The cold season is in full swing, and that means your horse’s saddle might be fitting a bit differently. Here’s how to assess and readjust it accordingly.
When it’s cold, riding is often the last thing you want to do. But who can resist the lure of bright sunshine, crisp air and quality time with their best friend? The cold weather really shouldn’t change your routine too much – remember that your horse looks forward to his time with you no matter what the season! There will, however, be some differences in his metabolism and physiology that will impact his comfort under saddle.
Now that your horse has adapted to winter, it’s highly likely his conformation and coat are very different from what they were before the temperature dropped. Of course, if you’re one of those lucky riders who live in a temperate climate all year round, this might not be the case. But no matter where you live, we still recommend that you have your saddle fit checked twice a year – once in the spring just before competition season begins, and again in the fall as you change your training patterns. If it’s been a while since you’ve checked it, there’s no time like the present!
Fitting a saddle does not just involve reflocking; the gullet plate may also need to be adjusted. You should be able to change not only the angle (as is the case with many “do-it-yourself” interchangeable gullet plates) but also the width. You need to ensure there’s a minimum of two to three fingers’ worth of space all around the withers – not just at the top – so there’s enough room for the shoulders to come up and back through (like a sliding door) when the horse is in motion. If the saddle is too tight at the withers in the gullet channel, don’t add an extra pad. It’s easy to assume that this “quick fix” will prevent rubbing, but in reality it’s like wearing another pair of socks when the shoes are already too small.
It doesn’t take long for a horse to lose muscle mass, which is why his conformation can change so drastically in a very short time. This is especially true if you give him time off in the winter. It makes sense, then, that a saddle that fit well during performance season might not fit optimally by the time winter rolls around. In the spring when you begin riding more regularly, the reverse will happen. As your horse gains muscle, his saddle will become too tight, causing him to develop performance issues due to pain. Schedule two saddle fit checkups with a professional every year to ensure your horse stays as comfortable as possible no matter the season!
For more tips, check out schleese.com/saddle-fitting-eguide/.