In the equine patient that is experiencing chronic back pain and/or poor performance, the culprit is often an ill- fitting saddle. Since the advent of equine chiropractic and studying causes of associated back pain, one of the most consistent offenders is the saddle. Saddles have been around for thousands of years and play a very important part in the use and enjoyment of the horse.
The saddle serves two major functions, first for the rider it gives something to hold on to and stabilize its rider on the horses back as well as attaching items to the saddle. For the horse, it serves as a method to distribute and stabilize weight over the back muscles so as to protect the back from injury. The saddle therefore serves two dynamics, i.e. it must fit the rider as well as the horse. This is where the problem often occurs. It has often been said, the art of saddle making has never been finer, and the art of saddle fitting is all but lost. This is largely due to lack of understanding the anatomy and physiology of the equine back. In earlier years, the horse was the major form of transportation and economic production therefore it was often a matter of life and death to take proper care of the horse and thus preserve the productivity of the animal. Later on in these modern times, the horse has been used mostly for recreational purposes; therefore the saddle has become more designed for the rider than the horse as well as often being mass produced. Also during this time, the horse’s conformation has changed in most breeds due to selective breeding practices. In many cases the modern horse is wider especially through the withers and upper back area than its predecessors. Unfortunately, most saddles have not kept up with these changes and are found to be too narrow, thus causing a pinching problem over those areas. When the horse experiences pain in any area, back included, it will compensate and thus use its legs and back in abnormal ways so it can still get around as pain free as possible. Eventually, the horse can become lame and / or have back issues, due to compensating, thus preventing it from performing at its best.
Dr. Howard does saddle fitting as part of his practice. A saddle Tech. Gauge is used to measure the arc and angle of the horses back and compare with the saddle(s) being used. He also walks the owner through saddle fitting not using a gauge so the horseman can evaluate on his/her own as to a proper fitting saddle for future reference.
If you have concerns that your saddle isn’t fitting properly or suspect your horses back is sore, please feel free to contact us at (503) 585-6701 we will be happy to assist you.