A recent British study by the Animal Health Trust found that many riders are using improper tack, resulting in improper saddle position, which has potential to cause problems for both themselves and their horses.

In the study, a group of 12 individuals with varying degrees of horse expertise assessed side-on photos of 34 randomly selected horses and riders. The riders included a mix of amateurs and professionals.

The study found that 12% of riders were properly aligned, indicating a well-fitted saddle. However, 59% of the riders assessed were considered too big for their saddles and 41% appeared to be sitting too far back.

According to an article by HorseTalk.co.nz, Dr. Sue Dyson, head of clinical orthopedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust, this misalignment can be problematic for the rider’s balance and the way their weight distributes in comparison to the horse’s center of gravity.

Dyson presented this study’s findings at the National Equine Forum in the U.K., where she explained that there are many reasons for ill-fitting saddles. She cited that saddles are not often fitted with both horse and rider in mind and that they are not checked regularly enough for proper fit.

Dyson also acknowledged that the cost of correctly fitting tack can be prohibitive, but brought up that a proper saddle can save owners money on the future vet bills that could result from injuries due to a poorly fitted saddle.

A well-fitting saddle is crucial for a horse and rider to perform well together. Improperly fitted saddles may cause lameness.

In order to combat this issue and improve equine welfare, Dyson emphasizes the importance of training and education for saddlers and owners across the board.

Dyson released an informational leaflet to empower owners to check the fit of their own saddles, which can be found here.