REMEDIAL SADDLE FITTING
Horses can require remedial saddle fitting for several reasons, many people underestimate the importance of a well-fitting saddle, most back problems in horses are caused by badly fitting saddles, which over time may cause pain, discomfort and muscle wastage, sometimes resulting in behavioural problems, lameness and poor performance.
What would cause my horse to be called a Remedial Horse?
Previous ill-fitting tack, this can sometimes result in white hairs, muscle atrophy and even behaviour problems.
Injury that has caused uneven muscle development.
Poor conformation for saddle fitting.
Crooked riders can cause over time uneven muscle development or muscle atrophy.
Arthritis or similar ongoing health issues that have caused the horse or rider to compensate in his or her movement, which may in turn over time result in the saddle being moved to one side while being ridden.
Dealing with the remedial horse
If the horse or rider is crooked they will need to be treated by a back specialist.
Some horses will need a period of postural correctional work which is often best done in-hand rather than ridden.
The horse may require a ‘correction/remedial’ saddle pad with sheepskin or high performance foams while the back repairs. As the horse’s back starts to repair they may become sensitive as the blood flow returns to the damaged muscles.
The saddle will need regular checks as the horse’s back repairs, some will change in a matter of weeks, and some will take considerably longer. We advise getting the fitter out as soon as you notice any changes, this can mean saddle checks and adjustment every 8 – 12 weeks until the wastage is repaired. If you wish to minimise costs then please consider point 2 and an in-hand programme before having a saddle fitted.
What to expect
Firstly, not all horses do repair, but with patience and the help of your saddle fitter, equine bodyworker/back specialist and trainer and looking at how you can help influence the horse, most horses do improve and some completely repair. As your horse develops more muscle in the damaged areas, he may become sensitive as the blood flow returns. It sometimes helps to have massage work carried out on your horse while he repairs, or to practise stretching exercises (carrot stretches etc.) with your horse every day. If your horse has had chiropractic work done to straighten out unevenness this may need repeating in a few months to keep on top of the problem.
Some horses’ muscles can change considerably in a matter of weeks, sometimes it can be very slow and gradual; it depends on the horses breed, the way it is worked and the amount of work that it does. If the horse has damage under the saddle area, the front can often repair first, so if the saddle starts to tip backwards, ask the saddle fitter to visit and if needed to adjust the saddle or remedial saddle pad. The area at the back of the saddle can sometimes repair last, once that has repaired, the saddle should be checked as it might need to be totally re-flocked to fit the new shape of the horses back as the top line appears, it could also need to be widened or the saddle may ultimately need replacing.
By Andrea Hicks
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