When shopping for a saddle it’s easy to focus on just the rider, but the saddle needs to be fitted to the horse, as well. A poor fitted saddle will be uncomfortable and can cause a ton of physical and behavioral issues. Some of the effects will be seen immediately, while others may not appear for many weeks or months. Keep a lookout for these signs to make sure your horse isn’t suffering.
- Bucking, bolting, and rearing: Does your horse do any of the following while you’re riding? Yes, it might be him acting naughty, but it could also be caused from discomfort. Your saddle could be pinching his back or rubbing a sensitive area raw.
- Trouble tacking up: It can be obvious to tell when a horse is unhappy during tacking up time. He might try to bite or kick you. It could also be more subtle though, such as running from you in the field or pinning his ears back.
- A sore back: If you notice sore marks on his back, than you definitely need to check the fit of your saddle. He might also be sensitive to you touching his back and flinch or swish his tail.
- One-sided: A badly fitted saddle can cause your horse to become one-sided. He could have problems picking up the correct lead in the lope or get very hallow while going a certain direction. It might be harder to post his trot while bending a certain way.
- Hills: Going up, down, or sometimes both ways can cause discomfort if the saddle isn’t fitted right. He will try to avoid hills or slow down/speed up uncontrollably.
No rider wants to cause unnecessary pain to their horse. If checked in the beginning, saddles can be adjusted or swapped out to ensure the perfect match. Look for the obvious signs, but don’t forget some can be more subtle.