"My horse just won't go in anything else"
SCIENCE OF SADDLE FIT
There are several negative reflex points on every horse and we will just explain a few here which are relevant to saddle fit. These reflex points or ‘pain points’ when stimulated (by pressure from a saddle for example) will cause an involuntary reflex in the horse (similar to when the doctor taps your knee).
After approximately 15 minutes of continued pressure it is possible to deaden or numb these nerves. This is why many horses require a lengthy ‘warm up’ before they will start to soften and work into a contact.
CN11 or The Thoracic Trapezius
Location - approximately 10cms down from top of withers on either side.
Reflex/Affect – Pressure here will cause the horse to dip away, hollow his back and raise his head.
L1 or The Bucking Button
Location – The first lumbar vertebra just beyond the last thoracic vertebra (where the last rib joins the spine)
Reflex/Affect – Pressure here will cause the horse to dip and hollow away from the pressure, may cause bucking, hind limbs may not step through/track up.
Spinal Process/Supraspinious Ligament
Location – The delicate structure running along the center of the horses back
Reflex/Affect - Pressure here will cause the horse to dip away, hollow his back and raise his head.
Location – Shoulder Blade.
Reflex/Affect – increased heart rate, inability to fully rotate shoulder, potential cartilage damage.
Circle of Influence
Your horse is your friend, your partner and your responsibility. It is important to consider all aspects of the horses Circle of Influence to ensure we keep our friend happy, healthy and strong for as long as possible.
Understanding how we Influence our Horse
Poor horse management – lack of regular feet/farrier visits, lack of regular teeth rasping, lack of outdoor/grazing & socializing time, lack or veterinary care
Poor Saddle Fit and/or Ill Fitting Tack
Inappropriate workload for horses’ fitness level,
Poor Riding Style – Using excessive force, unsympathetic hands
Poor Training Techniques – failure to teach the horse how to carry a rider (hollow back, lack of engagement)
Good horse management: Regular worming as well as feet, teeth & veterinary visits. Regular ‘outdoor time’ to socialize and ‘be a horse’.
Correct Saddle/Tack Fit
Appropriate Workload for fitness level
Good Riding Style – Riding softly, in balance and ‘with’ the horse
Good Training Techniques – Educating (or re-educating) the horse how to carry a rider (Engagement with a strong, supple and lifted back)
It is also important to understand that a change in one area of the circle of influence may cause changes in other areas.
A horse in pain will often raise his head and hollow his back.
Pressure on reflex points will also cause this hollow outline
This outline is typical of a horse who is dipping away from saddle pain
Our horse needs to learn how to stretch and soften into a soft contact, strengthening the back takes time and correct training techniques
When we first sit on a horse he will dip his back in response to the extra weight. It is our job as the rider to teach the horse how to carry us, he was not born with this knowledge.
Failure to educate and strengthen the horse correctly will result in pain, altered gaits and long term damage.
Over time and with a correctly fitting saddle, a balanced rider and correct training the horse builds up strength in his topline and has the ability to carry a rider, remain in balance and move effectively so as not to cause excessive strain on joints, ligaments or tendons.