Ask the Vet – Behaviors in horses with poor fitting saddles


SARAH: What are
some behaviors you might see in a horse who is
uncomfortable with the way their saddle fits? If your saddle doesn’t fit,
is it bad to get a thicker pad or is it better to
get a new saddle? DR. LYDIA GRAY: We
work for SmartPak, so it’s better to
get a new saddle. SARAH: With free shipping. DR. LYDIA GRAY: That question
is– at first I saw it. At first, I was like, I don’t
want them to vote on this. But then I’m like, no, it’s
still a veterinary question. And so I’m approaching it
from a veterinary perspective, which is get a saddle fitter. So to answer her
question specifically, though, the behaviors
that you would see, misbehavior, can be
poor performance. And so if I’ve got a horse as a
veterinarian that is not lame, but not performing up
to his usual standard or has begun to display
some resistance against even being saddled, being mounted,
certain maneuvers when you’re riding, I will say let’s
look at the saddle. There’s a whole host of
things I’d want to look at. I’d want to look at the teeth. I want to look at just do
an overall physical exam and a lameness exam. But a saddle fitting is
certainly part of that. Because the horse
that pins its ears, turns around as if
it’s going to bite, even kicks out when
you’re saddling, when you put the pad on
the saddle, when you girth, some horses are girthy, cinchy–
so all those things, they don’t necessarily have to be
saddle fit, but they can be. Likewise, horses that maybe
they used to be able to canter and they’re not
cantering well anymore, or they’re refusing
jumps or they’re not doing their spins
or turns or barrels or whatever, it might
be a saddle fit and you think, but it was doing it. What could change? Horses’ shapes change
with age and with work. SARAH: Just like people. DR. LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. There was even a study
that they measured– they took a tracing, one of
those wither tracing devices. And they looked at
the horse before work. Then they rode them– I
think it was just 30 minutes, and then they retraced
it and it was different. So during a ride, your
horse’s back will change. The part of the
question of, can I just put a pad or something–
probably not. Probably get a saddle fitter
out to assess, and maybe a new saddle,
because think about if the saddle is too narrow
and then you add pads, whether they’re half
pads, gel pads, whatever, that’s going to make it even
more narrow and fit even worse. If the saddle’s
too wide, that will help, but not all the time. So that’s probably not good
advice, across the board. I’m really into saddle fitters. I’m really into good
fitting saddles. SARAH: It feels
like particularly, if you are seeing behavioral
changes, that’s not something that a little bit of
a pad is going to fix. DR. LYDIA GRAY: Probably not. And it’s more of a bandage. It’s more of a
thing that gets you through until the saddle
fitter can get there if you want to keep riding.


5 Responses

  1. henriette oakheart

    February 10, 2017 7:33 am

    My horse is 18 years old and a mare. When ever I trot her she dips her head? I have also noticed that her shoulder sometimes touches my foot when I'm riding her and always on the right leg she dips her head?

    Any help in what to do? I'm trying to get her to go into an outline but I can't becuase she keeps on filling her head. Is the girth too far forward?Tthe saddle to tight? What do I do!!!

  2. Ellie McCarthy

    April 5, 2018 1:23 am

    My horse had some back soreness, despite the saddle I used on him looking good by my trainer's and my account (not perfect but pretty good). A CWD rep comes to my barn for lessons so we had him check it out, and we found that a school horse's custom saddle fits my horse the best! It just so happens to be a 16 inch and I'm 5'8'' but we are making it work until we get a custom saddle haha. And using this saddle that fits better, not even perfect, has made such a difference! He is so much more extended even in the walk, let alone the trot. Saddle fit makes a big difference!


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