No matter what discipline you ride, it’s important that your saddle fits your horse properly. A poorly fitting saddle can cause pain, even leading to behavioral issues when you’re riding your equine friend. Here are six signs to watch for which could indicate that your saddle doesn’t fit your horse.
1. Pressure On Your Horse’s Withers
Your saddle should never sit so low that it puts pressure on your horse’s withers, but a poorly fitting saddle – one that is too wide – will sit down almost on top of their withers. Wither pressure is uncomfortable for your equine friend, and if you repeatedly ride in a saddle with this particular poor fit, you can cause permanent nerve damage to their withers.
2. Sore Back
A saddle which fits poorly will usually make your horse develop a sore back. Run your hand firmly down your horse’s back, just beneath and on either side of his spine. Watch for signs that your horse is uncomfortable, such as him flinching or dipping his back to avoid the pressure.
3. Unevenness From Front to Back
A well-fitting saddle should sit evenly on the animal's back. The front should be at the same level as the back of the saddle. With the saddle on your horse’s back, look at it directly from the side. If the saddle seems higher in the front or in the back, it probably doesn’t fit them well.
4. Extra Movement
A saddle which fits your equine friend poorly will often move around more than a well-fitting saddle would. To test this, put your horse on the lunge line with his saddle on and the girth tightened as normal. Lunge them at the trot and canter and watch the saddle. A well-fitting saddle will move with your horse’s back, almost as if it were a part of your horse. A poorly fitting saddle will jostle about a bit. It may move from side to side, but more often you will see the back of the saddle lift up and then return down to the horse’s back.
5. Uneven Sweat Marks
The sweat marks left on your horse’s back after a ride can help to indicate if a saddle is a poor fit. Remove your saddle pad and look at the sweat marks. They should be even beneath the entire area where the saddle sits against your horse. If there are areas where there is no sweat, this can indicate that the saddle is putting excess pressure on them in these areas.
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6. Poor Horse Behavior
Many horses will let you know if a poorly fitting saddle is causing them pain. If your equine friend exhibits unusual behavioral issues under saddle, have a saddle fitter out to see if the saddle might be causing discomfort.