Who has never had a saddle fit issue is a one lucky person! When I was buying my first ever saddle in 1995 I had to trek many miles to a saddler and all I had to give him was the hight and type of the horse. He was a 16.2hh high wither Trakehnner and got his jumping saddle on that information alone No fittings, not even a photo of a horse for the saddler.
Thankfully, it’s a different story nowadays. We have some great saddle designs that can be fitted to both the horse and the rider well and come with some very good advice too.
As a horse owner or even as an occasional rider you want to know (don’t you?) how is your saddle doing on your horse’s back. There is a science to the saddle fitting and saddle check process and I will get back to it very soon but in this post I would like t odraw your attention to the secret language of the sweat marks that your saddle leaves on your horse’s back after you’ve ridden.
A few things you can “read” from sweat marks:
– are sweat marks symmetrical (if not, which way is the saddle sliding as the horse works)
– where are dry patches and are they the same on each side of the spine; does it look like saddle pannels come in contact with the spine? (a well fitted saddle should not put pressure on the area right next to the spine as that’s where the spinal processes are – not to mention the nerves – and where the sensitive supraspinous ligament lies).
If you give your horse little squeezes along the spine like on the photo below (imagine squeezing lemon but be gentle, some horses react strongly) you will see how even small pressure causes the horse to drop their back and lift the neck away from your prods. Imagine a piece of tack interfering in similar way just as you are working on encouraging your horse to relax and round his back…
– are the patches regular and matching saddle pannels or are there areas of dry then wet and again dry which might suggest that the pannels don’t sit flat and even. This will mean your weight is not distributed evenly and pressure spots might be a problem.
If you are having problems with tension in the horse’s back or neck always simultaneously check 2 things: your own riding (be cruel) and the saddle (play a detective).
More on saddles soon 🙂