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Saddle Up Series - Understanding Your Horse's Back - Part One
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   23rd Jun 2013   •   4,099 views   •   1 comments

When it comes to selecting a saddle, any knowledgeable horse person will tell you that this is a task not to be taken lightly. The fit of a saddle can make or break a horse’s performance, and a poorly fitting one can cause severe injuries to a horse over time. Choosing a saddle is not just about what looks good on the horse, or what’s the prettiest colour. Sure, those baby pink synthetic saddles being spewed out of a Chinese factory by the thousand may look sufficiently fabulous for your riding needs, but when your horse starts bucking from pain caused by a poorly-shaped saddle, the fact that your saddle is pink is not going to help you to stay in it. That is why a saddle should only be chosen with careful consideration, extensive trial and error, and reliable expert advice.

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Before one can understand what to look for in a saddle, however, one needs to understand the structure that will be supporting it. That is, the back of the horse. Horses, for all of their bulk and power, are essentially sensitive and delicate animals. With domestication, humans put horses into a level of work far beyond their natural capacity. Because of this, we as riders must be aware of the strain that our horses take, and must treat them accordingly. The horse’s back is of the utmost importance, as this is what the animal uses to carry you, the rider.

Although a horse appears to have a long back and plenty of space to carry weight, this is – in essence – an illusion. Despite the length of the animal’s back, only a small portion of it is able to bear the weight of the saddle and, in turn, the rider. This portion is known as the saddle support area, and is found just behind the wither, over the Thoracic Vertebrae. Typically, a horse’s spine consists of 18 thoracic vertebrae and 6 lumbar vertebrae. Only the thoracic vertebrae are capable of supporting weight, as each of these vertebrae have a corresponding rib to support it. This is why a saddle must never pass the last rib of a horse, as the pressure on the unsupported lumbar vertebrae can cause extreme damage to the back.

The main muscle comprising the saddle support area is the Longissimus Dorsi, which spans most of the length of the horse’s spine and is the most powerful muscle in the horse’s body. This is the muscle that supports the weight on the horse, and is used for actions such as jumping and turning, as well as common issues such as rearing and bucking, explaining why pain issues in the back are often misdiagnosed as ‘behavioural problems’.

This basic breakdown of the anatomy of the saddle support area serves to show how important it is that a saddle is fitted correctly, and how easily damage to the back can be caused. In the next article, we will take a closer look at back pain and how it is caused.
PonyBox  MOD 
Good stuff, thank you Polo, looking forward to this series.
  Jun 23, 2013  •  5,433 views
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