The balance of a saddle is crucial for the comfort of horse and rider. When the balance of a saddle is incorrect, it can be uncomfortable, and in some cases painful, for the horse. There are many more adverse effects of unbalanced saddles.
An unbalanced saddle can completely alter how a rider feels in it. For instance, I had a client sit in a saddle on a sawhorse to see how they liked it – before I had it balanced. The customer liked the saddle but wasn’t overly “wowed”. I then leveled the saddle. She got back in the saddle and loved it! She could not believe how different the saddle felt with just a few shims to equalize the balance. The saddle went from being “OK” to “amazing” in a matter of seconds.
A saddle can feel larger or smaller depending on how it is balanced. If a saddle is sitting too low in front it will feel as though it is smaller. This happens because the angle on the block is altered, causing it to become straighter and give the rider less freedom in the saddle. Riders may feel like their hips are being stretched uncomfortably. The reverse happens when a saddle is too high in front, it will feel as though it is larger. The block will have a more forward angle, allowing the rider more freedom and giving them a false sense of how the saddle would feel if it were level. This becomes a problem when someone tries and purchases a saddle that is unbalanced on their horse and once they have a fitter fit the saddle correctly, the saddle no longer feels the way it did when they tried it.
Horses also benefit from a properly fitted saddle. A saddle sitting too low in front can cause rub marks behind the saddle, as the saddle will lift behind, causing friction. In severe cases, when the saddle is sitting very low, it can cause sores on the wither and major pain for the horse. Atrophy of the muscles behind the saddle can be a result of a saddle sitting too high in front. The back of the panels will be angled into the horse’s back, causing uneven pressure, and prevent the horse from using their back correctly. The horse may also appear sore and even develop pressure bumps. Some horses are more sensitive than others to imbalances and pressure points in saddles. Even if the horse isn’t showing signs of their saddle irritating them it should be checked regularly by a saddle fitter.
Sarah is a Certified N2 Saddle Fitter and has been riding since before she could walk. Sarah became intrigued by the influence a saddle could have on a horse and knew the only company she would want to represent was N2 Saddlery. She’s located in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Get in touch with Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org