Question: I have recently bought a used english saddle for my Quarter Pony. I don’t know much about saddles and fitting them, but I have figured out that the saddle is pinching my pony’s withers. I’ve only used it two times, and I really don’t want to go sell it and then try to find a new one. The saddle fits me and my pony well, besides the pinching of the withers. I have found out that it pinches her, because when I was riding her the other day, both times she dropped down and rolled while I was riding her. I jumped off her back and got out of the way, so I’m perfectly fine, but I’m just worried about my pony’s care. The first time she did that, I thought she was just tired and she didn’t want to work anymore, so I didn’t think anything about it. But the second time she did it, I started to wonder. So I tried to stick my hand under the side of her saddle, by her withers, and it was really hard to get my hand under there. So now I know it’s pinching her.
So my main question is, is there something I could put in between the saddle blanket and the saddle so it will raise the saddle up a bit? Or do I have to get a brand new saddle? If I need to get a new one, could you please give me some tips on how to know if it’s fitting right or not? I get confused on the many different theories and I’m just hopping that yours will be easy to understand and helpful.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to help out a stranger. I’m so thankful for your help.
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: Your pony may be dropping and rolling from 2 other causes other than the saddle: 1. Wanting to roll and 2. Colic. Horses and ponies don’t usually roll from a pinched saddle. It comes out by displays of pinned ears and aggressive behavior while saddling, or the unwillingness to move forward. A pinched wither is a serious problem, and your horse or pony will show some serious signs. Having said that, she may prove me wrong. I’m just going over other reasons for the rolling.
If she rolls when you ride bareback, you either have a behavior problem or a colic problem. Colic however won’t go away the second she gets up, so if she continues to roll, and starts to sweat, call a vet.
To start with, make sure your saddle blanket is completely flat on her. Any wrinkles or bumps will cause sores and pinching.
To feel for a saddle pinching at the front, you should be able to run your hand through the entire front of the saddle without any difference in pressure points. Move your hand to the back and feel for space or pressure there also. Check to see if the saddle clears her wither at least 1-½ inches (min.).
If you feel pressure on the front and the back, with a big space in the middle, that is called ‘bridging’ (acts like a bridge) and it will put excess pressure on the withers and kidney areas.
When you look at an English saddle from the front, you will find it flares out. This is to allow the shoulder to move back when the front leg moves forward. Many close contact saddles do not have this flare, and often pinch the horse. Make sure when you put your saddle on that you do not put it too forward. It’s a common mistake for English riders to do. The saddle must not sit on the shoulder blade when the horse is standing. Move it back an inch or so and see how that fits. Put your hand up and feel for the shoulder. If the saddle is sitting on it, move the saddle back until the shoulder is free.
I know you don’t want to buy another saddle, but there is no way to alleviate the problem of a poor fitting saddle. When you try to adjust in one place, the rest of the saddle now has problems. You just trade one problem area for another. Over time, it can erode the back muscles and that damage is permanent.
If you feel space – even space with no pressure (pinching), have you thought of a gel pad? I use them a lot, especially since I’m jumping from one horse to another daily. They take a bit of pressure off the back area and help make the horse more comfortable. Not as good as a proper fitting saddle but the best help I can suggest. The main thing is for the saddle to clear her withers, especially when you are sitting up there.
I think that you should try to not let her roll when you are on her. Keep her moving if she tries. I like to unsaddle my horses and let them out to roll as they please. That way they know there’s a roll coming at the end of the ride, not while I’m on.