Of course, I was especially interested in the horse’s saddle support area at the clinic and how the saddle affects the horse. She showed us over and over again how everything is connected with fascia. Since a large part of the saddle support area is covered with fascia which communicates to the brain 4 times faster than the nervous system, she thought that a saddle pad that distributes the pressure out horizontally really was a huge benefit to the horse.
Here are a few clips that I took regarding the damage we can cause our horses with the saddles.
NERVE DAMAGE AND MUSCLE ATROPHY
If your horse’s neck dips in front of the withers or hollows out behind the withers, this is muscle wastage or muscle atrophy. Under the trapezius and the top of the shoulder are the spinalis and rhomboid muscles. When the horse is using himself correctly these muscles will develop and the horse will have a nice round top line. If the horse is not carrying himself correctly which will also result in many other problems, the muscle will not develop.
I often see saddles that pinch and prevent the horse from carrying himself correctly.
Although, the saddle doesn’t sit on the nerve it does branch out like little tree roots all over the shoulder and finally ending somewhere behind the shoulder. Every horse is different.
In this video, Dr. Ivana Ruddock showed us how trapezius muscle atrophy can be caused by saddles, blankets, pulling collars or breast collars putting pressure on cranial nerve 11.
- Your saddle will slide back because the shoulders will be pushing it out of the way
- The shoulder cartilage can be damaged if the girth or breast collar is too tight and won’t allow the saddle to move
- The horse may be tripping
- The rhomboid and trapezius muscle may become atrophied
- The horse may appear to be off or is actually lame
- The horse could be resistant to pick up a lead
- The horse may refuse to jump
- The horse may become anxious when riding down hill
- The horse may form large shoulders and large holes on the sides of the withers
- The horse may develop ringbone, sidebone or navicular
The saddle tree should rest on the muscles behind the shoulder and must allow enough room for the top of the shoulder blade and cartilage to pass through under the front of the saddle with each step. And the billets must be in the right place so the saddle actually stays there. Horses that jump especially need this room since they need to have both shoulders up and back at the same time. Sadly, it is the jumpers that have the least room because the little bit of room they do have is filled in with half pads.
Western saddle trees are longer and will sometimes slightly overlap the shoulder in the front and the lumbar in the rear. The saddle tree must have the proper shape to allow the shoulders to move freely and flare away in the rear. This means that most of the rider’s weight is in the same area as the english saddle in the middle. Sadly, most western saddles bridge which means all the weight is on the front of the bars and the rear of the bars, right where it is not supposed to be.
In this video, Dr. Ivana Ruddock showed us the top of the shoulder and the cartilage.