I frequently see horses with their saddles placed too far forward. This photo represents a most extreme case, and to be fair, was used in an ad to sell a saddle so we can only hope that no one ever rode the horse with the saddle placed like this!
You can easily imagine how uncomfortable that saddle would be for both horse and rider.
Seriously, when a saddle is placed too far forward several issues occur:
- The panels no longer distribute the weight of the rider on the horse’s back. Instead, all the weight comes down over the horse’s withers. Creating pressure points over the withers affects the horse’s entire central nervous system. Pinching here will cause the horse to drop its back away from the pressure and the pressure restricts blood flow which results in muscle wastage (this shows up as hollows that develop behind the shoulder blades).
- The horse’s shoulders are restricted which will make it’s gait choppy and may cause the horse to stumble. The saddle needs to be 2-3″ behind the scapula to provide enough room for its shoulders to move properly.
- Sitting on a saddle that tilts up at the front throws the rider off balance and puts all the rider’s weight at the back of the saddle. It’s obvious when looking at the photo above, but even when a saddle is just a bit too far forward it can unbalance the rider and cause the horse pain.
To place a saddle properly you should place it at the withers and then slide it back until it rests comfortably on the horse’s back. Check to make sure the scapula is in front of the saddle. Note: putting the saddle in the correct place doesn’t ensure that the saddle fits, but putting it in the wrong place will mean that even a saddle that’s fitted correctly won’t fit!