How can I be sure my tack is not irritating my horse?
We talk a lot about saddle fit and how uncomfortable that can make your horse. But what about some other parts of his tack that may be bothering him? Time to take a thorough look around and see if it’s all good, or if you can improve on a few things.
The saddle - what to look for:
- Use saddle pads can tuck into the gullet. Maybe your choice of saddle pad doesn’t allow this - go for the contoured variety. Maybe the pads are too thick. Maybe the saddle is too narrow. Explore saddle pad shape and thickness as well as saddle fit here. For some logic behind the gullet and saddle pad relationship, read this one.
- The girth might be rubbing his sides uncomfortably. Some girths are super short, and leave billets touching the horse. Some girths are long, and tuck right up in between the saddle flaps. Does your saddle and girth combo irk your horse? Does he get gall sores or hair loss? Look into different lengths of girths and girth covers.
Play with styles and lengths of girth!
- Your horse has bald spots. EEK! Too much pressure from the tack. Don’t just add padding - this is like adding socks to shoes that are too tight. Time for a tack flocking or new saddle.
- Your horse’s back is sore. This could be from any number of causes, but saddle fit and saddle pad fit is a place to start. Cold backed horses often have ill fitting tack, and many otherwise perfect horses will act out when their backs are sore. You may be able to tell during the grooming process.
- He gets the hair rubbed off along the outline of the saddle pad. This is often causes by either the pads stacking under the cantle of the saddle, or by a piping on the saddle pad that has excessive pressure. Try not to let the cantle rest on the edge of any saddle pad or numnah.
The bridle - what to look for:
- Cheek pieces. Is there one area where you have a stack of buckles? Are any buckles rubbing around the eye? Is the cheek piece just too far forward - this may mean the brow band is too short and pulling things forward. It may also mean the attachment to the nose band of the cheek pieces is too far forward.
- The bit - does it fit properly? Are the corners of your horse’s mouth soft and irritation free? They should be. Some horses will develop sores in the corners of their mouths, this can be alleviated with a properly fitted bit, some time to heal, and a bit of baby ointment in the corners before tacking up. More on bit fitting here!
Inspect the corners of your horse's mouth for cuts, rubs, sores.
- The crown piece - does it lay flat along the top of your horse’s head, or does a fat mane prop it up? This creates a pressure point - time for a clipped bridle path!
Basically, anywhere on your horse that is touched with a pad, leather, or anything else needs to be inspected regularly. Not just for sores and hair loss, but for function and proper placement. This goes for breast collars and martingales, too!
What have you noticed on your horse?