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  • Emma

Do you have a handy pocket your saddle slots in to??

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Do you have a minute? Are you with your horse? Great… Now, stand back and look at your horse… from the side, naked (the horse, not you) just look at them, in all their glory! I know, gorgeous aren’t they!

Right next thing, really look at them, take a picture if you like.. but inspect them, head to tail… There are lots of things to pick up i’m sure, BUT do you have a saddle shaped indentation in your horses back? or large hollows behind the shoulder and not a lot of top line? When you run your hand firmly along their back, does the muscle feel different where the saddle sits? If it does, take a breath and stop! You need to make a plan.

First of all, the muscles along the back, either side of the spine, are called the Longissimus muscle. They should be lovely and plump, firm but soft and feel even all the way along. This muscle and all the connecting muscles and support structures make it possible for a rider and their horse to go on adventures! I know, great aren’t they. They need this to hold you up and function. FACT.

BUT, if this muscle is compromised - and in this rant (sorry blog), it’s from an saddle shaped indentation. You can subsequently end up with lameness, twanged tendons and the hideous, kissing spines (And don’t get me started on that name, they are bones that are rubbing together because they don’t have the strength to span apart - not some cute little snuggly issue!) as the horse, with any impingement, compensates - an unbalanced body, is one that is now putting too much pressure elsewhere and this is when things get ugly.

Your horse, in no scenario, should have a saddle shaped indentation on it’s back, nor should it have hard lumps behind the back of the saddle where the end of the panel sits, or hollows behind the scapula as no, they aren’t ‘handy pockets’ so any saddle fits.

If you stand back and see that, then STOP! You need to take weight of the horses back and figure out what is causing this issue. Make a plan. You may start with your vet, or your trusted equine therapist, your saddle fitter, or trainer. Probably all of them, get an Osteo/Physio/Fascia - all 3 bodyworkers may be required, over several months,. If anyone says, “think it’s just the way they are” SAY NO, AND GET A SECOND OPINION! Recovery may be quick, it may take months.. but if you love your pony like we do, then do the right thing, working from the ground to get your horses back in peak condition so he can easily take you on your adventures, without compromise - it’s what we should all be doing every single day.

I’ve been seeing some great posts from @saddlefit4life and @saddlefittingus. They seem tired of seeing and saying the same things, and things not changing. You know something, so are we. Most Saddle Fitters do the job because they love horses, all horses. We want to make them happier, and best able to do their jobs. It’s why we carefully select our saddles so we know them inside out. It’s a long term relationship, for the journey - not turn up, flog you a saddle and move on - we need to build that relationship with you and your horse to understand you, and your horse and that doesn’t happen in one visit.

There are some real simple aspects to a happy healthy horse under saddle, and knowing what a healthy back looks like is one of them.

Look. Listen. Learn. Then Make a Plan.

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