2. Wither Clearance: There needs
to be adequate clearance between the pommel of the saddle and the
horses withers. Ideally we would like 2-3 fingers clearance but
on some horses with high withers that is not always possible. If
a saddle is closer than two fingers then it will have to be closely
monitored and re-flocked more often. If a saddle has no clearance
at the withers it is probably too wide, or needs re-flocking, and
should not ever be used on that horse.
3. Saddle Balance: A saddle needs
to sit level on a horses back. If the saddle is out of balance,
then the lowest spot will carry most of the rider’s weight.
This creates pressure spots which can lead to back soreness and
limit the horses abilities. A level saddle can sometimes be the
hardest part of saddle fit for the untrained eye to see.
4. Angles of the Points of the Tree:
The angle of the points of the saddle need to match the angle of
the horses muscles that they rest on. The points are located in
the front of the saddle, under the flap, in the small, oval pocket
towards the top of the saddle. When a saddle is too narrow the points
aim into the horses back and cause excess pressure. When a saddle
is too wide the points flair out and all of the pressure is concentrated
on the topmost part of the points.
5. Even contact along panels: The
panels need to make even contact all along the horses back. Many
saddles that are too narrow bridge in the middle making no contact
at all. This requires the rest of the saddle to carry all of the
riders weight. Some saddles are too curved up front and back and
this puts too much weight in the middle of the saddle.
6. Gullet Width: The saddle needs
to have adequate width through the channel to ensure there is not
any pressure on the horses spine and connective tissue. Ideally
four fingers of width is best but some horses can tolerate three
depending on their anatomy.
7. Panel Angle: The angle of the
panels needs to match the horses back. On flat backed horses it
is common to have the angle in the back be too steep for the horse.
This puts extra pressure on the outside of the panel sometimes having
a sharp edge digging into the horse. Often this can be corrected
with proper saddle re-flocking.
8. Rocking: A saddle shouldn’t
rock excessively front to back. Usually this is a sign of a saddle
that is too wide or too curved for the horse. Sometimes a horse
anatomy causes rocking and a thorough evaluation and re-flocking
can lesson this problem.
9. Saddle Length: a saddle should
not go beyond the 18th thoracic vertebrae, which is the vertebrae
corresponding with the last rib. Past this vertebra is the lumbar
region, which is the weakest part of the back