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Saddle Fit & Horse Behaviour

How ill-fitting tack may affect behaviour and cause pain

Horse Behaviour Signs

You will probably be aware that there have been a proliferation of articles appearing over the past while in all sorts of publications discussing “how to slow down the rushing horse”; “how to ride the stumble out of your horse”; “how to make your horse go forward”; how to how to how to. All of these negative and unwanted ‘behaviours’ of your horse may actually be due to something as simple as a poorly fitting saddle which impacts the reflex points and causes simple instinctive reactions rather than conscious behaviours. But these articles all seem to point to the fact that these indicators are a result of rider error, and attempt to address corrections by either offering solutions to change rider behaviour, or – more drastically – calling in a vet to administer pharmaceuticals to address the issues.

Obviously sometimes there are absolutely valid psycho-somatic reasons behind some of these things, or actual illnesses causing these kinds of behaviour (or even lamenesses), but we would like to suggest that before you have to resort to expensive veterinary or ‘neuroscientific’ treatments, you invest in a simple diagnostic evaluation of your saddle fit using a qualified saddle fitter who understands equine biomechanics and anatomy and the ramifications for your horse if the saddle doesn’t fit properly.

Many people have agreed with the statement that ‘horses do not consciously behave badly’. They react to outside stimuli – either a poorly fitting saddle or an incompetent or untrained rider can cause these kinds of behaviours. How and where a rider’s weight is carried can make a huge difference. And dangerous horses can quickly be created when aids are misunderstood or mishandled. Sometimes horses will develop resistant or evasive behaviours because the handler does not know how to get what he/she is asking for, but remember that this does not make a ‘bad horse’ – it simply a horse behaving badly! (Although granted – just like there are simply mean people on this earth, there is the occasionally encountered simply ‘mean horse’.) Some of the ‘strategic behaviour’ horses have adopted have developed into what humans denote as ‘stereotypical’ – but these are not vices, as vices would infer that the horse is at fault.

Some of the unwanted behavior your horse may be demonstrating could include the following (and all of these could be indicators that something is not working with the fit of your saddle. If this has been professionally examined and deemed correct, then it would be the right time to investigate other causes and consult with your other equine professionals caring for the horse).

  • Tongue faults
  • Ears pinned back
  • “Girthiness”
  • Stumbling, tripping, lameness
  • Rearing, bucking
  • Resistance to move forward
  • Tight hollow back

Signs Your Horse Is In Pain

There are other signs that your horse could be having problems with saddle fit as well. These are more physiological results rather than behavioral, but are just as serious, and usually indicators of horse pain:

  • White hairs
  • Blisters, swelling, bumps,
  • Abnormal dust pattern (saddle pad is dry in places it shouldn`t be)
  • Stress lines
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Hunter’s bump
  • Sacro-illiac subluxations, rotations in the pelvis

Horse Behaviour Videos

Video #1

Bad horse! Unwanted behaviours? Check your saddle fit!

Video #2

Is yours horse fighting the saddle & pinching of the gullet plate.

Video #3

How to tell if your saddle is hurting your horse. Jochen discusses signs of poor saddle fit to horse and rider.

Video #4

A Story of saddle fitting hell. 

Video #5

Can your horse’s muscular development affect the fit of your saddle and the behaviour of your horse?

Video #6

‘Suffering In Silience’ – Why did Jochen Schleese write his book?

Video #7

Recognizing the horse in pain and what you can do about it. Featuring Jochen Schleese and Dr. Joanna Robson DVM.

Video #8

Why we need saddles with trees.

Video #9

Is your saddle causing scapular damage?

Want to see all our videos?

Now Is The Best Time To Start

Now you have easy and clear instructions on how to identify a poorly fitting saddle and the problems it can cause. If you are still unsure if your saddle is hurting you or your horse then talk to one of our saddle fit experts and book a personal evaluation today!

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