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Saddle fit and placement

saddle fit caricature funny
Saddle fit is the most common reason for pain in a horse.
Being a CESMT since 1999, I have found this to be the #1 reason for horses to be sore.
It creates alot of imbalance in the rider, causing them to blame the horse for their ‘attitude’.
Once my students or I am called to evaluate the horse, there is always significant pain involved, and that is why Equine Massage is necessary-the spasms and knots that have been created by this has gone on for so long, that now it need to be worked out. 
Only changing the saddle, many times does not help because the pain will stay there-the horse remaining sore and still having an ‘attitude problem’. 
If you are interested in learning how to become a CESMT, please go to my Amassage Page for the details of what you will learn!

    – Lays his ears back or bites at your saddle
– Is ‘girthy’ or walks off when you try to girth up or mount

*A girthy horse could also be caused by an ulcer.
    – Bucks or runs away for no reason
    – Tries to hurry downhill
    – Doesn’t want to move, is heavy on the forehand, or stumbles during rides
    – Travels hollow-backed, can’t slow down or relax under saddle
-Cannot bend under saddle
    – Behavior worsens the longer you ride
    – Has white spots on his back under the saddle
-Uneven wet spots after riding
    – Reacts negatively to palpation of his back

Improper Placement of  Saddle-symptoms for Riders
  • Trouble balancing
  • Trouble posting
  • Bouncing on the horses back
  • Chair seat
Symptoms for Horses
  • Sore withers
  • Girth sore
  • Sore middle back (thoracic)
  • White spots
  • Being ‘On the Forehand’
  • Head Tossing
  • Refusal to go forward
Placement of Girth
The girth should go about 1 hands with from the back of the elbow-not up against the elbow. If you put your hand directly behind the elbow on the pec muscle, you can feel the muscle-run your hand back 4-5 in and you will feel a flat spot that is your horses ‘natural girth area’.

SADDLING by Dr. Nicholson

Cinchinessis a problem associated with the PLACEMENT and ADJUSTMENT of the girth. If the girth is too far forward, it restricts the function of the caudal deep pectoral muscle in bearing the weight of the forehand, especially during lateral work when the rib cage both bends along its length and rolls between the shoulder blades. Horses are very sensitive in this area. It should be kept clean and inspected for scratches or irritated skin before and after each ride.A saddle set too far forward will interfere with the shoulder blades, shortening the steps of the forelegs and even injuring the latissimus dorsi muscles, which have major roles in pulling the horse forward when a fore leg is grounded. A saddle set too far back will irritate the loin and place the rider’s weight behind the most stable arch of the ribs.
Click on the image to view at full size.

Some Suggestions For Harmony With Saddle and Girth
Please avoid using a device that winches the girth tight. If a horse swells up when girthed, you have a behavioral problem which can be addressed by careful, consistent retraining and moderate desensitization. Someone, at some time or other was rough in the saddling process and the horse learned to get some relief from the pressure of the girth by swelling during girthing and deflating when ridden. Kicking a cranky horse in the belly risks injuring him, and you may be attacked by a truly angry animal. Roughness just makes the problem worse. If there is an injury to begin with, then it is only made worse by rough handling. Use caution when desensitizing a cinchy horse, because many horses will bite during this time.
Lateral motion of vertebrae (bend) is only one movement the units of the back can make. The spine can extend/hollow (extend/flex) or perform an axial rotation. These spinal motions occur in patterns unique to each gait.An incorrectly placed or fitted saddle is the equivalent of putting a painful splint on a horse’s back, effectively preventing essential, normal motion!Any “demonstration” of lack of bend in a mounted horse ridden with a tree saddle is not taking into account VARIABLES resulting from actions of a rider or the inhibiting effect of an incorrectly adjusted tree of a saddle. Such observations are necessarily indirect, but can be valuable in that a lack of observable bending should lead to investigation of why this normal activity of a horse’s spine is absent for a particular rider/saddle combination. The saddle in the image above (brown area) is placed so that it does not interfere with the shoulder blade. However, it could be improperly fitted or stuffed so that it does not permit the horse to bend or lift at each vertebra.

Western Saddle Fit and Placement

I was asked about Western Saddle Fit, and I found a great site with some great pictures for you! And of course, the same basics apply-too far forward/back will put you out of balance, and cause pain for the horse, with pressure points from the saddle. If you feel that your horse has these problems, contact a CERTIFIED Saddle Fitter, one that has been thru a Certification Course from a Master Fitter.

Just click on the images to make them bigger and readable.

saddle fit western correct

saddle fit western forward

saddle fit western back


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