Horse Health Tips For Students includes information for our students about common horse health care issues. These posts are to bring awareness to horse welfare issues - always ask your veterinarian for advice and treatment protocols for your own horse!
This past month we had a saddle fitter come and look at our saddles and lesson horses! It is the third time in the past 6 years that we've had this particular saddle fitter out. I'll even give her a name drop! Her name is Linda Ridley and her business is called The Level Headed Horse!
There are a few reasons why I like using Linda in particular that I want to share with students.
Number one is that Linda is not associated with a particular saddle maker and is not trying to sell us saddles. She is only concerned with the welfare of the horse and making sure you have a proper fitting saddle.
The first thing Linda looks at when she comes is the saddle. She checks to ensure that there are no damages, what kind of twisting has taken place (she says all saddles have some twist and this is why we use mounting blocks!), and checks if the tree is broken or weak. She can also tell by looking at the saddle what type and shape of horse it might fit!
The second thing she checks is the horse itself! Before the saddle is even on, she checks the horses confirmation, hooves, looks for soreness in the back, withers and poll, and notes any behavioral issues. This can help her determine if the saddle we have been using has caused any issues or if there are any underlying health issues that might affect the horse while it is being ridden. So important!
Finally we look at the fit of the saddle. There are many aspects to a good saddle fit including: checking there is ample space between the padding for the spine, how thick the padding is (varies depending on the horse's confirmation), if the padding touches the back all the way along, ensuring enough space for the withers and ensuring enough space for the shoulders. It gets more complicated as you start to look at the horses confirmation and how the girth affects how the saddle sits on the horse. Should the girth be done up using the 1st and 2nd billet? the 1st and 3rd billets? or should you move a billet to the 4th ring? So much to learn. I learn more every time she visits!
Linda can give recommendations on a variety of brands and price ranges that will work for your discipline or riding goals, and budget. We have a great set of saddles thanks to Linda's recommendations that we can get locally and work for our budget.
If you have a horse, I highly recommended finding an independent saddle fitter such as Linda to help you find the right fit for your horse. As horse owners it's our responsibility to ensure we have their best interests and welfare in mind. Having a poor fitting saddle can cause an unhappy horse and therefore an unhappy rider too!
This article was written by Dr. Gwen Donohoe, PhD