It has been said that a correctly fitting saddle is as important to an equine athlete as correctly fitting shoes are to a human athlete. In fact, proper saddle fitting is important for both horse and rider. The saddle on our horse’s back is our connection to him when we are riding. Anatomically, that region consists of the skin, with thousands of nerve endings, the epaxial muscles, the spinal vertebrae, and the junction of the ribs and vertebrae. What are the signs of poor saddle fit? If a saddle does not fit a horse properly, pain, performance issues and behavior problems can result. Signs of saddle fitting problems include, but are not limited to: obvious sores; white hairs under the saddle; swelling under the saddle; sensitivity to palpation or grooming of the saddle area; “cold backed;” resistance to work; tail swishing; not traveling straight; general bad attitude; difficulty with collection; and many other subtle performance issues. How do I know if it is a tack problem or a medical problem?
If your horse shows signs of bucking, inability to keep on a canter lead, bunny hopping at the canter, twisting over fences, or is very difficult to collect, these may be signs of mores substantial back pain with true musculoskeletal changes such as kissing spine (dorsal spinous process impingement) or vertebral osteoarthritis. Any horse exhibiting signs of back pain should have a thorough evaluation by a TEVA veterinarian including radiographs of the back to rule out orthopedic causes of back pain. In no boney changes are present, then saddle fit should be evaluated.
So how do I check saddle fit?
There are many resources available to learn about saddle fit, as well as many qualified individuals who can help you evaluate your horse for proper saddle fit. [Note from Equestrian Collections – You can check on-line for Master Saddle Fitters in your area] The magnitude of information needed to correctly fit a saddle is beyond the scope of one article, but there are some major points which all equestrians should be aware of.
Panel and Bars:
So once we get a good fit, we’re set?
What’s next in saddle fit and technology?
Registered 2011 by Equestrian Collections
Author: Sallie S. Hyman, VMD, DACVIM, CVA
Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional. In particular, all horse owners should seek advice and treatment from a licensed veterinarian, such as TEVA, for their horses' medical care.
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