Fatigue and Saddle Fit--The Stealthy Swindler of Strength and Stamina
Have you ever gone to, say, a wedding and worn shoes that look great but are uncomfortable? As you dance the night away, you begin to not only feel the discomfort in your feet and maybe legs from the shoes, but an overall fatigue that you feel is more than usual. It's the shoes girls and boys! Now, imagine running a race in those shoes with someone on your back.
The same thing happens for horses when they are ridden in a saddle that is pinching, causing pressure points, and/or lacking the flexibility to allow their muscles to move in the way they are supposed to.
I feel that a lot of the talks I see and hear around saddle fit are very technical and often fail to take a couple of important things into consideration.
1. The first thing I mentioned. Physical fatigue! It's the silent ghost of saddle fitting issues. Your horse will not be as energetic under saddle, especially on longer, tougher rides as they should and could be. Even if you know your horse is physically in shape, well, and sound, if your saddle is causing discomfort or outright pain, it absolutely affects their endurance and overall performance.
2. Discomfort under saddle takes a toll on your horse beyond the physical! They can, and do, suffer from mental and emotional fatigue caused by an ill-fitting saddle. Their fight or flight kicks into higher gear, and they can become more reactive. Their overall enjoyment of the ride becomes palpable. Now, it's true that just as with people, some horses are more stoic than others. That's not to say that these things aren't happening. It's just not expressed physically.
It's important to evaluate your saddle's fit periodically, to ensure the saddle you're asking your horse to carry you in is not doing them a disservice. You'll likely be surprised by how much enjoyable the ride is for you when you are confident your trusty steed is having just as much fun as you!
Spring is the perfect time to evaluate your saddle's fit, and give everything a good once-over safety inspection. Click below to read a simple and logical series of tests you can run to help evaluate your saddle's fit. Also, our horses can't speak, so we have to tune into them to hear what they have to say about their saddle, too!
We wish you all many happy and smooth trails!