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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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Testimonials

First of all it was amazing to be a recipient of a saddle. I can still hardly believe it! Although I’ve only had the saddle for a short time I have noticed some things:

  1. It’s comfortable, it puts me in an excellent position and it doesn’t weigh a ton. I’m able to easily lift it onto my six-year-old mare who is over 16.1hh.
  2. My mare, Spring Song, moves beautifully in the saddle and loves it. No histrionics while saddling her. Just a sweet look and a mare ready to go for a ride.
  3. My riding coach pointed out the saddle’s gullet. It’s wide and comfortable for Spring Song.
  4. A friend who knows his way around saddles helped me fine-tune the adjustment on Spring Song. This was easy to do because of the webbing adjustment on both sides at the back of the saddle.
  5. He pointed out that the tree is adjustable, too. Yippee!
  6. Although Spring Song doesn’t have a long back (or a short one) it’s a relief that my new saddle isn’t too long. Length is most certainly a deal breaker (or maker!).
  7. In the past thirty years we’ve experienced with each of our horses the arduous search for the right saddle at various stages of each horse’s training and life. This translated to five saddles in 20 years for one Thoroughbred and three saddles in nine years for each of our two Lusitanos. With the adjustable capabilities of the Schleese saddle I’m looking forward to a lifetime of comfort for Spring Song. No saddle hunting for her!
Winnie Stott

— Winnie Stott - King City, Ontario

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