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Tip 2: Wither Clearance

Is your horse reluctant to move forward? Are mysterious white hairs, strange bumps or soars appearing around the wither?

Although you may have the required 2-3 fingers wither clearance, you may not have enough clearance on all sides, which is vital! Watch this informative video for some saddle fit tips on “Wither Clearance” that may help you!

Wither clearance is an often misunderstood concept

All of us are concerned that our saddles have adequate wither clearance and do not pinch our horse’s withers. But few of us truly understand exactly what “wither clearance” means.

Many of us learned in Pony Club that our saddle should have 2-3 fingers clearance on the top of the withers. But we were never taught that there also had to be clearance on the sides of the withers. One of the reasons this is crucial is because when the horse moves, his shoulder blades rotate upwards and backwards. The saddle must have an opening (clearance) on the sides of his withers to accommodate the shoulder rotation.

To see just how much your own horse’s shoulder blade rotates backwards when he moves, stand on the side of your horse and mark the shoulder blade with a piece of chalk. Then have a friend stretch your horse’s front leg forward and mark the new position of the shoulder blade. You will see how much farther back the shoulder blade is now positioned.

Ideally, we should be able to get 2-3 fingers clearance on both the top and the sides of the withers. To determine adequate clearance on the sides of the withers, we measure from the point just above where the stuffing of the saddle starts. On a mutton-withered horse, however, we may get as much as 4-5 fingers clearance.

If there is no clearance (or space) on the side of the withers, the horse’s movement will be restricted. It will be impossible for him to have free range of movement through his shoulders.

A horse whose saddle pinches his withers may be reluctant to go forward. Other more extreme signs of insufficient wither clearance are patches of white hairs (not scattered individual white hairs) or sores on the top or on one or both sides of the withers.

 

Is this a challenge you are facing? Are you experiencing other saddle fit issues? Tell us about them and let us help!

Contact miriam@schleese.com or solutions@schleese.com, book a Personal Saddle Fit Evaluation, or attend an educational lecture/demo.

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If anyone deserves a Schleese saddle it's the horse. And I mean every horse. The dressage champion as much as the trail king and everything in between. I learned that last year and I will tell you how. My friends daughter has a very sensitive Thoroughbred that she events with. George is handsome, a great jumper and... and absolute horror to tack up. He was twisting under every saddle like an eel. Gnashing his horrible teeth and- you get the picture. I recommended to look for a new saddle and that Schleese might help. The fitting was a nightmare! George was fussing and fighting. Turns out that he has a very short back. So short in fact, that none of the demo saddles even worked. My friend decided to order a new Schleese. It was like a miracle! After using it for a short time, George started to relax while tacking up. No more snapping and eye rolling. The muscle spasms in his back stopped, and he started to enjoy petting and scratches. He is not perfect, and probably never will be after years of ill fitting saddles, but he is better. Why would I deserve a Schleese? My horse Radar would love it. I have a dressage Schleese that my guy loves. Now I think, he would really deserve a jumping one, to continue being a happy horse. George was our example of how this saddle works and why we believe in the brand. Thanks

— Kathi Menner - Elmira, NY

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