Does My Saddle Fit?

In this new series Mike Davies of Pony, Cob and Horse Saddles Ltd looks at some of the issues associated with changing seasons and saddle fit.

Does my Saddle Fit?

As the new season approaches we need to plan ahead to give ourselves the best chance of success but one area that can easily be overlooked is the fit of the saddle. We cannot expect our beloved steed to perform to the best of his ability when his saddle is uncomfortable and restricting his movement to say nothing of rocking, rolling slipping, rubbing, tipping backwards, tipping forwards etc. etc.

The saddle is the interface between horse and rider and its purpose is quite simple, to sit the rider securely and in balance on the horse’s back. If the balance of the saddle is correct, the rider’s weight will be evenly distributed throughout the bearing panels of the saddle which come into direct contact with the horse’s back therefore avoiding any pressure points. Most horse owners are surprised to hear that we should not be applying more than 1.5 pounds per square inch anywhere on the horse’s back and if we just consider the weight of the average rider and the number of square inches in the contact area of the saddle panels, well it is quite a challenge!

It is not my intention to teach saddle fitting here, but by being aware of some of the key indicators that may point to a saddle problem, hopefully owners can get a suitably experienced saddle fitter out for a professional opinion before a small problem becomes a big one. It is also worth remembering that at this time of year many horses have dropped weight which will affect the way their saddle fits.

What is my horse telling me?

Is he telling you something in his behaviour? You know your horse, does his response to being ridden match the person you know on the ground or in his stable. Is your horse exhibiting any of these behaviours?

  • Grumpy reaction when being tacked up?
  • Ears back at sight of saddle?
  • Moving away from you and the saddle?
  • Unhappy having his girth tightened?
  • Moving away when being mounted?
  • Reluctance to go forwards?
  • Reluctance to working on a contact?
  • Bucking?
  • Reluctance to bend, usually on one side?
  • Picking up wrong canter lead?

Of course many horses do not exhibit any of the above behaviours despite having an uncomfortable saddle. Unfortunately these are often the ones who end up with a really sore back because they stoically soldier until things get to breaking point.

So if in doubt please speak to your saddle fitter and arrange to get your saddle checked as soon as possible.

Next month I talk about some of the visual checks you can make

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