A poorly fitting saddle can cause your horse discomfort, and if left unchecked, it can even damage your horse’s back. Saddle fit is a tricky skill to learn, but these are 6 easily identifiable signs that your horse’s saddle doesn’t fit.
1. Discomfort During Saddling
If your horse gets antsy and upset while he’s being saddled, it might not be a training issue. Your horse’s behavior might be indicating that his saddle is uncomfortable. Before you discipline your horse for arching his back, pawing, or trying to bite during the saddling process, take a few minutes to examine the fit of the saddle. If your horse’s back is sore or he has ulcers, this could also explain his discomfort.
2. Back Sensitivity
Before you tack up, take a minute to firmly run your hand down your horse’s back. Start just behind his shoulder and run your hand right along the area where the saddle sits, continuing towards your horse’s hind end. Watch carefully to see if your horse reacts to the pressure – if he does, his back may be sore, and his saddle may be the cause.
3. Bucking Under Saddle
Bucking can be a training issue, but it can also be your horse’s way of telling you that he is in pain during the ride. A saddle which fits incorrectly may put pressure in spots on your horse’s back, causing discomfort.
4. Sucking Back Under Saddle
If your horse is reluctant to move out under saddle, or if he never really strides freely ahead, your saddle may be the issue. A poorly fitting saddle can cause pain and discomfort, and many horses will be reluctant to move forward if they cannot fully use their backs and their bodies.
5. Excess Movement in the Saddle
With your saddle in place and the girth tightened, lunge your horse for a few minutes. As your horse trots and canters, watch for excess movement in the saddle. Whether the saddle shifts from side-to-side or the back of it moves up and down, any significant movement in the saddle may indicate that the saddle does not fit your horse properly.
6. White Hairs In the Saddle Area
In extreme cases, a saddle may damage your horse’s back. Generally this takes time, and a saddle which truly pinches your horse’s back. If your horse is a darker color, like a bay or a black, this damage may cause while hairs to grow in areas where the saddle pinches. If you notice this, then enlist the help of a saddle fitter immediately.
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