Saddles, if they do not fit properly, can cause so many problems, never mind the general discomfort for your horse as well as for you.
It can hurt your horse physically, it can even cause him to exhibit unpleasant or dangerous characteristics. If you don't know what to look for ask a competent fitter.
Signs of a Bad Fit - Here are many signs that are simple and easy to notice.
- When relaxing, does my horse have a dropped or sway back?
- Is there swelling or heat in the middle of the back upon removal?
- Is there raw or rubbed skin anywhere on the back?
- Are there any white marks or bare patches on his back?
- Does he seem stiff?
- Does he hold his head high and stiff, and does he seem unwilling to accept the bit or rider's aids?
- Does he seem unwilling?
- Is he hard to catch?
- Does he jump around when being groomed, especially when you are grooming the back area?
- Does he hollow his back, buck, or move away when being fitted?
- Does he dislike being girthed?
- Does he jig when being mounted?
- Does he toss his head while under saddle?
- Does he refuse to walk calmly on a long rein?
- Is he irritable in general?
- Does he have a hard time walking up or down hills?
If you answered yes to more than one or two questions do your horse a big favor. Don't ride him until you get a better saddle. And have a vet or chiropractor take a look at him.
A Good Fit - The fit should work well for both horse and rider.
- Sitting with a relaxed seat and legs, check to make sure you have enough room to put your hand on your thigh between your legs and the pommel. You should also be able to fit the width of your hand between the back of your body and the rear arch. With the stirrups at the normal length, there should be an imaginary line gong through your shoulder, to your hip, to the center of your horse's balance, and finally, to your heel. So now we know how to find a good fit!
- There must be no contact between the saddle and the spine, which means you should see a clear channel of daylight down the spine from withers to loins.
- Check the width and length. With your weight in the seat you should be able to fit two-and-a-half or three fingers between the pommel and the horse's withers. If there is space for four fingers the tree is too narrow. If there is space for two, it is too wide. Check to see how far the seat goes toward your horse's hip bone. It should not be so long that it rubs the hip.
- When sitting you should be stable and should never unwillingly rock back and forth.
More details on choosing the right saddle.
Big Horn Saddles
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