Are you wondering if your saddle fits your horse? Do you find that it keeps shifting when you ride? Do you have to use a breastplate to keep it in place? Does your horse raise his head when you go around a corner or make a turn? Here’s a quick tip to find out if you have a serious problem with your saddle.
Saddle fitting is an emotional and complicated issue. While my primary function is to teach you how to ride, sometimes the saddle problem is so obvious I have to address it first. Your saddle is an integral part of the equation or horse/rider performance. A saddle that is causing your horse discomfort will make it difficult for you to have an enjoyable ride and he certainly will consider you a pain in his back. While I cannot teach you everything about saddle fit in just a short article, I can give you a way to evaluate a serious saddle fitting problem.
Next time before you go to ride, do this quick saddle fit test. Take your saddle without any pads and place it on your horse’s back. Do not girth or cinch it up. Lead your horse on a straight line and watch how the saddle shifts around on your horse’s back. You might want someone else to lead your horse so you can watch or have someone walk along side your horse to catch your saddle if necessary.
If you saddle falls off your horse it might be a good place to leave it. In other words, if the saddle shifts around so badly that it won’t stay on his back without a girth, then strapping it to his ribcage is only going to cause problems.
Next, walk your horse on a wide turn and watch how the saddle moves on his back. If it falls off now, you can be pretty sure that the reason your horse raises his head on a turn is because the saddle is riding over his spine as you go around a corner.
Basically you need to look for a different saddle if the saddle is such a poor fit that it won’t stay on your horse’s back with this simple test. Using pads, strapping it on with a breastplate or a tight cinch won’t change the basic fit. Think about wearing a backpack that constantly wants to shift around. Tightening the straps will not make the shifting pack more comfortable. It will only create wear rubs.
This test would also be good for any new or used saddle you are considering for purchase. Remember that this is only the most basic test and doesn’t begin evaluate numerous other factors, not to mention how the saddle fits you. Fortunately there are some excellent resources to help you find a saddle that fits you and your horse. Dr. Joyce Harman, author of The Horse’s Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit Book, Fitting Your Horse Pain Free DVDs for English and Western and The Western Horse’s Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit book offers a tremendous amount of information to help you find something that fits both you and your horse.
I can hear you groaning now with the thought of having to find a new saddle. Remember to look in the used saddle market as these saddles are generally less expensive and you can test ride them before you buy. Taking the time to find a saddle that fits will save you time, money and heartache later on. The cost of vet bills, wasted lessons and lost riding caused by a poorly fitting saddle makes the time spent up front like money in the bank.
Use this Murdoch Minute to check one aspect of proper saddle fit. If the saddle lands on the ground it might be the best place to leave it. I know saddle shopping is not easy but finding a good fit will pay you back in the long run in rides both you and your horse will enjoy.
Wendy Murdoch is an internationally recognized equestrian instructor and clinician of over 30 years. She is the author of 50 5-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding, 40 5-Minute Jumping Fixes, the Ride Like A Natural® DVD Series and the SURE FOOT™ Equine Stability Program. One of the most skillful teachers ever encountered in any equestrian discipline, Wendy’s desire to understand the function of both horse and human, curiosity and love of teaching capitalized on the most current learning theories in order to show riders how to exceed their own expectations.