Last Updated on March 31, 2022 by Allison Price
1. Horse Behavior
There are several visual and behavioral indicators that can help you determine if your horse is in need of a better fitting saddle.
Do any of these sound familiar? :
- You move away when you approach with a saddle
- Tries to bite you when you are saddling. Or bites the saddle.
- Place your ears against the skull
- Mounting won’t stop!
- Swishes the tail, particularly in gait transitions or lead changes
- Is it more common to lose ‘forward’, stumbles and trips?
- Enjoy your ride and then let them know that you are still there.
- The worse your behavior will get the longer you ride.
- Under saddle, you never seem to be able to relax
- During transitions, bucks, or rushes, nod your head.
2. Appearance of the Saddle
Your saddle should be placed on the horse. Link: Try it first without a pad or cinch, then again with everything tacked up. These considerations will help you to observe each situation.
- Are your saddles low enough in front to touch the miter?
- Are the shoulders hugged too much?
- Or not, there should be room between the shoulders and the front. Place your hand on your horse’s shoulder and press against the pad. Do you feel any tight pressure? This should be determined once the saddle has been tacked with the appropriate shim, girthed and pad.
- Look unbalanced? Do you feel unbalanced? This should be done after the saddle has been tacked with pad and appropriate shhim.
- Is it too downhill in front? Too flat? Too steep? If the saddle is tipping in front, it could indicate that it is too large in the gullet. A tapered foam shim may be able to help. A saddle that is too high in the saddle’s gullet could indicate it is too small. This could pinch the shoulders of horses who try to move the saddle and add pressure at the back. If the saddle is too flat (where the lowest point of the seat is not dead center), it could put too much pressure on your forehand. It will also make it difficult to reach your balance point at the back edge. The saddle should have the lowest point behind the middle so that you can curl your pubic bone forward and sit on the back of your seat bones.
- Can you feel any tight spots or large gaps if you place your hand underneath the saddle/pad (the bar area at the tree). Tight spots can only be made worse by not allowing your horse’s back room to expand and lift when being ridden.
- Is your pad too bulky under your saddle or creating tightness? O – Do not rely on fitting a saddle onto a naked horse to test these things. The pad & Shim (The “Interface”) between your saddle and the horse’s body, and the cinch can make a big difference.
If your saddle is too tight around the shoulders, you might consider shimming. The best choice is a tapered foam one. You can manipulate the area under the saddle in many ways. You can adjust the balance of the saddle, lift the shoulders and make contact until training allows for reconditioning or helping horses with conformation problems. Watch our short video to learn more about simple-method shimming. Click to see our exclusive range of ‘tapered foam pads’ and shims.
3. Sweat Marks
People have used sweat marks for years to help them get saddle-fit. Some things can be revealed by sweat marks, but not all. As long as the horse has not sweated significantly, sweat patterns can be affected by many things. However, generally speaking, :
- Your saddle may not contact the center if it is dry in the middle but wet in the front or back. Your saddle may be “bridging” by creating pressure points. Bridging is a good thing. It allows your horse to lift back in motion and makes your saddle more comfortable.
- If you notice sweat marks in your rear, it could be a sign that your saddle is under pressure. Check your seat size and balance – where is your saddle most laden with weight?
- If you notice sweat marks on your saddle, it could be a sign that the saddle is too narrow at the shoulder or needs to be corrected. This article will explain how important saddle position is.
- However, sweat marks should be uniform. This can be affected depending on the intensity and length of your ride. Horses tend to sweat in different areas.
- Dry spots/Sweat marks can deceive as too much pressure can also lead to dry patches. Excessive pressure can stop sweat glands working. You need to have air in order to create sweat.
4. Temporary swelling
Your horse can become swollen if there is too much pressure on his back. As part of your grooming routine, pay attention to your horse before and during each ride. You can help your horse by finding any indents, lumps or soreness on their bodies.
5. White hair/Visual indents
Too much pressure in one spot can cause white hairs. Blood flow is impeded by excessive pressure. This causes white hair by damaging the sweat glands. This can cause permanent damage, so pay close attention to roaning or white flecks. While roaning in larger areas may be temporary and not permanent, it could indicate that there is friction between rider and saddle. However, the same thing could happen over time with concentrated areas.
6. Muscle Atrophy
You might notice that some muscles are weaker than others (hypertrophied), which could indicate that they are not using their bodies correctly. Your saddle may also be a factor. Horses’ bodies are also affected by their riders. Unnatural movements can alter the horse’s conformation. This can lead to a horse’s performance and longevity as a rider. To learn more about riding responsibility and how to improve your horse’s performance, you might want to read Saddle Fit & Performance.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!