Saddle Fit: An Inconvenient Truth?

Photo by Tamara courtesy of Christiane Noelting Dressage Centre, CA.
Photo by Tamara courtesy of Christiane Noelting Dressage Centre, CA.

As horse owners we choose to bring these amazing creatures into our lives with the intention of fulfilling a dream. That dream we all seem to want to fulfill is one of legends that is ages old. We have written poems, songs, and depicted their beauty and majesty in art for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The human race has been enraptured by the horse for centuries. As human beings, we seek to connect to our environment through interaction with all the varied and wonderful life forms within it. We crave the experiential “connectedness” that allows us to discover and live a fulfilled life rich with pleasure, joy, expression and interaction with our fellow creatures.

Our senses allow us to create and experience that imprints deep into our psyche. We touch, smell, listen to the wonderful sounds, and observe visually all the nuances of horse behaviour and their responses to our human behaviours.

Let’s, for a moment, put the preverbal “horseshoe” on the other hoof shall we … our horses do not share this same dream. They don’t have the benefit of experiencing a glorified human version, for instance, as that depicted through cinematography by the likes of Frances Ford Coppola, who brilliantly portrayed horses as the magical, mysterious, romantic creatures we imagine them to be. He brilliantly put us in the horse/human connected space for 20 minutes without the use of any verbalization, in the Black Stallion Movie! 

So you see, the scales are slightly tipped in our favour as far as being able to control how we experience the relationship between our equine friends and ourselves. This may seem obvious, but are we REALLY consciously mindful about this fact? 

Let’s use the example of saddle selection for our equine friends. We all love our horses right? We all want them to live happy, long lives with us because it wasn’t, after all, their choice in the first place to come into our lives was it? 

Photo by Tamara courtesy of Christiane Noelting Dressage Centre, CA.
Photo by Tamara courtesy of Christiane Noelting Dressage Centre, CA.

What does this mean for us? … Everything!!!! We are the evolved species folks!! Lets act like it!! We must do our due diligence to make every effort to help our horses live the most comfortable, normal “fulfilled” lives as possible. Our ultimate goal of widening our understanding of how to ethically train horses while providing ethologically sound living conditions also would include the correct fitting of all tack. In other words, how to help every horse experience a great quality of life, and how to recognise when we could be doing better.

And because we choose to sit on their backs … we therefore are obliged to ensure their comfort with a saddle that is properly fitted to both the rider and the horse’s back. It is no longer good enough to bury our heads in the arena sand and pretend that this is not a critical piece of the puzzle.

Horses are a long term acquisition. Riding is a long term endeavour … and for most … an addiction of sorts! It begs the question then, that correctly fitted equipment also fits into this category. It is, after all, the only and most important interface connecting us to our precious horse. This is not a small detail!! This is the critical factor that will determine not only the success of the training but also will either make or break a horse psychologically. Pain is a very strong motivator for fear in horses and as such we cannot afford to create any pain responses in our horses that will cause mistrust between animal and human … if we do … you can kiss that dream of yours good bye!!

It’s therefore imperative for all riders to consider the taking into consideration consulting a certified Saddle Fitter or Saddle Ergonomist to determine if there may be some alterations that could be made to ensure the comfort of the horse. Our continued mindfulness will certainly help to ensure we are doing our best for the long term health, comfort and welfare of these fantastic creatures we are so blessed to have in our lives!

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