Saddle Fit

This page is here to provide information about what saddles TWS sells, and why it doesn’t sell certain makes; what an incorrectly fitting saddle can and will do to your horse; it is also here to help you, the owner, identify whether their saddle may or may not fit. Please take the time to read this page – for your horse.

The initial signs of poor saddle fit or pain can be exhibited in various behaviours when catching, tacking up and riding. Horses only have behaviour to communicate with, nothing else. If your horse once walked to you and now walks away, if the horses expression changes for the worse when you approach with the tack, if the horse tries to bite or kick when putting his saddle on or when doing the cinch/girth up, if your horse bucks, rears, becomes very nappy, feels stiff, or offers any other negative behaviour – all this often indicates pain, and should be the first thing to rule out. Therefore, the first port of call should be to get the back checked by a professional and get the saddle fit assessed by a saddle fitter. It is important to rule out pain before any form of remedial training takes place.

If you are finding that you are needing ‘gadgets’, i.e. martingales, flash nose bands, and anything that helps tie the head down, this is also an indicator of back pain as horses when feeling back pain will raise the head and have an upwards banana shape. A horse which has had back pain for a while will often have a hollow on the top of the neck and may also have a hollow triangle on the side of the neck due to having to use incorrect muscles to carry itself.

Muscle wastage

Muscle wastage

This is a photo of a horse with muscle wastage. If this picture looks familiar, take heart that this can be remedied with the help of a good physiotherapist or other back specialist, a well fitting saddle – and time. Some horses have acute muscle wastage and pain. Ideally it would be better not to fit a saddle to the horse when I am first called but work on a program of physiotherapy, groundwork, and a break from being ridden. This would allow the horse time to recover physically and for the muscles to start building again in atrophied areas. Many owners do not want to (or cannot) take time off from ridden work. Therefore, we either look at fitting a well-padded treeless saddle or we fit a treed saddle a little wider than necessary and use the correct padding to take up the space. This allows the muscles the space to regenerate as they are not ‘held’ in shape by a tree. It is a good idea to also work with a professional to eliminate scar tissue and build muscle in atrophied areas.

How to check your saddle fit

Below is a list of points to look for to assess your saddle fit. It is not a definitive list and it will not replace having your saddle checked professionally but will hopefully give you some indicators. The other option is to hire or buy a saddle pressure testing pad this will illuminate whether there is uneven pressure, and where it is, and so is also a good option.

Signs of poor saddle fit

Of course these symptoms can also be caused by many other issues, including mouth problems, training issues, unsympathetic riding, etc. Also, it is vital to take the training and conditioning of your horses’ back slowly. If your horse is not used to being ridden – please build him/her up from the ground well first, and then take it very slowly once on board. Here is an excellent article about what age to start horses. It is written by Dr Deb Bennett at www.equinestudies.org Another very important part of training horses is correcting crookedness. I have done a brilliant online course, that will support you whether you ride English or western. The course is run by Marijke de Jong. There is also an excellent online western training course, called WRDP here.

I recommend a lesson on an Equisimulator. It costs approximately £25 for 30 minutes and it makes a huge difference to the way you ride. The closest Equisimulator to Ringwood is at Fir Tree Farm Equestrian Centre in Ogdens, Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Tel: 01425-654744. There are various Equisimulators located all over the country. Contact Heather Moffett for further information at www.enlightenedequitation.com.