Does your horse’s saddle fit?
- As horse owners and lovers, we need to pay attention to the subtle clues that our horses give us in regards to how they are feeling. And while my horse is king at unlocking paddock gates, he has yet to master email to send me a note that his saddle hurts.
A Master Saddle Fitter will examine your horse and his saddle.
- We must remember that horses, like humans, are not symmetrical by any stretch, and therefore a perfectly symmetrical saddle will likely not work. The other thing to keep in mind is that a Certified Master Saddle Fitter in your area can help you and your horse. If you even remotely suspect that your horse is uncomfortable in his tack, contact a Master Saddle Fitter for help.
Signs your horse’s saddle doesn’t fit
- Well, there are lots of signs to watch out for, under saddle and in the grooming cross ties.
- Snarky attitude, often with bucks
- Hollow backed
- Resistant to move
- Unable to relax
- Inability to straighten
In the grooming cross ties, before and after exercise:
- Dislike of brushing and touching in the saddle area, and often beyond
- He will react when you palpate his back along the spine. Flinching is a common response.
- White hairs appearing, even without a sore
- Knots and tension in the muscles
- Uneven dry spots and sweat spots on the saddle pad
You can also do a talc test – and that starts by sprinkling the saddle area on your horse with talcum powder.
- If your horse is spooky or unsure, please have a friend help you and go very slowly, with lots of praise. *Very* carefully, and with a friend’s help, lay your horse’s saddle on his back without a pad after you have covered him in baby powder. Don’t slide it around, and remove it straight up.
- When you flip it over, you can see the talc on the bottom side of the saddle showing you where it contacts your horse. This will tell you about the symmetry, but not really about the pressure. It’s a place for you and your Master Saddle Fitter to start.
Make sure the withers are clear of your horse’s saddle.
- The center of your saddle (where you sit), should be parallel to the ground and the billets should be perpendicular to the ground. The gullet should be free and clear from front to back, and this includes when your horse is engaged and his back is lifted.
- If the gullet is sorta clear when your horse is in the cross ties, chances are when he tries to lift his back, he will bonk the gullet with his spine. His shoulders need to also be clear of the saddle. For tips on how to position the saddle pads, this article can help.
If you suspect that your saddle is ill-fitting, please do not “pad it up”. Often, this is the equivalent of putting on more socks for shoes that are too small. And then running a 5K.
- For more information about the need to possibly re-flock your horse’s saddle, this article can help.
- If you don’t have a Master Saddle Fitter in your area, ask your local tack shop or contact the manufacturer of your saddle. Most sales representatives are trained to fit saddles and should be able to help you!