As humans, we would never consider going for a run in a pair of stilettos nor would we put on tight jeans to do an aerobics class, but often the same parallels in saddle fit for the horse are overlooked.
Not only is saddle fit critical for the comfort of the horse, but it directly influences the horses performance, and the higher level of performance you expect from your horse, the more important the saddle fit becomes.
A horse is biomechanically built by nature to move a certain way. He is put together with muscles, nerves and blood vessels that function the same way as they do in a human, as we share the same components that make us both mammals. They feel discomfort, muscle fatigue, bruises and nerve pain exactly the same as we do; they just don’t have a voice to let us know. But we see it in other ways – poor performance, a change in personality, and often dangerous behaviour.
It is a scientific fact that his limbs, along with his back, neck and hindquarters, move in certain patterns that make up walk, trot, canter and gallop, and that range of movement is directly influenced by his muscle build, strength and flexibility. Tens of thousands of years have seen the horse evolve into the perfect form he has today to ensure his species survival.
Unfortunately he was not designed to carry a rider and saddle, which can restrict and inhibit these muscles and how they work. So whilst he can run, jump and balance perfectly well in nature, when we add a rider and saddle into the mix, suddenly we can massively change the way he moves and his ability to do his job. Especially if the rider and saddle are not an easy load to carry!
Our job as horse owners, riders, trainers and saddle fitters is to ensure the saddle he has, with the riders weight balanced on top, does not alter the way he was built to move. Modern technology and saddle design advances have given us better understanding and new perspectives – more and more we can give him every chance to perform the job we have put before him in the best way he can.
With better saddle fit you are on your way to a happy athlete and the perfect equine partner!