How Saddles Fit
It can be challenging to determine what type of saddle for a Missouri Fox Trotter will best suit its unique gaits. It is important to understand the basics of saddle fitting before going shopping.
The basic saddle is constructed using a specially sized tree to provide the base structure of the saddle. Traditional trees tend to be constructed of relatively rigid materials, such as fiberglass, wood, rawhide, and even steel. The two most common sizes are semi-quarter horse bars and full quarter horse bars. Essentially, these fit medium-to-wide backed horses with normal or slightly low withers.
When a saddle is placed on a horse's back, the saddle should fit fairly snugly; the middle of the saddle, the gullet, should be consistently elevated over the horse's spine to avoid constricting movement.
The standard horse saddle is built to fit traditional non-gaited horse breeds such as the American Quarter Horse. This can create a problem for the owners of gaited horses. Gaited horses typically have higher withers than non-gaited breeds and need less restrictive saddles in order to maximize their additional gaits. It is a common sign of an ill-fitting saddle when a gaited horse balks when asked to go into gait, but will gait when not under saddle. A poorly fitting or constricting saddle can make a horse unwilling to work and even cause long lasting physical problems if used for a long period of time.
Relatively rare gaited-breeds, like the Missouri Fox Trotter, are less of a concern to large saddle manufacturers because the segment of the market is small in comparison to the segment for traditional horse saddles. This can make it a challenge to find a saddle that properly fits a Missouri Fox Trotter. The best type of saddle to use with a Missouri Fox Trotter is going to be a saddle that is specifically designed to accommodate the Fox Trotter's unique conformation and gait. Many of these saddles feature flexible trees, specially designed gaited horse trees, or even some treeless options.
Finding the Perfect Saddle for a Missouri Fox Trotter
In order to find what type of saddle for a Missouri Fox Trotter will work best, the discerning saddle buyer needs to look for certain qualities in each potential saddle. First of all, the saddle/tree needs to be designed to specifically fit a gaited horse. There are several manufacturers and specialty stores that specialize in producing and selling saddles for gaited horses and Missouri Fox Trotters, in particular. There are a number of retailers and individual custom saddle makers who may be able to create or locate a saddle that will properly fit a Missouri Fox Trotter.
The second attribute to look for in a saddle is quality. A poorly made or low quality saddle is almost always going to be uncomfortable, regardless of the tree size. Make sure the saddle is made of high quality leather, has sturdy stitching, and appears to be well constructed as a whole.
The third quality is the saddle needs to fit the specific horse and rider well. Even the best made saddle won't be comfortable if it is not a good fit for the horse or rider using it. Saddle buyers should try out several different saddles to make sure the saddle they buy for their Missouri Fox Trotter is a good fit. Horses are like people in that no two have the exact same body shape.
The ideal saddle will be well-made with high quality leather, fit the horse's shoulders and back without restricting its movement and allow the rider to sit comfortably and maintain balance with minimal effort. The perfect saddle for a Missouri Fox Trotter may take longer to find, but it will be worth it in the long term. High quality saddles can be expected to last a lifetime.