23 Common horse problems that could be caused from pain from a bad saddle fit

By , May 19, 2015 10:25 am

I’ve recently had a bad run of saddle fitters in Ireland. I’ve heard bad stories and seen sore horses from munster, leinster, connaught and the north! It’s terrible. Finding someone who can accurately assess your horses saddle in Ireland is VERY difficult.


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Two saddle fitters told me my saddles fitted fine. But my horse’s pain and unwanted behaviour based on the pain, told me they didn’t.

The result was time off work, visits from an equine physio and a lot of unresponsive saddle fitters who don’t want to hear about their problem! You can read about my saddle fit disasters here.

If your horse has one or more of these issues, I’d first suggest you get an equine physio, local friendly vet, or similar over to check your horse for any signs of pain. Don’t get a saddle fitter yet. If they establish pain, then its probably time off etc and follow their advice to treat your horse.

The next step is to find a saddle fitter who can do a good job (i.e. do their job accurately and not just try and sell you a saddle) you really need to ring about 5 or more and talk to them each on the phone. More info on how to do this is, in this blog post.

Here is a list of unwanted behaviour you can get from your horse, which could be caused by a bad saddle fit that is causing your horse pain.

1. Not as good as he used to be when standing at a mounting block, moves around
2. Resting or lifting a front leg a little while standing still
3. Looks worried, tension in body, head goes up, when you prepare to dismount (painful around withers, saddle too narrow)
4. Shoulders are very tight
5. Circles and bends are not good (pain or a jumping type saddle can restrict shoulder movement)
6. Lateral work is not progressing / good (same reason as before)
7. Bucking (could be saddle too wide & pressing down on horses back)
8. Standing still on a loose rein at halt, but when you rub your hand over his back he starts to walk off. When to see if you can identify which area of this back causes this to help figure out what part of saddle is the issue
9. Behavior that is not normal for your horse
10. Any movement or pain expressed in his body / face when you rub his back, may include ears back, trying to bite etc.
11. Doesn’t want to go forward
12. Doesn’t want to trot
13. Lacking impulsion (to avoid impending pain from saddle)
14. Saddle moving around a lot on the horse
15. Reluctance to hack out
16. Difficulty taking a lead change
17. Horse has kicked your saddle
18. Difficulty putting saddle on your horse
19. Rearing
20. Issues tying the girth… horse not happy, foot stamping, biting, etc.
21. Horse cannot move straight
22. Rider doesn’t feel comfortable in saddle
23. Rider looks like they are sitting in an armchair while in the saddle

NOTE 1: A lot of horses with pain from a saddle fit, can continue on doing their jobs as normal as will not tell you. To find out, get an equine physio, vet etc to check your horse next time you can find one – at your yard, a local event, etc. It could be just a 5 min check but its priceless info.

NOTE 2: A saddle fitter may have told you your saddle fits in the past. Do NOT assume this is correct information. Any issues above could mean your saddle does not fit. To learn more about saddle fit, check out these short & excellent free saddle fit videos from Schleese here.

I’d recommend this information to horse riders living in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Kildare, Laois, Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim, Roscommon, Meath, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Longford, Westmeath and Belfast.

NOTE 3: Get tips on how to look for a GOOD Irish saddle fitter here.

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