What’s Your Excuse?
Another successful Expo in the books! For me, a successful Expo is when I see people putting the pieces together and realizing that good saddle fit really does make a difference in our horse’s lives. If I can motivate just one person to go home and check their saddle fit or get it checked by a fitter, the Expo was a success. If I can save just one horse from needless painful suffering, the Expo was a success.
For some riders, it was seeing the anatomy pictures of the saddle support area that helped them to understand how the saddle needs to fit so that the horse can be ridden and stay comfortable.
For some riders, it was realizing that a specific problem like bucking, lack of engagement, tripping, trouble going down hills, inconsistent gaits or not standing to be mounted could be the horse reacting to a poor fitting saddle.
For some riders, it was the painful list of things a poor fitting saddle can cause like shoulder cartilage damage, kissing spines, arthritis, damage to front feet, nerve damage and muscle atrophy that motivated them to want to learn more.
However, some riders are still in denial. These were their excuses.
- I have a young horse.
Probably one of the most common excuses I hear is that my horse is still growing, so there is no reason to get a saddle that fits until the horse finishes growing.
We know that our horse’s behavior and performance can be affected by a poor fitting saddle. We know that permanent painful damage to the shoulders, back, spinal ligaments and even the feet can be caused by a poor fitting saddle. Why risk it at any age? Did your parents make you walk around in shoes that were too small because you were just going to grow out of them anyway?
- I think you are just trying to sell me a saddle.
It is understandable and probably a really good idea to be cautious. My advice would be to educate yourself, trust your instincts and listen to your horse. Horses don’t lie. Horses just react. If your horse turns into a bear when you get the saddle out, he is trying to tell you something is wrong. Please listen to him. If a new saddle allows your horse to stretch out, ride smoother, have better gaits, turn easier or just relax. He is trying to tell you something!
- My trainer/ instructor says my saddle fits my horse.
All I am going to say here is trainers train and instructors instruct. It is best to leave the saddle fitting to the fitters with training, credentials and experience. I was certified by the American Riding Instructors Association, The International Society of Riders Biomechanics and an Accredited Richard Shrake Resistance Free Trainer/Instructor. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about saddle fit.
- I can’t afford a new saddle.
Well, if money is an issue and for most of us it is, you can’t afford not to have a saddle that fits.
Dr. Joanna L. Robson, DVM said in her book, Recognizing The Horse In Pain and What You Can Do About It! “if the saddle that fits is not within your budget, you should not own the horse.”
At one point, I added up all the vet bills, medications, supplements and the cost of buying another horse to ride when my horse had to be retired due to lameness. My horse had arthritic hocks and a sore back. Did the sore back cause the bad hocks? Or did the bad hocks cause the sore back? They go together so there is no way to know for sure. But I do know for sure that when he got a saddle that fit, he didn't have bad hocks or a sore back.
I could have bought 2 or 3 really nice saddles with what I spent on him. I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to spend that much money on a saddle. After I learned about saddle fit, I did buy him a saddle and I was able to bring him out of retirement and enjoy several more years of riding. This is why I do what I do.
- There aren’t any good saddle fitters in my area.
It is more difficult but not impossible to work with a fitter long distance. There are also some really great videos and books written by reliable sources like Joyce Harman, DVM and Joanna Robson, DVM to help you educate yourself.
Evaluating saddle fit with pictures in a chat group is not the best way. It is easy to see a really obvious poor fitting saddle in a picture. But, just because a saddle looks good in a picture doesn’t mean it will work while the horse is being ridden.
- I have a saddle that fits every horse I ride.
Since saddle fit is often compared to how our shoes fit, let’s look at shoes sizes. Most women probably wear a shoe size between 7-9 and men probably wear a size between 9-11. So, it is possible that if you have a size 9 shoe it will fit a lot of people but what about the people that need a 6 or 12? They will suffer.
Before I learned about the importance of good saddle fit, I was positive that I did not want to be a saddle fitter. I was definitely not looking for something else to do and the saddle fitter was like the tax collector. No one likes the tax collector. No one likes the saddle fitter because they thought the whole finding a saddle that fits problem was taken care of until their horse changed and the saddle didn’t fit again. Some horses change a lot in a very short time. It can be a frustrating cycle. Now that I know what I didn't know, I am positive that I definitely want to be a saddle fitter.
Please consider your horse’s comfort and either educate yourself or have your saddle checked by a professional 1-2 times a year. Saddle fit really does affect our horse’s behavior, performance and ultimately the health of the horse and rider. You could even end up saving yourself a ton of money and you will have a happier horse.