Signs That Your Saddle Doesn’t Fit Your Horse

 By Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

A Handbook for Ranch Managers If a horse’s performance deteriorates and he become sour with no other clinical signs of a lameness or other issue, he might be reacting to a poorly fitting saddle.

A horse that goes around with his head up, ears pinned, and tail swishing could be indicating discomfort or displeasure for any number of reasons. Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual One that’s commonly overlooked, however, is poor saddle fit.

When professional saddlers evaluate a horse’s saddle, they look for telltale signs of poor fit in the horse’s body, behavior, and movement. Master saddlers Laurence Pearman, Ian Hastilow, and Annette Gavin described these during the 2015 Society of Master Saddlers North Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewAmerican Introduction to Saddle Fitting course, held May 2-3 in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Keep in mind that many of the signs described can result from issues other than (or along with) saddle fit, and it can be difficult to differentiate poor fit from an unrelated physical issue. This is an important reason to  Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfitsalso confer with a veterinarian.

Signs that the presenters said might indicate poor saddle fit include:

1. Lumps, bumps, and skin lesions where the saddle lies

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)Some horses develop sudden but temporary round fluid swellings under the skin that are no larger than an inch in diameter. They typically appear within 20 minutes of unsaddling after a long ride and disappear (reabsorb) within 12 hours. These standalone lumps aren’t usually painful.

In other cases, horses will develop firmer, less absorbable bumps—typically on both sides of the spine. This is a low-grade inflammatory reaction to excess pressure from the saddle that eventually resolves.

If the saddle pressure is not corrected, these bumps can become chronic palpable knots. While the bump itself is not very uncomfortable for the horse, continuing pressure on it can lead to its becoming an open sore that’s painful and prone to infection. 2.

2. Bruising

While not visible to the human eye, bruising is evident when the horse shows an obviously painful reaction to pressure from the saddle or someone’s hands. This can result from poor saddle fit over a large area, such as from the cantle panels (at the back of the saddle, under the rider’s seat) on either side of the horse’s spine, as well as from a rider who is uneven and “bumping” in the saddle. Scars can ultimately form from chronic, specific areas of bruising. 3.

3. A lack of flexibility or “looseness” in the back

When you run your hand or fingers along your horse’s back, you should feel some “give.” If the horse instead stiffens or tries to evade pressure, he could be suffering from back pain—saddle-induced or otherwise—and requires veterinary attention. An inability to properly perform “carrot stretches” can also indicate back stiffness. 4.

4. Behavioral or performance issues

If a horse’s performance deteriorates with no other clinical signs of a lameness or other issue, he might be reacting to a poorly fitting saddle. In this situation your horse’s stride might be shorter than usual, he might be unable or unwilling to collect, or his jump might become flat. Other signs that can indicate back discomfort if they don’t improve with rider skill include: a high head carriage with pinned ears, tense mouth and nostrils, and/or a clamped tail.

When saddle-related pain goes on long enough, horses might begin exhibiting learned disobedience behaviors such as avoiding being caught, aversion to being mounted, refusing to move once mounted, acting “cold backed” or roach backed upon mounting, bolting, tail-swishing, rushing backward, and/or rearing and bucking.

Again, many other physical issues can prompt such behavior and clinical signs, so include your veterinarian in on the discussion with your saddle fitter before jumping to conclusions.

Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Alexandra Beckstett, Managing Editor of The Horse and a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as Assistant Editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse.

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A Handbook for Ranch ManagersA Handbook for Ranch Managers.  In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

You might be interested in this books supplement: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.

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Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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