An important study at Hartpury University looking at saddle fitters’ ability to assess how far back a saddle should extend was recently funded by the BHF.
Poorly fitting saddles can affect a horse’s performance and contribute to back pain. The correct length of an English saddle leaves the shoulder blade free, with the saddle tree not extending beyond the 18th thoracic vertebra.
The funded project determined whether saddle fitters could reliably locate the part of this 18th vertebra which reaches up to the back. This was done by comparing their own estimation of the position of that vertebra with that determined by a veterinary surgeon using radiography.
A method of counting vertebra and observing the position of the ribs was found to be the most accurate method used by saddle fitters of ensuring that the saddle does not extend back beyond the point at which it is believed that compromise may occur.
This pilot study gives good indicators for further work to be carried out in future and has been published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science and as a paper and poster at the 2018 Saddle Research Trust Conference.