Does my saddle fit? Visual checks you can make
Following on from last month when I discussed how a badly fitting saddle may affect your horses behaviour, I would like to highlight some visual checks you can make. Initially your horse should be standing square on level ground.
- Length of Saddle – It is important that you saddle does not apply pressure beyond the 18th thoracic vertebrae, in practice feel for the last rib on the horses side and follow it up. Discomfort in this area may lead to behavioural issues.
- Rocking – Without girthing the saddle up does it rock forwards and backwards when you apply pressure to the pommel and cantle?
- Balance – Girth up and stand away from your horse. Look at the side view, is your saddle level? Generally the middle of the seat should be the lowest point. A saddle that tips forward or leans back will cause uneven pressure on your horses back and will throw the rider out of balnce. Do you get lower back ache when riding?
- Bridging – With the saddle girthed up and a rider on board, slide your hand under the saddle from the back of the flap. Is there contact throughout the length of the panel?
- Wither Clearance – The amount of clearance will depend on the type and style of saddle and your horses conformation but it should not bear down on the wither area at any time. To check put your finger under the pommel when riding. Feel back at least 2 inches to make sure there is no contact.
- Correct Width – It is the angle of the points of the tree that determine the width of the saddle and they should lie parallel to the wither area. With a rider in the saddle look at the front of the saddle to see if the line of the saddle looks parallel to the horse. Run your hand down between the horse and the front of the saddle, there will be pressure there due to the weight of the rider but the pressure should feel even. A saddle that is too narrow will put pressure into the musculature around the withers, a saddle that is too wide will probably sit low on the horses withers.
- Movement – Does your saddle move when you ride? Check in all gaits and get a friend to watch you. Common problems are slipping to the side, moving forwards or lifting at the back in trot.
If you have any concerns about any of the checks you have made please arrange for a saddle fitter to give you a professional opinion.
Next month I talk about girthing.