The Italian-made Fitform saddle is rather reminiscent of a pony pad. It is manufactured from a choice of nubuck leather or Cordura, with a pure wool lining, and a thin layer of foam sandwiched between. It has long dressage-style girth straps and two beech-wood blocks zipped into pouches to form the pommel and cantle.
The featherweight Fitform has no knee rolls, thigh blocks or other “security devices” and it is totally flexible – the pommel can touch the cantle – because it has no tree.
Being treeless, Fitform has no stirrup bars – the leathers being threaded through D-rings instead. The disadvantage of this, should the rider fall off with a foot wedged in the stirrup, is that the leather will not free itself, with dangerous consequences. Endurance-type caged stirrups, Peacock irons or other safety stirrups are therefore essential.
It is recommended that a “humane” girth (which shares the load across both buckles) be used to maximise the benefits of the Fitform’s Y-shaped girthing system.
“The first time I sat on this saddle, I felt as though the horse’s neck was rising up in front of me – and that my knees were flapping about in the breeze. As we moved off, I could actually feel my horse’s back moving under my bottom. It was exactly like riding bareback!
In the owner’s guide which comes with each Fitform, new purchasers are advised to “go with the flow” on their first few rides. And almost immediately, even on a sharp, spooky horse, I felt totally secure – once I relaxed.
You simply cannot avoid “going with” the horse, and as it begins to bed in, the sensation of closeness becomes even moreapparent. As for those knees, once the stirrups are adjusted to a comfortable length, they rest against the saddle as they should.
I have ridden on the Fitform saddle for more than two months now, using it on several different horses from a 16hh Anglo Arab to a Haflinger pony. There have been no rubs, sore backs or girth galls and, when the saddle is removed, it is satisfying to see the broad mark left by its large weight-bearing surface.
The Fitform must be placed a little further back than many conventional saddles, with the pommel swell just behind the rear edge of the shoulder blade. This allows and encourages increased freedom of movement as a horse becomes accustomed to its lack of restriction.
And I can vouch for it being comfortable. Even after four hours on my Fitform, there have been no back-aches or embarrassing sore places.
The Fitform?s life expectancy is not known, but it has been used for three years by a top Italian endurance team.
The Fitform is available in brown or black and with a 16″ or 18″ seat. Front arches come in medium or wide fittings. It is priced at £550 (plus £20 carriage). The cost includes a seamless cotton numnah and thin back pad.
For details, Contact the UK agents at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01623 551841 / Barbara Eden (tel: 01623 554527).