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How often do you have your saddle fit checked?

A recent trial conducted by Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust has completed research on ill-fitting saddles resulting in back pain in both horse and rider, as well as muscle asymmetry, lameness and gait abnormality. The results encourage checking saddle fit on a regular basis, as well as teaching riders and trainers how to recognise key signs indicating lameness, saddle slip and rider crookedness.

The clinical assessment selected horses, presumed sound by their owners, in regular work and from a variety of ridden disciplines. Results identified ill-fitting saddles in 43% of the 205 riders to have entered into the assessment and observed saddle-slip in 14.6% of the horses, to be further associated with lameness or gait abnormalities. Only two riders present had made a link between the lameness displayed by their horses and saddle-slip, whilst a further 38% of the tested riders experienced back pain, associated with an ill-fitting saddle and rider crookedness.

Line Greve, PhD student at the Animal health trust, said “ideally saddle fit should be checked more than once a year to reduce the instances of ill-fitting saddles. Worryingly, 30% of horses that had their saddles checked at least once yearly still had an ill-fitting saddle. What is unknown is whether these saddles had ever fitted correctly or whether a properly qualified saddle fitter was responsible for the fitting.”

At WOW Saddles, we advocate a more regular saddle fit check as horses can change shape dramatically during different phases of their life depending on condition, health and exercise. As the world’s first modular saddle, WOWs can be easily adjusted to suit the changing shape, build and frame of individual horses. Our professional riders have their saddles checked throughout the year, on a regular basis, to monitor changes in muscle development.

Do not forget that the saddle is simply a tool which, when fitted correctly, allows you to ride your horse in comfort and balance, whilst spreading your weight over a large symmetrical area on the horse’s back. The job of the saddler is to put the load, the rider, securely in the middle of the horse without bias, a position where both the horse and rider can relax. This will need to be constantly monitored to maintain a balanced and harmonious partnership so it is important to remember that saddle fitting is not a ‘one time thing’ and more an on-going relationship between fitter, horse and rider. This research confirms this!

The full results of this study will be presented at the second Saddle Research Trust International Conference in Cambridge, on 29th November 2014 at Anglia Ruskin University. To find out more visit www.saddleresearchtrust.com