Recently I've had conversations with a few folks who were experiencing tripping, stumbling and other things such as horses appearing distant, unwilling or sore. Each had different descriptions of what was happening and all had been given, as we might expect, a wide variety of courses of action to correct the problems. Of course each case could be examined separately, and a wide variety of human related things can be the cause of horses tripping, forging, being sore, uninterested, etc. I shared the link to my post, "Reconnecting Your Horse To Her Feet" If you've not seen it, I invite you to have a look.
We talk often of the importance of "saddle fit." Unfortunately saddle fit is, and always will be a challenging endeavor. And costly too. But they are our horses, entrusted to our care, and few things are as important as a correctly fitting saddle. I'm often surprised at the money folks are willing to spend on all sorts of horse related items, including trucks and trailers, and of course buying a horse, but are so reluctant to spend the money it takes to get the most important piece of tack perfect.
In saddle fit we all know about room over the withers, sort of. We all know about clearance for the spine, sort of. Some folks know about rocking and bridging. Most of us know about tracing the withers so we get the tree width correct, sort of. Many know about proper flocking, and the proper length of a saddle. What about saddle pitching?
I had the opportunity to see the photo of one of the folks whose horse was tripping, sitting her horse. As the photo opened, I noted the posture of the rider's head and shoulders, not bad, but slightly off. The horse had its head down low; the rider had a firm hold on the reins, her legs tight, her pelvis tilted forward. The saddle pitched ever so slightly downhill, forward. Admittedly it was just a photo snapped for fun and none of us are ever posed as we would like to be. However, the not level saddle caused inverted posture of the rider, and this would be a constant in that saddle, or any saddle that pitches out of level.
The tipping forward saddle will not only hurt the horse, but makes it impossible for a rider to find their neutral seat. That is, the pelvis will tip front, inverting the spine, causing the rider to sit and ride inverted. In a natural attempt to compensate for that, it is necessary to put too much pressure in the stirrups and that transfers negative energy through the rider's body, and the horse's. The rider's inverted posture will cause the horse to go inverted, causing trips, stumbles, loss of focus and soreness and breakdown.
You can learn a lot about the neutral position from the books of Peggy Cummings and Sally Swift.
Can you shim a saddle to make it level? Yes, however that should be a temporary fix. Shims all have a start and stop possibly causing pressure points, and they can move. It only takes five pounds of pressure per square inch to stop the blood flow to the capillaries in a horse's back.
|Sorry, this is the best pic I have for this. But even here, you can see, if you look at the saddle seat how it sits level on Kessy's back. Look at the bottom of the seat, (you have to ignore the sheepskin)back to front and you'll see the level line.|
How can you check if your saddle is level? With your horse standing squarely, and level, let your eyes trace over the seat. From a few feet back, standing at the side, look softly at the seat from back to front. You'll notice if it is pitched forward if you look for the imaginary line running through the center of the seat. English or western. If a western type saddle, the cantle and horn can confuse you, it's best to look at the seat. Be sure to hold your horse in this inspection gaze, too.
Out of level saddles can be the cause of a lot of unhealthy problems for rider and horse. If when riding you feel as if you need to use your legs too much to sit comfortably, if you think you are having a difficult time finding your neutral seat, your saddle is most likely pitching. It will invert your hips. Your inverted posture will cause your horse to become inverted, and that is really bad for both of you.
Hope this helps! ~ Gitty Up, Dutch Henry