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Archive for the ‘Sway Back’ Category

My mare, who is 30 years old, but acts like she’s about 20 years younger, loves to be ridden and loves to run up the hills. She has so much energy that she’s hard to keep at a walk especially out on trails, and in the field. She wants to be in the lead and doesn’t like being in the rear or even in the middle of the group. She’s also forgotten how to WHOA when told. So I’m constantly pulling on her to stop (never used to have to do that). I can deal with all that, after all she’s 30! Do horses after a certain age forget things? But, my problem is keeping the saddle and pads in place. They’re always slipping no matter how much I tighten the girth. I also use a breast collar on her. I thought that would help keep the saddle in place. Any suggestion?  Mary

Hi Mary,

Your question reads like a story about aging horses and saddle fit.

When a horse’s back begins to drop (sway) it is almost impossible to keep the saddle up near the vicinity of the withers. Instead, gravity and the rider’s weight cause the saddle to slip down the slope created by the prominent withers (the peak) and the now lower back.

Even if you tighten and re-tighten the cinch, the tendency will be for the saddle and you to slip rearward and settle down in the valley of the horse’s sagging topline.

You’ve tried the logical solution – use a breast collar to HOLD the saddle forward. But alas that just causes extreme pressure on the horse’s chest and shoulders as the weight of the saddle and rider pull against them as the saddle tries to slip back.

Which brings me to the change in behavior in your horse. You say you always have to keep pulling on her to stop her or slow her down now – you didn’t have to do that in the past. That’s because when a horse has back pain from pressure and/or an ill-fitting saddle and when a horse is thrown off balance because of tight tack and pressure, the horse might instinctively do one of several things.

Buck like heck to get rid of the saddle and pain, rub or roll to get the saddle off, or as many trained horses will do, move fast and tense. Part of your mare’s exuberance might be due to her being full of energy, but in so many cases, quick, tense movement is associated with pain and imbalance.

So the solution to everything is finding a saddle that fits. This is something you will need to do locally so that the expert saddle fitter can see your horse in person. Once you get a saddle to fit your mare, you might be surprised to see how you will be able to ride with a looser cinch, how much more comfortable your mare will be and how she will resume her normal gaits.

If you care to reply with the state or area you live in, perhaps someone will write in suggesting a saddle fit expert in your area.

Read more articles on tack and riding here on my Horse Information Roundup.

Best of luck,

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