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    The Right Saddle: Will it Fix My Horse's Back?

    Many people ask me questions about saddle fit while I am in the process of evaluating their horse for back issues. While I have some basic knowledge about saddle fitting, I do not consider myself an expert on saddle fit. However, since I do consider myself an expert on the spine and saddles sit more or less right on the spine, I feel qualified to offer useful information relating back issues to saddle fitting. In case expert opinions are needed, I refer to a number of people whose entire business is saddles and saddle fit.

    Every horse owner should be aware of at least some saddle fitting basics: Make sure there are no areas of white hair developing under the saddle, which would indicate a pressure point. Check the horse’s coat for uneven distribution of sweat after a ride, which can indicate unevenness of saddle fit, or musculoskeletal imbalances in the back. The saddle should ideally be designed for your particular breed, taking into account variation of such things as withers dimensions. I also like to advise owners to make sure the saddle is not too far forward and hitting the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). To check this, find the furthest rearward point of the bone you can feel below the withers area. Put two fingers side by side just behind this point, and this should be the distance to the front of the saddle contact. 

    Many people upon suspecting that there horse has a back problem or back soreness rush out to spend money on a custom fit saddle. This is a mistake. Why? Because when the custom fit saddle that you just spent several thousand dollars on fails to fix your horse’s back problems, you will hopefully find out about how Joint and Muscle Release Technique can help. When I perform this corrective procedure on your horse’s back, I am actually going to change things. Unbalanced muscles will even out, vertebral segments that appear “out of alignment” will line up better, postural asymmetries will be corrected, and the horse will have better overall weight distribution. We will assume of course that a spinal-related issue has been located and is the primary cause of these problems.

    So now what happens to that expensive custom fit saddle you just had fit to your horse’s uneven back? It actually may no longer fit very well. Besides, it wasn’t going to solve the problem anyway. Indeed, many custom saddle-fitters are beginning to tell horse owners: “Fix the horse’s back problems before you fit a saddle to their back”.  

    Hopefully, I just saved you some money, so go ahead and treat yourself to those boots.


    Contact Dr. Michael Reuben at  Dr. Reuben has a mobile equine therapeutic treatment service in the Southern California area, including Canyon Country to Agoura Hills, Moorpark to Visalia and beyond.  Please call 661-313-3303 for more information.

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