firmly, etc.
Perhaps your riding instructor has made great efforts and exhausted all resources of her knowledge to impress upon you how you should sit on your horse, and yet at a trot you lose the stirrups, you lose your balance, and unless trotting very slowly, and unless your horse has an easy trot, you have to bring him to a walk to regain the stirrups.
If you are not experienced, and your horse trots roughly, you are in discomfort and in danger of losing your seat. If your horse is nervous and not well broken to the touch of the heel, the flapping of the stirrups against his flank renders him uneasy and prolongs the task of "getting your foot in the stirrup."
Checking Your Saddle
Examine your saddle; it seems nice, soft and comfortable; the stirrups as heavy as should be - even their tread covered with leather or rubber to prevent slipping from your foot; but slip they will.
Why? Look at the shape of your saddle, at the positions which the saddler has assigned for your seat, thighs, knees and feet, and see where the saddle maker has attached the bars for the stirrup leathers on the saddle tree.
Your saddle is perhaps too long and, as most English style saddles, flat; its lowest point, instead of as near as possible to the center, is back toward the end; you are almost sitting on the cantle.
In order to bring your knees to the knee puffs, which are too far front, you have to stretch your legs forward. This obliges you to carry your stirrups forward with your feet away from and in front of the place where they would hang by their own weight, and in order to keep them at your feet you have to shorten the stirrup leathers and bear heavily on the stirrups, otherwise they will slip back.
What is the result? As soon as your foot loses the stirrup it returns to the lowest position which the length of stirrup leather allows far behind your foot; then your foot, too, having lost its support, and with nothing to bear against, together with your leg, tries to slip back in order to hang as near as possible to the center of gravity; and then your legs will hang far back of the saddle knee puffs, perhaps on the bare horse almost behind the saddle skirts.
To avoid this by muscular exertion you try to force your legs up and front into a position very tiresome to maintain.
But if you have the lowest point of the saddle in its center; if you have this center as close as possible to the horse’s back by reducing the thickness of the saddle to a minimum; if you drop yourself into this lowest point of the saddle to stay there; if you drop your legs to where they will stay by their own weight instead of holding them forward and raising them by muscular exertion; if you have the stirrup leather bars attached far enough back to be in a line with that place where your feet meet the stirrups, with stirrup leathers so long as to raise your toes high enough to give you an elastic tread on the stirrup without cramping the muscles of your thighs and knees, then your body, legs, feet and stirrups will maintain their positions by their own weight according to the law of gravity; after each displacement resulting from the movement of the horse your body will fall back into the lowest part of the saddle; your thighs, knees and feet will not become tired because you are not using muscular exertion to hold them in their places.
By the law of gravity they always fall back into them. Your stirrups and feet, even if disengaged from each other, will, as it were, meet unintentionally at their places. If turning your toes slightly toward the horse the stirrup will by its own weight try to find its place and slip on your foot. The displacements from knees, feet and stirrups will be followed by their involuntary movements to fall back into the places which their weights assign to them.
Have your saddle built so that no muscular exertion will be required to keep you in its lowest (center) part; that your legs, knees, thighs, feet and stirrups retain their positions by their own weight, and you will enjoy that comfort which you can never find in a flat saddle with the lowest point back at the cantle, with the knee puffs too far front, with the saddle pad raising you several inches above the horse and with leather and straining, etc., built up high between your legs.
Have the saddle tree open longitudinally in the center from the front to the middle, allowing circulation of air between you and the horse and you will have more ease to enjoy horseback riding and less sore backs for your horses.