Why is Finding the Right Saddle Important?
Have you ever been hiking with a backpack that is the wrong size or isn’t fitted correctly? Your shoulders may ache, or you find yourself dealing with painful chafing as you walk. No one likes to deal with this – neither does your horse. Finding the right saddle is important to horse health and happiness, so let’s learn more about the process.
The differences that the right saddle can make could impact the entire life of your horse. A long, happy lifetime of rides and other fun memories with your horse is certainly better than dealing with a variety of health problems and pain. Your horse will have a better relationship with you, perform better, and be happier if they are comfortable with the equipment you put on them.
What Are the Different Types of Saddles?
Each horse owner has their own set of goals and expectations for their horse, and the right saddle will reflect them. Decide what activities your horse will be doing before you set out to saddle up. Here are a few examples:
This option is lightweight and comfortable, which is great for long rides. They sometimes come with strings to attach your gear. Trail saddles come in a variety of materials and color, allowing you to pick one that speaks to your style.
Ranch saddles are heavyweight, comfortable, and meant for long working hours. They have a deep seat, and have features that prioritize functionality. Like the name implies, this might be a good option for a cattle rancher.
Built for barrel racing competitions, these saddles are lightweight and smaller, allowing the rider to maneuver turns easily while keeping them stable. They have a higher seat and wide swells that allow you to tuck the knees in.
If you like fashion, these are for you. Show saddles are ornately decorated and meant to be shown off in the competition ring. Just like our fashion industry, show saddles have their own trends and endless customizable options. They aren’t great for dirty work, but they sure are pretty.
With around a 12” seat, pony saddles usually fit Shetland and Welsh ponies. They don’t fit full sized horses, so when the rider outgrows the pony, they will need a new saddle (even though the pony saddle is so stinkin’ cute).
These are just a few examples of what’s out there – when you’re serious about buying one, talk to a professional or get some recommendations from someone you trust.
How Do I Fit My Horse’s Saddle?
How you fit your saddle to your horse is just as important as buying the right kind. The wrong technique can interfere with your skill development and put you and your horse into a potentially dangerous situation. Here are a few tips for ensuring the best fit:
Let’s Get Physical
Fitness level, dietary habits, and natural aging will cause changes in the body of your companion. It might not be a bad idea to have a professional saddle fitter examine your horse once a year, or as you see fit.
Stuck in the Middle With You
Make sure that your saddle is centered by placing it on your horse’s back when they’re on flat ground. If it slides, it needs to be readjusted.
Why the Long Saddle?
Western style saddles should go over your horse’s shoulder and cover the lumbar portion of its back. Your weight distribution shouldn’t go beyond their last rib bone, but your saddle should.
Don’t Let Things Get Hairy
After testing the saddle, pull it off and examine how the hair is laying. It should be flattened evenly across the back. Not just along the spine or matted – this could be harmful for your horse.
Enjoy the Ride
The bond you share with your horse is priceless, even though your saddle may not be. Remember that you can’t put a set cost on the comfort and respect of your horse – make sure that you invest in a high-quality option that will meet the expectations of both of you. If you have further questions about the type or fit, professional fitters specialize in this knowledge and would be happy to help you.
When you have questions related to horse health, the team at BRD Vet Rx can offer assistance. Our passion is creating happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives for horses, and we look forward to helping you achieve just that. Give us a call today, and in the meantime – happy trails!