Is The Saddle The Problem?

Understanding general principles can help farriers confirm or eliminate causes of lameness

As farriers, we are aware that poor fitting horseshoes can cause discomfort and lameness in horses. Unfortunately, many farriers do not realize that poor fitting saddles can cause lameness, gait faults, shoeing problems and even personality problems.

Unless farriers have the opportunity to see the horses they are shoeing while being ridden, they will be blind to the problems that ill-fitting saddles cause.

It is not necessary to be a master saddle fitter to determine that a saddle doesn’t fit properly. However, understanding the general principles of saddle fitting will help farriers either confirm or eliminate that as a problem. This determination is important to avoid unnecessarily changing shoeing and trimming to fix a problem that’s caused by something else.

Many times farriers are blamed for lameness or movement problems that are being caused by a poor fitting saddle. These problems are:

  • Lack of forward impulsion.
  • Actual lameness and injury.
  • Unwilling to turn in tight circles.
  • Refusing to jump.
  • Failure to do extended gaits.

An improperly fit saddle can also put the rider in an unbalanced position, which can cause movement problems and lameness. For example, a saddle that pitches the rider backward will eventually cause back problems, which will change the hind end stance.

Assuring A Reasonable Saddle Fit

Saddle Fit

A saddle that fits well should not have any negative influence on how a horse moves. It should not leave any rub marks or uneven sweat patterns. It also should keep the rider in a balanced position. A saddle that…

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Steve kraus 2

Steve Kraus

Steve Kraus, CJF, is Cornell University’s head of farrier services and senior lecturer for large animal surgery. He has been a farrier for more than 45 years.

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