You wouldn’t wear shoes or a jacket that is too small. So why should your horse be uncomfortable?
It is important to pay attention to the signs that your horse gives you. While a child can say ‘these shoes hurt me’ a horse cannot say “hay! This saddle is pinching me!”, therefore we must be alert and know what to look for. There are a number of signs that will tell you that your horse is uncomfortable in its saddle, watch out for these both when grooming and when your horse is under saddle.
Under saddle your horse will seem agitated and have a snarky attitude – he will act up and seem unable to relax, often trying to buck. Your horse could also be trying to tell you something if he lays back his ears, tosses his head, swishes his tail, and becomes sensitive to you touching his back. If he walks away while you are trying to girth up or mount him, or refuses to move, this could also be a sign. You should also notice an inability to straighten his back or a hollowed back.While grooming you may notice that your horse dislikes being brushed in the saddle area. There may be uneven sweaty and dry spots on the saddle pad, indicating an uneven fit, knots and tension in the muscles, and white hairs or sores appearing.
- Dry spots show that there is too much pressure in one spot. Your horse’s back should be evenly damp after a ride, except for along the spine. Dry spots lead to white hairs.
- White hairs indicate too much pressure on the same spot which stops blood flow and kills the sweat gland.
- Saddle sores are caused by friction or too much pressure; indicating that the saddle is either too tight or too loose and is rubbing on the horse.
These signs can indicate that your horse may have an ill-fitting saddle. You should not pad it up by adding an extra blanket or numnah, as this is the same as wearing an extra pair of socks with shoes that are too small. To be safe, contact a saddle fitter or your local tack shop for saddle manufacturer for advice rather than trying to fix the problem yourself.