It can be hard to know if your saddle has been fitted well – your horse can’t tell you when something’s wrong, so you have to keep an eye out for some key indicators.
One way to do this is to look at the sweat and dirt marks left on your horse’s saddle pad.
By looking at these signs, you can get a sense of your saddle’s fit and what needs to be adjusted.


Bridging occurs when the saddle isn’t making any contact with the horse.


The two key concepts.

These are the most valuable things to remember when looking at sweat patterns:

  1. Sweat and dirt marks should be symmetrical.

Symmetry means that the saddle is sitting evenly on your horse. Sometimes non-symmetrical marks don’t indicate a bad fit and sometimes a problematic fit can still result in symmetry.
But as a general rule of thumb, this is a great one to go by.

  1. The centre line of you saddle pad (the gullet) should be dry.

Under no circumstances do you want the saddle to be rubbing or touching the spine of your horse.

How to interpret sweat and dirt patches.

Larger amounts of dirt and more darkness generally suggest that more rubbing is occurring in this area.
Ideally, rubbing is minimal and is spread out evenly.
Sweat Patches-01
Dirt at the front of the saddle pad means that the saddle is too wide and is being pushed forward.
Sweat Patches-02
Dirt at the back of the saddle pad could mean that the saddle is the wrong shape, or that the rider is sitting too far back in the saddle.
Sweat Patches-03
Diagonal dark patches indicate the points at which the saddle is swinging and rubbing. Diagonal points usually mean that the saddle will need to be custom adjusted to your horse.

Sweat Patches-04
Heaving rubbing on one side means the saddle is leaning to the opposite. In the diagram above, the saddle is leaning to the right.
This can also be caused by the way the horse is ridden, or the length of your stirrups.

Sweat and dirt patches are a rough guide. The most important step to getting a comfortable saddle fit is being attentive to your horse; their mood, their sensitivity and any tension in their muscles. Contact a saddle fitter if you suspect you aren’t able to get your saddle to fit nicely.

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