Tag: equine touch bodywork

Saddle Fit – why it is important for your horse

Why is my horse’s saddle fit so important?

After years of working on horses and helping them with their pain issues, so many times it comes down to incorrect saddle fit when a horse has issues. I offer a free saddle check (as I have studied this along with my bodywork course) with your Equine Touch Consult, as this can help me (& you) see if that is the issue that may be affecting your horse’s performance & causing pain. Then I can either recommend to you that you need a different gullet size, or your saddle is just not right for your horse, or if you need a saddle fitter to adjust your saddle for you or re-flock.

Does your horse misbehave or move around when you saddle up? Your horse will tell you if he does not like a saddle – listen to him/her.

How about his behavior when you first get on? I mean the first 8-10 circles, not after he/she has ‘warmed up’ – as after 20min riding the nerves that the saddle may be pressing on may go numb & then the behavior improves. 

If the nerves at the end of a muscle cannot fire – as they are numb, the horse cannot contract the muscles – then the horse compensates with other muscles & the important muscles atrophy (for example loss of top line). For a capillary to close it only needs 4.66kp of pressure in both skin and muscle. Localized pressure from a saddle and rider usually is higher than 29.8kpa, so you can see how this can cause damage.

Horses are not always 100% symmetrical, why are saddles even/same on both sides? Saddle will slip to the hollow side. Shim used on the hollow side can help keep the saddle straight & balanced.

White patches or white hair in saddle area? This is a sure sign the saddle is causing damage to your horse’s back, this is long term damage & needs a few sessions or regular Equine Touch sessions to help (soft tissue bodywork is needed in this circumstance – not chiro). Saddle fit is needed asap.

Hollow back or U neck? The horse needs to be able to lift his back and engage the thoracic sling, this is achieved with the rider’s correct position and riding ‘light’ in the seat (no matter what size you are). Find a great riding instructor to help you with this.

Front end High heal, low heal syndrome is quite common & this in turn affects your horse’s body. Horse will graze with weaker side leg forward and the weaker side will build more muscles at the shoulder /scapular – as muscle grows bigger when it is stretched. Favorite side will have less muscle (yep opposite to what you think happens).

What side does your horse’s mane fall on? The bigger (weaker) shoulder will then push mane to the opposite side of the neck, so the fall of the mane is on the stronger side.  Seven out of ten horses have a mane to the right, two fall to the left and one splits even on both sides.

Can I just ‘train’ my horse to go straight? No, you cannot just train a horse straight, as bones and muscles develop like that – unbalanced/asymmetrical, especially young horses or horses started before they are 4 years with poor fitting saddles or unbalanced riders or low heal/ high heal syndrome.

Some important things you can check on your saddle are.

Saddle Channel width must be at least a closed fist wide to prevent nerve damage and loss of top line. A narrow channel will pull down on the spinal processes and in turn cause damage to the back and may lead to ‘kissing spine’ issues.

Angle of the tree is just as important as the angel of the gullet over the scapula The scapula moves around 4-6 inchers when the horse moves & you cannot put the saddle that far back, so you must have a saddle with room at the front for the shoulder to move under.  Tight saddles can damage the cartilage on the top of the scapular – this is not repairable. Horse that may refuse to go forward or jack up – may have a saddle that is too tight.

Contact Belinda if you would like to book an Equine Touch session with a free saddle check.

Is your horse in Pain? How to check your horse.

Checking your horse for pain issues is a complicated process that does require an experienced qualified person or vet to make a full assessment. There are things you, the horse owner can do & observe too to check for pain issues. The first sign can be observing your horse in the pasture and when your horse is moving around when being worked on the ground and when being ridden.
Things to look for are.
Are they holding or bracing any part of their body?
Are they limping or look uncomfortable?
Do they have any behavioural issues?
Is there body symmetrical (stand in front of your horse and check the way they hold their head) – does it hang to one side?
Do they cock their tail to the side when being ridden or tail swishing?
Do they rest one leg more than another?
Do their hooves wear unevenly? Or toes drag?

Not sure if you need a bodywork session? Here are a few basic tips you can use to help assess your horse to see if they need a soft tissue bodywork session, please note not all horses will show pain with these checks – its best to employ and practitioner to double check for you. Keep your eye on your horse’s face, ear’s and nose & body posture for any signs of discomfort.
1. Stand your horse on a level surface. Tie your horse up or have someone hold your horse for you.
2. Slowly run your hands over the horse and feel for hot or cold areas or any areas that may have a reaction.
3. Pick up each leg and feel for any tightness or restrictions.
4. Press your thumb or finger firmly into the areas with the arrows (see photo)
5. Run your fingernail or tip of a pen lid (you need something pointy) in the head to tail (caudal direction) or top to bottom, along the yellow lines.
6. Run your finger firmly along the green lines in a caudal direction.
What reactions do you get? Did you horse twitch or move? Did your horse throw his head or try to kick or bite? Did you feel any tight or cold areas? Did you see any nerves twitch?
Please seek professional help if you are unsure how to check your horse. Definity book a soft tissues bodywork session with your local practitioner.
Please feel free to ask Belinda during an Equine Touch session how to check your horse’s pain or how to help prevent pain issues. Free Saddle check and basic check with your Equine Touch session.