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Signs Your Saddle Might Not Fit
 By Winniefield Park   •   24th Jan 2016   •   1,673 views   •   0 comments
Signs Your Saddle Might Not Fit

We hear a lot about saddle fit and having saddles adjusted so theyíre not causing any uncomfortable pressure points or rubbing. The trouble with adjusting saddles is that horsesí backs change over time and your saddle might fit perfectly at the beginning of a season but might not at the end. The reason for this is that a horseís muscles will change depending on how they are ridden. Give a horse time off, and they may lose muscle. Ride it in a way that is different to how itís normally ridden, and its muscles will change. As horses age, their backs may drop. Injuries can change muscles because a horse will carry itself differently to protect the injury. The rider too can affect how a saddle appears to fit. There are all sorts of reasons why a horseís back changes.

Itís sometimes hard to keep up with the changes and you may not even know when there is a change. There are a few ways your horse will tell you its saddle doesnít fit. It may object to being saddled. When you mount, your horse may refuse to stand still. It may become nappy, or become more forward moving than usual. Its behaviour may get worse, rather than better the longer you ride. It may buck, swish its tail, or it may spook more than usual. Lots of what we think of as bad behaviour can be how your horse is telling you that its saddle is pinching, pressing or rubbing in a way that is making it uncomfortable.

Related: Saddle Up Series - Understanding Your Horse's Back
Related: Sizing English and Western Saddles

Your horse may be perfectly behaved, and still have saddle fit problems. Some horses are more stoic than others and donít act out. But, there are still signs that there is a problem, you just have to look a bit harder. Pressing your fingertips into your horseís back can reveal sore spots. Press down into the muscles, and watch if your horse winces. Donít stab it with your fingers, as that will make anyone cranky and react. But feel down into the muscles and you may find some areas are more sensitive than others. This tells you where the saddle is pinching.

Of course saddle sores or galls are a clear indication that thereís a problem with saddle fit, but itís surprising how many people donít pay attention. Dry spots on an otherwise wet back can indicate areas where the saddle is pressing and not allowing the sweat glands to work properly. White patches of white hairs can mean thereís been pressure that has damaged hair follicles in one area for a long time. Long term pressure can even cause muscle damage which may appear is a hardened or sunken area.

Sometimes you donít even need to look at your horse to see where the problem might be. Take a look at the underside of your saddle pad. A lot is revealed by the dirt and sweat marks. You might see dry spots within dirty areas, or areas that are extra dirty because the saddle is pinching in that area. Youíll might see bridging, like on the picture here, where thereís obvious dirt at the front and back, but little in the middle. All of these indications mean itís time to call your saddle fitter to have your saddle adjusted, or it may even be time for a different saddle.

Those of us with English saddles can have them reflocked. Western saddles can be shimmed. If your horse seems to be change quickly, sometimes that only answer it to try to shim any saddle until youíve built your horseís muscle to the point where itís worth reflocking. Saddle fit can also be affected by the skill of the rider, the horseís weight fluctuations and many other factors. It can be a fine balance, and I really wonder if itís possible to have a saddle that is 100% perfect for any horse. But, big problems can be corrected, and for minor changes, there are lots of different pads and methods to help you find a happy medium thatís good for you and your horse.
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