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Saddle fit
Ten-step process can end client confusion, provide horse with important competitive edge; growing area for veterinarians' expertise


Step 8-Shifting The saddle should not shift excessively from side-to-side or up-and-down. Sometimes shifting is a function of either the horse or the rider's symmetry, however, and not the saddle. Changes to the panels, shims or other measures can be taken to help such shifting and the veterinarian's attention to any other balance issues for the horse is also important.

Step 9- Seat length The saddle should never go behind the 18th thoracic vertebrae, which corresponds to the last rib. Behind the 18th vertebrae are the lumbar vertebrae that are quite weak and not designed to support weight.

Step 10- Horse response It is important to not lose sight of "the big picture" while paying attention to the sometimes technical aspects of saddle fit. Watch the horse's response to the saddle. Watch its ears and body language. Carefully evaluate its movement with and without the saddle. The horse is, after all, the best evaluator of saddle fit and will give you an honest indication of a properly fitting saddle.

These 10 steps can provide an objective assessment of saddle fit and will enable the equine practitioner to do a much more thorough job of saddle analysis. This method of technical analysis will also promote more detailed evaluation of the role of tack in equine locomotion and lameness. There are computer-assisted devices that evaluate saddle forces as well. These can be used as riders actually ride and jump courses. Thermography is helping with saddle analysis as well since scanning a saddle after use shows increases and decreases in heat that correspond to differences in force and pressure between the saddle and the horse's back. This thermographic fingerprint of saddle contact can be very useful in determining fit and possible problems. Digital camera analysis will soon offer still more information on symmetry and balance as the horse and rider move together and this novel perspective will undoubtedly teach us new things about saddle fit.

Saddle fit analysis remains a difficult area that is changing rapidly.

It should be an area that is embraced by equine veterinarians and incorporated into sports medicine evaluations.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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