Signs That Your Saddle Fit Is Bothering Your Horse

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When you ride your horse on a daily basis, proper saddle fit is very important to keeping your horse comfortable and performing at his best. But do you know how to recognize the signs that your saddle fit is bothering your horse? Here are some of the most common signs that you should keep an eye out for.

Discomfort When Being Saddled

If a saddle is a poor fit for a horse, the horse may exhibit signs of discomfort while he’s being saddled. Arching his back up and walking with a hunched back directly after being saddled is a surefire sign that your saddle doesn’t fit, or that your horse’s back is painful and is bothering him.

Some horses exhibit “girthiness,” pinning their ears and biting when the girth is tightened. This can also indicate poor saddle fit, though it may also indicate that your horse is suffering from stomach ulcers.

Misbehavior Under Saddle

Pain is a major cause of poor behavior under saddle. When a saddle doesn’t fit well, your horse may buck, rear, and otherwise misbehave. Again, these can also be symptoms of ulcers in a horse, so it’s important to get to the root cause of the problem.

Poor Performance Under Saddle

When a horse’s saddle doesn’t fit well, it’s difficult for him to perform to the best of his abilities. Poor saddle fit may culminate in a shorter, choppier stride as your horse tries to lessen the pain that the saddle exerts on his back. Some horses suck back and refuse to move forward, while others may have trouble traveling on circles and may fall inwards when asked to bend their bodies.


In cases where a saddle causes extreme pain to a horse, he may even come up lame. If a saddle pinches your horse’s back or sits directly on his spine, this can be enough to cause him to try to compensate with another area of his body. Overcompensation results in increased muscle tension and can lead to lameness.

Back Rubs

If a saddle is a poor fit, you may notice that it begins to pinch or rub your horse’s back. Areas of your horse’s back may be missing hair, and if a saddle pinches, it may cause the hair in that area to turn white.

If you suspect that your saddle fit is bothering your horse, it’s time to bring in a professional. Enlisting the help of a saddle fitter can identify areas where the saddle is or isn’t working for your horse. Some saddles may be flocked to improve their fit, while truly poorly fitting saddles will need to be replaced in order to keep your horse comfortable and performing well.

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