I’m continually amazed by how much money people spend on saddles that don’t fit. I frequently see saddles that sit right on a horse’s spine or that are so narrow that they look perched above a horse’s back. Sometimes there are several pads under the saddle. I’m sure the rider’s intention was to make their horse more comfortable, but the end result was akin to wearing shoes that are slightly too small with thick socks!
For many years I had no idea that a saddle could be fitted to a particular horse. I used the same saddle on all the horses I rode for close to 14 years. Today I can hardly imagine it — I’ve had horse’s that have changed their shape so much from the spring to the fall that they needed their saddles adjusted.
Lots of things influence the shape of your horse’s back. While proper work can cause your horse to muscle up and improve his topline, a poorly fitting saddle can actually cause muscle wastage. If your saddle pinches your horse behind its withers or interferes with his shoulders, you might find your horse bucks or is balky. You might also notice that the muscles atrophe so that there is a hollow behind the withers. In extreme cases, horses have fallen down due to the pressure on their spines.
I recently noticed that my TB was very sensitive over his withers and triceps area. I also found that the saddle was starting to make me feel tipped and that I was “fighting the tack” to stay balanced. I’d had the saddle fitted at the end of March and hadn’t really looked at it objectively. Sure enough, it’s now a tad too narrow and was probably pinching him while putting me slightly behind the motion.
Saddle fit is such a complex issue that I would like to break it down into several subtopics. I did find a good general overview video on the topic, below, and several websites that provide good information.