How to Tell if Your Saddle Hurts Your Horse

A properly fitting saddle is key to keeping any ridden horse healthy and performing at its best.
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How to Tell if Your Saddle Hurts Your Horse
A properly fitting saddle is key to keeping any ridden horse healthy and performing at its best. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

In recent years, researchers have conducted several studies that make one thing crystal clear: A properly fitting saddle is key to keeping any ridden horse healthy and performing at its best. But how, exactly, can you tell if your saddle doesn’t fit your horse?

At the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida, Scott Anderson, DVM, reviewed how veterinarians and owners can tell if the saddle is causing a horse pain in six easy steps. Anderson is a sport horse practitioner and owner of Woodside Equine Clinic, in Ashland, Virginia.

“The initial examination is performed with the horse standing squarely and without a saddle pad,” Anderson said. Then, he said, place the saddle on the horse’s back so the front of the flaps don’t interfere with the scapulae’s (shoulders) movement when the horse is working. This is usually 3 to 5 centimeters (about 1 to 2 inches) behind the scapulae, he added

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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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