Saddling of Horses

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FAQ Saddling

We have a very simple approach to saddling assessment . . .

It is a sad fact that many horses out there are being ridden under saddles which cause discomfort and pain. Apart from the local pain and suffering, the discomfort and pain from imperfect saddling lead to altered posture and action. Altered posture and action lead to incorrect stresses being put on the horse's back, joints and bones. Over a period, this leads to pathology, which can occur anywhere in limbs, back or neck, depending upon the exact nature of the problem and the work the horse is made to do. It does not need saddle sores to tell us that a saddle is wrongly-fitted.

If a horse naps, he is often said to be ‘ungenuine' (whatever that may mean). Most such cases I have visited appear to be uncomfortably saddled and are intolerant of saddling or girthing. What a waste to blame the horse! What a tragedy, when a horse usually tries to please.

If a horse eventually suffers pathology, through consistent and long-term incorrect action, he ceases to have a value. This leads to rider dissatisfaction. It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that most horses suffering navicular, spavin, bad backs and uneven working ability also happen to have uncomfortable, ill-fitting or unsuitable saddles. These are the tolerant horses, who suffer pain without complaint, until eventually pathology results. We can easily demonstrate the way in which such pathology courses thorough the body, to particular sites of disease.

Muscles that bear the immediate brunt of saddling and girthing issues are: Thoracic Trapezius (Trapezius Thoracis), Thoracic Spinal (Spinalis Thoracis), Longissimus Dorsi, Posterior Pectoral, Latissimus Dorsi, Serratus Ventralis Thoracis and Rhomboideus, but knock-on effects spread to other muscle masses.

Sadly, the bottom line is, tolerant or intolerant, so many horses end up in trouble as a result of unsuitable saddling.

We have a very simple approach to saddling assessment:

We check tree width, panel shape, flocking workmanship, basic design, symmetry, gullet width and where the saddle bears on the horse. Only then would we research into deeper issues. These few points are the basic essentials, which are bound to cause problems if not correct.

As an integral part of our work, we ensure that a rider can understand the basic points about comfortable saddling. He or she will be able to see where the currently used saddle may be causing problems, if it is and, between us, we should be able to devise a way out of the problems, whether by manipulation and medication and/or by correction (or replacement) of faulty saddles.

Interestingly, a military saddle overcomes many of the common criticisms, with its separate technologies for rider and horse.

We believe that, whatever the theoretical merits or demerits of a certain saddle or saddling method and whatever theory a rider, saddler or vet may propose, the horse should be the final arbiter. We are able to demonstrate how a horse will communicate his opinion, which should be trusted above all others.

Common saddling faults that we find are are in the areas of: damage, tree size, tree shape, build quality, stirrup bars, girth straps, panelling design and alignment, flocking, symmetry and girth design.


Saddles that bounce, slip or twist in use are often poorly-fitted (or there may be a definable back problem, that needs chiropractic manipulation). Such problems should not be left unattended, since either will cause pain and discomfort.

If a saddle is not properly fitted, is badly constructed or is frankly worn out, using numnahs, pads, air cushions etc. does not answer the problem. A bad saddle is a bad saddle.

If your horse plays up when the saddle is produced, does not go as you had hoped or if he behaves in a difficult manner, he may well have a saddling problem. Give him a chance.

Some common conditions in which saddling faults are often implicated:

  • Saddle sores
  • Lameness
  • Spavin
  • Navicular disease
  • Distal limb degenerative disorders
  • Nodular skin disease
  • Back problems
  • Incorrect outline
  • Neck problems
  • Wasted wither
  • Sore back muscles or back pain
  • Kissing spines
  • Spinal and pelvic misalignment

See also: Saddle ProblemsBack Problems for horses, dogs, cats etc.

We have no commercial interest in saddles, of any brand nor do we have any commercial links with any supplier or fitter. Opinions are entirely impartial and are centred on horse welfare and well-being.

FAQ Saddling


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