• The Importance of a Correctly Fitted Saddle

    Horses are generally very tolerant animals, they will often put up with an awful lot of pain or discomfort before actually ‘complaining’. Horses cannot speak, so when they do ‘complain’ they only have one way to tell us, by exhibiting various unwanted or ‘bad’ behaviours, often classed as just that, bad behaviour. This can manifest as bucking, rearing, napping, refusing to go forwards or even just ‘laziness’ and lack of interest. Often, people just put this down to ‘naughtiness’ and whilst some horses may be ‘naughty’ (usually due to past bad experiences), more often than not, bad behaviour is due to pain or discomfort and one of the major causes of pain and discomfort in horses is due to an ill-fitting saddle.

    The pain from an ill-fitting saddle is not always confined to the saddle area either. The logissimus dorsi muscle, which is the muscle the saddle sits on, runs from the poll to the rump and pain anywhere in this muscle can be referred to another part of it. This means that a poorly fitting saddle can affect flexion at the poll as well as preventing the horse from working underneath behind. The saddle can also affect the muscles in the shoulder, meaning your horse may have a restricted stride, as well as exhibit a number of unwanted behaviours. If the pressure from a saddle is prolonged, this can eventually lead to nerve damage which is irreparable.

    Some may wonder why the horse may suddenly start misbehaving after previously going absolutely fine in a saddle, but this can be due to several reasons. Possibly the horse has previously just been ‘putting up with’ the pain, but has got to a point where it can’t bear it any more and just needs to ‘shout’ about it. Secondly, due to change of shape of the horse (from possible weight gain/loss or differing workloads etc) the saddle may not fit anymore (it is very rare for one saddle to fit throughout the lifetime a horse). Or, the saddle itself may have undergone changes. Over time flock can get compressed or moved about, and trees can warp and break. This happens more often in cheaper quality saddles, but can also depend on the general care of the saddle by the user!

    It is recommended that you get your saddle checked at least every six months. A reputable equine sports massage therapist will check your saddle (and other tack) as part of their visit. We can treat problems created by poorly fitting saddle but they will return unless the rot cause is dealt with, i.e. the poorly fitted saddle is replaced/reflocked.

    Another overlooked saddle issue, is that it must also fit the rider. A saddle that doesn’t fit the rider as well as the horse will also cause problems as the rider will be unable to sit in the correct position and this will cause pressure points.. Again, your ESMT can check this too.

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