5 Signs of Saddle-Fit Issues (and a Solution!)

The largest and heaviest piece of equipment you use is your saddle. It is the foundation to your performance, and the fit of that saddle can affect your horse’s comfort and athletic ability.  A saddle that fits well connects you almost seamlessly to your horse, but an ill-fitting saddle can have disastrous consequences. While choosing an aesthetically pleasing saddle can be tempting, it’s important to make sure the fit is comfortable for your horse. 

From athletic maneuvers and the show pen to trails and ranch work, you demand a lot of your horses. Are you doing your best as a partner to ensure your horse’s comfort? Here are five signs you’re having saddle-fit issues:

Dry Spots

After your ride, your horse’s back should be evenly damp, with the exception on the spine. Dry spots on your horse’s saddle area after a ride indicate too much pressure in one area and create saddle-fit issues.

It’s important to note that not all dry spots are created equal.  If the dry spot is smaller than your fist, it is a problem.

Dry spots smaller than your fist are problematic. Photo courtesy of 5 Star Equine.

 If the dry spot is larger than your fist, it is not necessarily a problem.  Should you have large dry spots, you can fine tune the fit of your saddle by changing the thickness in your saddle pad to create a back with no dry spots at all.

Saddle Sores

Sores on your horse’s back should be a red flag. Although they are not always caused by poor saddle-fit, if your saddle is too loose or tight it may be causing excess movement and rubbing your horse. If you have ever been forced to walk in shoes that have caused blisters, you can understand the discomfort these rubs are causing your horse!

White Hairs

Trauma from severe or chronic pressure causes damage to the pigment producing cells in the skin, resulting in the growth of white hair. 

Saddle Tipping Up

Have you ever seen horses longing and noticed the saddle is tipped up off their back as they stretch their neck down? Lifting up in the back is a clear sign of an ill-fitting saddle.

Behavioral Issues

Solve large dry spots by fine-tuning the thickness of your pad for a better fit. Photo courtesy of 5 Star Equine.

Oftentimes your horse will tell you something is wrong with your saddle-fit. This might look like swishing his tail more than normal, grumpiness when you tack up, inability to relax in your new saddle, and becoming crankier as your ride progresses. All of these signs may be your horse telling you he is not comfortable.

Next Steps

Once you have evaluated your horse for signs of saddle-fit issues or soreness, you need to make a plan to heal his back. Obviously the first step is to eliminate the poorly fitting saddle. If you are not experienced in saddle fit, now is the time to hire a professional to help you find the perfect-fit for your partner.

The next step can be to evaluate what you are using under that saddle: your saddle pad. Synthetic pads can hinder your horse’s natural cooling process, causing overheating and blistering of the back. A thin show pad may simply not provide the protection and padding your horse deserves. 

A quality saddle pad like those by 5 Star Equine Products, offers additional padding in a natural wool felt material that maximizes the breathability and pressure reduction from your horse. A 100% Pure Virgin Wool Felt will be able to wick 20 times its weight in moisture, which in turn removes heat from your horse’s back, helping to prevent further white spots and sores. 

An even sweat pattern is a good sign. With custom designs to fit the toughest backlines, 5 Star has a pad for you. Photo courtesy of 5 Star Equine.

One of your greatest assets as a horseman is the ability to listen to your horse. A previously happy and easy-going horse that suddenly starts showing behavioral issues often in pain. Looking for signs of poor saddle fit and remedying any issues as quickly as possible can save both yourself and your horse from the pain and aggravation that a chronic issue can cause. You demand a lot of your horse, so making sure he is comfortable is paramount when evaluating saddle-fit. 


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