Shape-Shifting Seniors

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If you’re like me, you like nothing better than saddling up your senior horse for a ride, be it a quiet hack around the trails or a schooling session to improve for the next competition. ButÑespecially with senior horsesÑit’s important to check your horse’s saddle fit regularly. Why? Horses’ bodies change as they age, and just a small amount of time can make a big difference in how a saddle fits.

When we first purchased Taz, our recently departed chestnut snowflake Appaloosa gelding, he was big. Not overly tall, standing just 15.3 hands, but bigÉas in very wide and very muscular. He was 13 at that point, and his body was in its prime. Fast forward nearly 15 years and you saw a very different picture: Not only had nearly all the chestnut roaned out of his coat, his body shape had changed immensely. He was still wide, but his muscles had started dwindling and his body became slightly more angular. He wasn’t skinny or underweightÑour veterinarian gave him a clean bill of health (save for his existing uveitis and arthritis) year after yearÑbut his body shape had changed over the years from that of a pleasure horse to that of a senior horse.

With his changing body shape, we were always careful to ensure his tack fit appropriately. We made equipment modifications as necessary, ranging from changing saddle pads to adjusting the saddles themselves. My father and I both ride in saddles with adjustable gullets, which we’ve both found incredibly useful in helping our horsesÑall of which have different body shapesÑstay comfortable, Taz included.

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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