Muscle Atrophy and the Saddle Fit Connection

Muscle Atrophy and the Saddle Fit Connection

Muscle atrophy is usually something we see happening in old people—and old horses. Muscles waste away from simple aging and lack of use. Sadly, rescue horses who have suffered starvation usually show signs of muscle atrophy, regardless of their age. In short, muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle strength because of a decrease in muscle mass or the amount/number of muscle fibers. Atrophy can be partial or complete, causing varying levels of weakness. When atrophy occurs in the aging process, it’s referred to as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is defined as an age-related loss of skeletal muscle, resulting in frailty. It is often partnered with osteoporosis, a loss of bone density that is similarly associated with aging. But age isn’t the only cause. If your horse is laid up due to injury and his regular exercise comes to a grinding halt, you can expect his muscles to atrophy to a degree. But what if your horse isn’t old, hasn’t been on stall rest and you are exercising him diligently on a regular basis, yet you notice his muscles diminishing?

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Aufgesattelt (Tacked Up) - alles rund um den Sattel (All Around the Saddle)

Aufgesattelt – alles rund um den Sattel. Der Sattel – die direkte Verbindung zwischen Reiter und Pferd. Wer beim Sattel aufs falsche Pferd setzt, der macht einen folgenschweren Fehler. Denn ein Sattel ist nicht nur eine hochwertige Anschaffung für lange Zeit, er ist auch ein entscheidendes Verbindungsglied zwischen Reiter und Pferd. In dieser Eigenschaft muss er zwei großen Ansprüchen Genüge leisten: Er muss zum einen dem Pferd optimal passen und zum anderen auch dem Reiter ein gutes Gefühl vermitteln. PSJ-Fachautorin Jessica Kaup hat sich mit dem Thema auseinandergesetzt und einige Experten dazu befragt.

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Saddle Fit and Industry Education

Saddle Fit and Industry Education

A recent article in the Journal of Veterinary Science concerning the repeatability of 20 Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) Qualified Saddle Fitters observations of static saddle fit outlines the lack of cohesiveness in the methodology of assessing saddle fit. The SMS has committed to overhauling their entire saddle fitting curriculum within the next year or two – recognizing the fact that a) saddle making does not equal saddle fitting and b) their saddle fitting training is somewhat remedial in its ramifications. Further work is definitely necessary to standardize the criteria of what is saddle fit and how should saddles be fitted – and perhaps to develop a common language that is accepted throughout the industry...

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Many Horses But Not So Many Saddles - Saddle Solutions?

Many Horses But Not So Many Saddles - Saddle Solutions?

I am a trainer with lots of horses to ride but I cannot afford a saddle for each horse. I start a lot of young horses – some of which will presumably leave within a year or two. How do I manage to do right by all these animals (and for myself) by ensuring I have and use a saddle which works for me and works for all of them? Obviously, ideally, it would be great to have a saddle that has been made and fi􀄴ed for each horse’s conformation, but the reality is that this will seldom be the case. So, you get a saddle that fits you absolutely wonderfully, is comfortable, works with your anatomical requirements (male or female), and makes sure that at the very least you won’t let any discomfort from the rider’s end translate down to the horse. That’s the first step. Then, you have it fitted to the largest horse you have because it’s always easier to fill in the gaps and make it fit for horses with narrower shoulders, lower withers, etc. (just like it’s easier to fit shoes that are too large with insoles and extra socks; the other way really doesn’t work that well.)

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Bad Horse! Really? How About "Bad Rider!" or "Bad Saddle!" or maybe even "Bad Genes!"

Bad Horse! Really? How About "Bad Rider!" or "Bad Saddle!" or maybe even "Bad Genes!"

Most people will agree with the statement “horses do not make conscious decisions to behave badly.” Horses react to outside stimuli—either a poorly fitting saddle or an incompetent or untrained rider can cause all kinds of unwanted behaviors. How and where a rider’s weight is carried can make a huge difference, and dangerous horses can quickly be created when aids are misunderstood or mishandled. Sometimes horses will develop resistant or evasive behaviors because the handler does not know how to get what he is asking for, but remember that this does not make a “bad horse”—it’s simply a horse behaving badly. Some of the strategic behavior horses have adopted could be interpreted as stereotypical, but these behaviors are not vices, as vices would infer that the horse is somehow at fault....

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Saddle Fit and Girth Choices - the two go hand in hand!

Saddle Fit and Girth Choices - the two go hand in hand!

The girth is the most important saddle accessory because it directly affects saddle fit and how it feels to your horse. There are many different types, lengths and versions of girths available. In this article, we look at the factors to consider when finding and fitting a girth that will work for your horse...

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Why Don't We See More Boys Riding Dressage?

Why Don't We See More Boys Riding Dressage?

It’s always interesting to take a few moments when I’m working at a horse show to check out the competition. I mean the real competition- the riders who have trained long and hard and are now showing off their skills in the ring. Especially in dressage shows, but also at the lower level hunter/jumper shows – it is almost painfully obvious how few boys there are riding and competing!...But let’s examine the question a little closer concerning why boys specifically generally don’t ride. Beyond the ‘peer pressure’ issue of it not necessarily being a ‘macho’ sport, perhaps there are other reasons at play; issues that have to do with my favorite subject: saddle fit!

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Saddle Fit: English vs. Western - What are the Differences?

Saddle Fit: English vs. Western - What are the Differences?

When mankind began riding horses, and saddles were developed to help keep riders astride their mounts, the original purpose of the saddle was to support the horse in his job. Saddles were designed to accommodate the demands placed on horses during activities such as combat, transportation, and sport. And since riding in long skirts was not practical and it was unbecoming for women to straddle a horse, side-saddles were created to allow women to ride. Recent years have seen a change in saddles from mainly functional to often fashionable (featuring bling, silver, etc.). More recently, as the general demographic of riders changed to primarily women, gender considerations have been incorporated into the mix of saddle design for both English and Western disciplines...

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Saddle Fit and Technology - How Technological Advances are Changing the Way Saddles are Fitted

Saddle Fit and Technology - How Technological Advances are Changing the Way Saddles are Fitted

Many tools have been developed over the years to assist in the diagnosis of saddle fit, however, as ‘sexy’ as they are, they are just that – tools – providing information that exemplifies the situation at a given moment. Unless you have someone that actually knows what to do with this information to provide you a solution to your issue, it’s pretty much without value. Many people can tell you what’s visually wrong with your saddle but there are very few who can analyze the data to actually tell you why you are having the issue you are.

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Jochen Schleese is truly a master in his field, with comprehensive knowledge stemming from not only his training in saddlery but also his achievements as a rider – and he uses these attributes to reach a level of excellence in this multi-faceted industry. Jochen offers an alternative to the industry. The saddle is the connection between horse and rider and plays a massive role in this partnership. Only a balanced rider not forced into position can adhere to the goals of ‘classical riding.’ The saddle trees should accommodate specific and individual requirements for female and male riders. Only a rider with a properly made and fitted saddle can give his horse the proper aids so the horse can move free.  Although there has been much improvement in the last 20 years there are still a lot of badly fitting saddles. The industry simply requires better education, such as Saddlefit 4 Life® is giving.


      Balancing_Act_Heuschmann_BookScannedImageGerd Profile Pic 150px S4L site   Horse Roll Kur - Video Icon              S4L in Germany with JS and Gerd Heuschmann       A prerequisite for harmony between horse and rider is the pairing of a healthy, mature horse with a practiced, empathetic, sensitive, and well-trained rider.  The saddle is the connection between these two totally disparate living beings: it will either bring them together or distance them - biomechanically speaking.  This makes a well-fitting saddle key to ensure commonality in motion, as well as playing a critical role in ensuring successful training for horse and rider.  It can help a rider with a good seat find harmony with the horse, but can also restrict and prevent this if it is not fit properly to both. A well-fitting saddle will quickly allow a good rider on a young horse to attain suppleness.  Still, even the best rider will find it impossible to reach harmonious movement on the horse’s back if the saddle doesn’t fit. There is only one thing that even the best fitting saddle doesn’t guarantee, however: it will never counteract the effect of an unbalanced, tense, rough, and overall poor rider. As has recently been discussed in numerous print publications, riding has become rather far removed from its former idealistic representations, especially dressage, which has been brought into a negative light by the actions of a few controversial trainers in the industry. The negative consequences for horse and rider have been and continue to be illuminated, discussed, and evaluated.  A few saddle manufacturers have reacted to the described issues and made some major design changes in their products. In my opinion, the main issue is that a rider will have difficulty in finding an independent, pliable and balanced seat if the horse is held in a position of constant tension with the rider pushing forward in the seat to go forwards while pulling on the bit.  The saddle now needs to afford the rider additional support to augment this increased and constant tension on the reins. As a result, many modern dressage saddles now have extremely deep seats with high cantles, and huge knee rolls. They allow the rider to wedge himself securely and tensely in a deep, non-pliable seat behind giant knee rolls and hang in the reins with tight hands. Many saddle manufacturers are aware of this phenomenon and yet are powerless to change it for economic and market demand reasons. As an experienced rider and certified master saddler, Jochen Schleese has taken an alternate direction with his saddle production, which orients itself towards an unencumbered rider sitting on a relaxed horse. Only such a rider – completely balanced and not forced into position with either his seat or his legs – can adhere to the goals of ‘classical riding’.  But Jochen’s philosophy of saddle fit doesn’t stop here: the trees are made to accommodate the specific and individual requirements of both male and female riders.   Only a rider with a properly made and fitted saddle can give his horse the proper aids without clamping the thighs, relying on the hands, and sitting unbalanced on its back. We all want a horse that moves freely and without restriction.  The saddle should not cause it pain or hinder its movement. This means that the back muscles need to move freely, which is furthered by a well-fitting saddle (that may also have to take any asymmetry or unevenness into consideration).  These are also parts of the equation considered by Jochen in his work.

— Gerd Heuschmann, DVM Author of Tug of War and The Balancing Act

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