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Signs of Poor Saddle Fit

Wondering whether your saddle fits your horse? Below are 7 potential signs of a poorly fitting saddle. If you're seeing any of these signs with your horse, you should take another look at how your saddle fits.

  1. White hairs and friction rubs. A well fitting saddle will distribute the weight equally over the horse's back. An illfitting saddle can have uneven weight distribution that results in pressure points. Over time, pressure points can show up as white hairs or friction rubs in the hairs in the saddle area.

  2. Dry spots. When you take off your saddle and pad after a long ride, what you want to see is an even wet pattern across the horse's back where the saddle makes contact. While the channel down the horse's spine should be dry, there should be even wetness on all contact points. Dry spots can be a sign of pressure points.

  3. Sores, galls, scars or hard spots. In the saddle area, sores and other physical marks can be a sign of several problems: a poorly fitting saddle, a poorly adjusted saddle, or a poor quality cinch.

  4. Rolling or rocking from side to side. A saddle that rolls to the side or rocks from side to side can be either a sign of poor fit or a sign of a rider who isn't balanced in the saddle.

  5. Tipping up in back. Tipping is generally a pretty straight forward sign of a poorly fitting saddle and is usually caused by saddle tree bars with the wrong rocker and twist (angles) to fit the back of the horse.

  6. Hindered movement by the horse. Restricted horse movement is a more difficult sign to detect and usually takes a more advanced rider to notice the difference in the way a horse moves under different saddles. A saddle that restricts a horse's shoulders will often impact how freely it moves out.

  7. General crankiness under saddle. Many saddle problems are commonly misdiagnosed as behavior or attitude problems. Put yourself in your horse's place. How happy are you when you're wearing shoes that are one size too small? Behavioral signs from your horse can include:
    • Objecting to being saddled or cinched
    • Fidgeting and refusing to stand still for mounting
    • Hypersensitivity to being brushed
    • Uncooperative and cranky when being ridden
    • Difficulty being shod
    • Pinning ears, swishing tail, and tossing head under saddle
    • Bucking right after being saddled (known as cold-backed) or excessive rolling

Saddle fit isn't an exact science. It takes some savvy to determine whether or not you have a good fit. These 7 potential signs of a poor fit are a good first step in building your saddle fit savvy.


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