Three years is recognized as being the optimum age for a horse to be started under saddle – with its three-dimensional back shape undergoing major changes in muscular conformation between the ages of 3, 5 and 8, affecting the saddle support area. The topline changes, the withers come up, and the shoulders broaden (upwards and back). The gullet plate of the saddle should be positioned at the base of the withers on the trapezius muscle. If the gullet plate has not been adjusted to fit properly with 2-3 fingers width all around the front of the pommel (not just at the top!), and the tree points fit to match the necessary width and angle of the shoulder blade, the horse will often exhibit resistant behaviour. This area at the withers is where the stallion bites the mare during mating to ‘immobilize’ her, but the reaction is the same for any horse, regardless of sex. The instinctive response is for the horse to stand still, drop its back – and in the mare – to rotate the pelvis in preparation for breeding. Yet the rider on top (often unaware of the influence of the gullet plate and tree points) urges the horse forward. The horse wants to do as the rider asks, yet instinctively also wants to react to what it is feeling – with the result that the rider feels resistance and calls the horse ‘stubborn’. Saddles that are adjustable in both tree angle and tree width can be adjusted to accommodate the wider U shaped wither muscle, allowing both proper muscular development and freedom of movement at the shoulder.
Jochen Schleese, Certified Master Saddler and Saddle Ergonomist developed the Saddlefit 4 Life 80 point diagnostic evaluation to help you and your horse achieve optimal saddle fit! Book a Saddlefit 4 Life Educational event for your group!