Many more people are right-handed than left-handed; in horses it seems to be more prevalent the other way around. Generally it is the left shoulder which is more muscled and usually better developed, however, asymmetry of any kind in the horse needs to be accommodated for when fitting the saddle. (The ongoing argument is often whether this is due to nature vs. nurture – we are proponents of this being due to ‘nature’ but this could be the subject for many more articles!)
A saddle which may seemingly fit perfectly when the horse is standing still in the crossties may begin to shift when the horse begins to move. If the horse’s left shoulder is the one that is more muscled and perhaps also higher than the right then what will happen is that the saddle will be slowly pushed to the right. This will cause it to then pinch over the lumbar vertebrae and potentially cause subluxations over the Sacro-Iliac joint on the left . This will cause the rider to compensate by then shifting her body weight even more to the left in order not to ‘fall over’ onto the right with the saddle – a phenomenon often seen even with top riders when they are photographed from the rear.
It is important to ensure that the gullet plate of the saddle can be adjusted to accommodate the asymmetry by being wide enough over the bigger shoulder to match the width and the angle. If the saddle cannot be adjusted in this way (and many can’t), then the saddle should always be bought to fit the larger shoulder and shimmed over the smaller one to avoid any twisting.
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!