The saddle & the effect on the horse

I recently attended a saddle fitting course by The Society of Master Saddlers.The course centred around tree & saddle design relevant to conformation differences & practical fitting of GP & dressage saddles.

Well… it really is a mine field of knowledge that even the master saddle fitters admitted they were still learning with new research all the time.

The most significant points of the day were that the gullet has to fit to allow enough room for the withers (i.e- daylight when looking from the horses head). There are no two ways about it, a pad will not improve the long term fit of the saddle if this is the case. The saddle has to fit closely, but the tree shouldn’t dig in behind the shoulder blade at the point. The saddle should sit on the rib cage closely without gapping along the back. Lastly the girth should be attached to the saddle so it is consistent with the individual horse’s girth groove.

If the saddle is not a close fit, it will not be stable especially if you add a pad. This will imbalance the rider & horse. At best the horse will have restricted movement & compensatory movements. At worst they will have soreness and behavioural problems.

I commonly see soreness either side of the withers, girth & along the horse’s back muscles where the back of the saddle ends. Horses change shape regularly including throughout work. So the best thing to do is have a qualified master saddler/ saddle fitter to assess your saddle, regularly check the saddle yourself & keep you and your horse checked by a chartered physiotherapist.

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