"The Saddle" By J. Foley
It is vitally important a saddle is both well-fitting and positioned correctly on the horse’s back. Fitting should be carried out by a qualified saddle fitter, although every rider should be able to position a saddle correctly for use and be able to identify signs that a saddle no longer fits and requires attention. If the horse’s shape alters, as a result of weight gain or muscle development, the fit of the saddle will need to be checked.
How to correctly position a well-fitting saddle.
• The saddle should be placed on the back, over the wither, and then slid backwards into its natural resting place.
Check that the saddle is balanced and level and not tipping
backwards or forwards.
There should be a broad-bearing surface, with the weight
distributed evenly along the horse’s back.
No part of the saddle should make contact with the spine or wither.
The gullet of the saddle should be approximately 6.5 cm wide along its full length – there should be a similar clearance between the front of the saddle and the top of the horse’s wither.
The position of the point of the saddle tree should sit behind the horse’s shoulder blade, so that it does not restrict the horse’s normal movement. The tree-arches and points should not dig into the horse’s shoulder.
• The back saddle should not sit too far along the
back (as the horse is not designed to take
weight on its lumber region) and no further
back than the start of the last rib.
• Ideally, the rider should use a mounting block,
or get a leg-up when mounting, to avoid
twisting the saddle and affecting its position or
straining the horse’s back.
When the horse is being ridden, the saddle should not move
significantly in any direction and should remain well fitting and balanced.
Girths are a vital piece of tack, attaching the saddle to the horse and helping maintain
its position. They are available in many shapes, types and sizes to suit a range of
different saddles. Essentially, a girth should be broad and smooth, fitting comfortably
around the horse’s breast. Most general purpose saddles have three girth straps and it is
correct to attach the girth to the first and third of these on each side. A correctly fastened girth should rest approximately one hand’s width behind the horse’s elbows.
Saddle cloths, numnahs and pads
Saddle cloths and numnahs are used to keep the underside of the saddle clean and to
minimise saddle slip. If they are too thick or allowed to crease up under the saddle, they
can alter the fit of an otherwise well-fitting saddle. They should not be used in an attempt to improve the fit of an ill-fitting saddle. Undue pressure can be placed on the horse’s withers and spine if a saddle cloth or numnah is not pulled up fully into the gullet. Pads are often used to alter the fit of a saddle. If such measures are necessary long-term, then the saddle clearly does not fit and a new, well-fitting replacement should be purchased.
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Article Written By J. Foley