2Using a saddle that’s too narrow or too wide You may have heard saddles described with terms like “medium tree” or “wide tree.” These sizing terms, and others like them, de- scribe how much space there is between the saddle’s tree points. To keep your horse comfortable, it’s important to match the angle
of your saddle’s tree points to the angle of your horse’s body. That’s a challenge
because just like people, horses naturally come in many different shapes. Also,
the horse’s width in the area under the tree points can change over time. As
horses gain or lose fitness, or switch riding disciplines, their ideal saddle width
If your saddle tree is too narrow, the tree points can dig into the horse’s
muscles. This can lead to serious back injuries. Sadly, if your saddle tree is too
narrow, the only solution is to use a saddle with a wider tree. Corrective padding won’t help and can make the situation worse.
If the tree is too wide for your horse, the front of the saddle dips downward,
which can lead to wither rubs and shoulder discomfort. When the tree points
are too wide, they also provide less support and stability for your horse.
If your tree is too wide, sometimes you can improve the fit by adding corrective padding. But when you add padding, you also change other elements
of your saddle fit. So if you decide to try corrective padding, enlist a trusted
expert to help you check the overall fit.
3Saddle panels that don’t match the horse’s topline shape When you step back and look at your horse from the side, does his back look curvy or straight? Horses come in all shapes and sizes, everything from ramrod straight to slightly curvy to swaybacked. So in
a perfect world, your saddle should match the curvature of your horse’s topline
from front to back.
When you use a straight saddle on a curvy backed horse, you create pressure
points on the front and back of the saddle. Saddle fitters call this bridging because the middle of the saddle makes little or no contact with the horse’s back.
A curvy saddle on a straight horse causes the opposite problem: the saddle
might only make contact on the middle of the horse’s back. That concentrates
the rider’s weight on one big pressure point.
To check whether your saddle’s panels are the right for your horse, start by
placing your saddle on the horse’s bare back. Run your hands under the saddle, checking for even contact with you your horse’s back. Then place your usual
saddle pads on your horse and run your hands under the saddle again. Sometimes, when you add padding, the panel contact changes.
4Making the fit worse by using extra saddle pads Think about your favorite pair of riding boots. Then, imagine rid- ing in those boots with an extra pair of thick socks. What would happen? Chances are, your favorite boots would become tight and uncomfortable.
That same thing can happen if you had a great saddle fit, then added thicker
saddle pads or a half pad.
Specialty saddle pads, including half pads, can be a great way to add extra
1Placing the saddle too far forward This common mistake can create serious discomfort for your horse. That’s because
most saddles have an internal stability
structure called a tree. Saddle trees have
downward-facing prongs called points,
which are designed to sit 2 to 3 inches
behind your horse’s shoulder blades.
When your saddle is placed too
far forward, the tree points can rub
against your horse’s shoulder blades
and cause bruising. A too-forward
saddle also can also force the seat to
tip backward, which puts too much
of the rider’s weight on the back of
the saddle. That, too, can be painful
for the horse.
To check your saddle’s placement,
start by finding your horse’s shoulder
blade. If you can’t see the shoulder
blade, try placing your hand on your
horse’s upper shoulder while a friend
lifts and lowers your horse’s front leg.
If your hand is in the right spot, you’ll
feel the shoulder blade moving under
the skin, just like it does when your
horse is in motion.
Then, place your saddle on your
horse and find your saddle’s tree
points. You can often see the tree
points under your saddle’s outer
flap, encased in leather on the sweat
flap. Look for a hard, rounded prong
near the top of the flap, just in front
of the stirrup bars.
Check to see if your tree points
are placed 2 to 3 inches behind the
horse’s shoulder blade. For most peo-
ple, 2 to 3 inches is about the width
of three fingers. C L I X
Too far forward