Evaluating saddle fit analysis

New developments in saddle analysis can help you determine if a horse's sore back is due to poor-fitting tack.
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Feb 01, 2013

Ten years ago dvm360 (then DVM Newsmagazine) published an article called "Saddle Fit" (April 2002), with a 10-step process providing veterinarians and owners a way to objectively evaluate saddle fit. That article was written largely in response to a horse owner's letter that questioned a perceived gap in understanding and attention paid to horses' backs between horse owners and trainers and the equine veterinary community.


PHIL SCHERMEISTER, GETTY IMAGES
It was hoped that having a practical means of saddle fit evaluation would enable more veterinarians and their clients to better determine if a horse's issues were saddle-related or not—and perhaps close the gap between the two groups. The article ended with the statement, "Saddle fit analysis remains a difficult area that is changing rapidly," and the article expressed hope that this topic would be increasingly embraced by equine veterinarians.

Now, a decade later, it would be nice to report that everyone is on the same page. Although more veterinary attention has been turned toward the area of saddle fit, as evidenced by studies investigating the influence of saddle tree width, saddle pad thickness and even individual saddle types,1-3 there still seems to be a disagreement about the actual importance of saddle fit influences on training, behavior and performance.

Additionally, saddle fit analysis itself has become much more complex and technical. The use of thermography and matrix-based tactile surface sensor pads with computer analysis to evaluate saddle fit and equine back problems has made it possible to be more definitive about the exact interaction between horse and saddle. But these modalities have also left the average horse owner just as confused and frustrated as he or she was a decade ago.