Assymetry of the horse is one of the most common problems I encounter when fitting saddles, but what do we mean when we talk about assymetry? In simple terms it means the left side of the horse is not a mirror image of the right side of the horse. Of course in real terms, no horse is ever symetrical but the degree of assymetry, and whether it causes saddle problems, varies from one horse to another.
In the same way most people are right handed, most horses are left handed. The effect of this is that a left sided horse has more muscle development and a bigger shoulder on its left side than its right side. Think about riding your horse, a left sided horse will work better on its left rein and tend to be more stiff on its right. Its will probably feel more “up” in its left canter. You may have a right sided horse as I do, in which case the reverse will be true.
How does this affect saddle fit? Well a left sided horse will have less muscle tone on its right side and consequently the degree to which the panel of the saddle is supported is less than the corresponding area on the left side. Sometimes this issue is visible on a horse standing square but sometimes it is only really an problem when the horse is in movement. The net effect is that the saddle will slip to the right. The other factor that comes into play of course is assymetry of the rider!! Most people are right handed which often causes them to sit to the right which can exacerbate the problem.
A good saddle fitter will have several ways of rectifying these problems but it is important to also say that a poorly fitting saddle will usually move and the direction of movement will normally be a reflection of the horses conformation. For instance if your saddle is built on a saddle tree which does not suit your horse, the saddle will move and if your horse is asymetrical in the way we have discussed then the saddle will slip to the side. It is common for the front of the saddle to stay in the middle and the slippage to be just at the back of the saddle causing the saddle to twist. Very often a correctly fitted saddle built on a saddle tree which suits your horse will be the answer.
Next month I am going to talk about common saddle problems with small ponies.