There is a plethora of information about saddles out there. Some of it is really good—I recommend using the site www.balanceinternational.com as one of your primary guides. If you read the early writings done by Carol Brett about the physiology and kinesiology of horses and how that relates to saddles, you’ll learn most of what you need to know.
So, let’s not dive into that right now.
Let’s talk about three basics, in order of importance as I see it:
LET THE SHOULDERS MOVE FREELY: the two photos at right are classic “what not to do” images. The front flap of the saddle is sitting squarely over the horse’s shoulder, and so any free movement of the shoulders will be severely limited. If you’re walking along and swinging your arms freely, imagine someone poking you behind your shoulder blades every time your arm swings back. Pretty soon you won’t swing your arms for fear of being poked. This is the mistake I see most frequently and help my clients resolve all the time. This issue is closely related to
PUTTING THE GIRTH IN THE RIGHT PLACE:
Here’s a video of my Thoroughbred mare walking along with a Western stock saddle with the saddle and girth places properly. You can see the saddle sitting behind the full rotation of her shoulder blade, and the girth position a hand’s width behind the elbow. She’s able to walk along and stretch her neck down comfortably.
THE SADDLE SHOULD BE SHORT ENOUGH TO KEEP IT OFF THE LUMBAR SPINE.
A good rule of thumb here is to keep the back of the saddle in front of or just at the line of the flank whorl when the hair heads down toward the horse’s belly. Just follow the hairs down and check your saddle position. This is especially true for English saddles. You may have more leeway with a Western saddle and I’ll revisit this when I have more information and better photos. The main concept is to keep the saddle sitting in front of the horse’s lumbar spine.
THINK MOGUL SKIING:
Many of you who follow me are from mountain states. A good mogul skier is very quiet with the upper body and very busy with the lower body.
A good saddle should allow you to sit quietly on your horse while the horse can move freely underneath you:
Here you can see Skigh moving happily and easily underneath me in a beautifully collected frame. I am helping her here with my hand position, and I will talk about that in later posts. What I want you to notice here is the ease and flow between us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!