First things first; this is part of a new series of posts so, if you've not already seen these do hop over to my video where I introduce this topic, and link it to a recent blog post,.  Once you've done that, read on!

As I mention in the video the first thing to do is to decide on your personal criteria as not all the fitters are the same – what is important to you?  Not to your mates on the yard, not to your other half, or your trainer, but to you.

Let's look at a couple of examples.

For instance, if it's a high priority to be able to get visits at short notice, or your budget is very low, then it's likely that someone fairly local to you would be ideal, and so you can look in tack shops locally, ask your horsey friends, use local Facebook or even Horse and Hound Online regional boards, and read local publications for print adverts.

If you have a particularly tricky situation – perhaps the rider is really struggling with pain, or with old injuries, or you have a sensitive horse that's been in rehab for an injury.  If you have a similar scenario then it may be you need to search more widely and find someone who can travel to you, check which areas they cover, don't just ask where they're based!

If you have no transport then the fitter being able to come to you will be a priority, though, being honest, we do need certain facilities to give of our best, and often we're at our best when fitting several people at a clinic, perhaps indoors (no weather related cancellations!).

Searching on Google or another search engine (Duck Duck Go is a good one for avoiding Google's slant on things) will also require you to work out what's important, and use that information in your search terms.  I'm frequently found by people searching for "cob saddles" for instance.

If you use social media then it's always a good idea to utilise it in your search, and I know many of you probably already do.  What should you ask?  If all you ask for is the name of a recommended fitter then all you will get is a list of names.  You'll have no idea why this fitter is good, what the person recommending them got from them, and whether they might suit you and your needs.

If asking online then say a little about your particular challenges, and definitely mention if it's for a saddle check or a new saddle.  Ask them to comment on why they found the fitter really good, so you can start to get a feel for each fitter.  And don't rely on these "live" posts – there will be many very happy, or very disgruntled, customers who don't see the post.  Use the search function in groups on Facebook, on HHO, and read the stories and experiences.

You'll find reviews on Facebook pages and Google and could also consider getting a feel from the (obviously wholly positive so a biased sample!) testimonials on fitters' own websites.  It's certainly a good idea to check out the fitter's social media presence, their page on FB etc, and to look at their website.  Many of us spend time and money developing these, so use them, they'll often have full contact details, price lists, explanations of services, areas covered etc.  Please DO try not to approach any professional with a question that could have been easily answered with a quick Google or a look at their site or page!

The more publicly available information a fitter provides the more you can work through all your criteria, tick or cross the boxes.  They might even have detailed information on HOW they work, how they're unique or at least different to "most" or any other saddle fitters.  I personally believe it's important to have public prices lists and to be upfront with what I believe in and do, so all of that is on my site, and as much as possible is on my FB page.

The last thing, that you might have less control over, is to meet the fitter first.

If a fitter is coming to you yard, ask them if they can spare 10 minutes to chat, or if you can quietly observe the fitting, bearing in mind that the customer is paying for the fitter's time, not you!  You may also find some fitters have trade stands.  In my experience these tend to be the specialist fitters but it's worth a look at big shows, equine or county type shows, and see which brands, which fitters, will be there.  Often a big brand's stand will be manned by the fitters – you could even contact the company or the fitter to see which days they're on the stand so you can meet them.

I will be covering some more specifics that you may want to consider, what questions you should be trying to answer when researching or chatting to fitters, an overview of how the industry works and more, but I hope that gives those of you looking right now some important things to consider before you leap into the unknown. 

Part 3 soon to come, looking at saddle fit qualifications, and how they may, or may not, feature in your decision making process.

Choosing a Saddle Fitter - Part 3
Where do I start when choosing a saddle fitter to ...

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