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A BIT OF INFO SADDLES

GO TO PART 2

BEFORE YOU SADDLE UP BE SURE YOU DON’T BE A “PAIN” IN YOUR HORSE’S BACK

 

Are you giving your horse a pain in the back?

Do you need to buy a custom saddle?

Can you recognize saddle fit problems?

   There are more opinions than questions on this subject. Let’s start with how to recognize a sore back. The time to start is when you’re setting the saddle on the horse’s back. If the Horse cringes when you start to put the saddle on he’s telling you either he has a sore back, or is about to get from the way you have been putting the saddle on him. When you are setting the saddle on the horse it should never be swung up and dropped heavily. At this time you should make sure the proper position you set your saddle is not too far forward or too far back. The way I like to do this is put the saddle up forward then pull the saddle back by the cantle till it stops in the pocket of the horses back. This is the correct position for that horse. Repeat the process to make sure the saddle stops in the same place each time. This is where the saddle that you are using should be cinched. You should “not” take your saddle out of this pocket. This is where the saddle wants to be and if you try to change the saddle it will be working to get there as you are riding.  Many riders place their saddles too far forward, restricting the movement of the horse's shoulder. The equine shoulder blade moves backward as much as three inches when the horse is in motion, so saddle placement must allow enough clearance for the shoulder to move freely without running into the treeIf you are thinking when I cinch up the horse and the girth is right behind the front legs you should move the saddle back out of the pocket... “wrong”. This is why they have ¾”rigging, full rigging and even three-way rigging for the correct placement of the girth.

   The next sign can appear when you draw the cinch up and the horse switch's his/her tail, lay back ears, or moves away when you cinch up. The horse is telling you he/she has a sore back or that he/she has been made “cinchy” because you are pulling the cinch up too tight and too fast. This is a good time to check rigging Dee’s make sure they are straight across from each other. I have seen where a saddle maker had them so far off it would make a ill-fit saddle and cause great discomfort. This is not common but worth checking.

    Once you start working the horse, it is easy to recognize soreness by the way the horse stops, turns and by the shortened stride he takes. A sore-backed horse will try and cushion the pain by performing his moves poorly. Making moves in a wide choppy manner instead of quickly and smoothly. These problems can also be present from poor riding, poor hands and or leg problems but a sore back has to be considered.

SEVEN GIVEAWAYS OF A BADLY FITTING SADDLE

SINKING – A horse whose back sinks sharply as he is saddled or mounted is in pain, and in no condition to carry weight. This is usually a sign of a fairly serious problem.

JIGGING – If the horse can’t stand still under the saddle or if he jigs and hops instead of walking or trotting, again, he’s in pain. The stiffness of the gait comes from his bracing of the back against pain and concussion and his unwillingness to flex his muscles.

TENDER SPOTS – Make it a practice to run your hand over the horses back after riding. If he flinches when you touch a particular spot, that area is irritated. Scald, abrasion, skin allergies and local inflammations can be detected in this manner.

DRY SPOTS – Caused by enough pressure to prevent the sweat glands from functioning, these are the beginning of edema plaques. These spots will swell and become crusty, and cause loss of hair or hair pigment if not corrected.

SWELLING, BROKEN HAIR, BALD SPOTS – These are symptoms of scald and abrasions. Minor irritations can lead to infection, so wash these areas and watch then of signs of infection over the next couple of days.

WRINKLING – The healthy skin of the horse’s back is very elastic and taut. If wrinkles appear spontaneously – or if you can cause excessive wrinkles by placing your hands flat about three inches apart on the back and pushing the skin together with moderate pressure – then the skin is beginning to lose its elasticity and stiffen. A long period of rest before putting a rider on his back and possibly changing saddles is probable.

BUMPS, LARGE AND SMALL – This happened to one of my futurity horses many years ago and I had him entered in six futurities that I had to pull out of. This is when I knew how important a proper saddle fit is. A large sensitive bump may be cellulites, a large, dense area of intense inflammation. The only thing to do is to stay off the horse; it may take weeks to heal. In the acute stage, cellulites can be treated with ice packs and later with hot packs. Small, painful bumps are furuncles, which are really no more or less than pimples. Again, the first step of treatment is to remove the source of the irritation, the chafing and concussion caused by riding. The infection can be drawn with hot packs or astringent preparations, but the horse must not be used again until they are completely healed.

  Before we go in to how a saddle fits I would like to say most of the time you don’t have to buy a custom saddle to get a saddle that will work for your horse.  Reinsman and Court’s saddles have some great fitting saddles but even with these you don’t buy the Reinsman Barrel Saddle (extra wide bars) unless you need it. Custom saddles are great if they are done right. Here is part of an article that was used to sell a custom saddle.

  The mathematical requirement is as follows: the structures of the capillaries and muscle cell in the equine back cannot bear more than 1 ½ pounds per square inch for long periods of time without damage. The average force of concussion [hitting the saddle after bouncing at a trot or canter] is about twice the static weight of saddle and rider-for example, 150 pounds of rider and tack thumping down on the back is equal to 300 pounds of pressure. So to compute the number of square inches needed to equalize your weight over the horses back you would use this formula:

Wx2

1 ½

Total weight of saddle and rider multiplied by 2 and then divided by 1 ½ equals ideal square inch surface

If we take a rider of 130 pounds using a saddle weighing 20 pounds, we get:

150x2 over 1 ½ = 200

The part of the saddle that bares directly on the horse should measure at least 200 square inches. If the saddle is 15 inches long, there should be 14 inches of with in the bars about 7 inches on each side. The spine and withers, of course, should bear no weight at all.

A quality Saddle Company like Reinsman knows this and considers this when designing their saddles. We will get in to the "saddle fit" in part 2 Coming Soon.

 

Mark Allen
  
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