Baroque Horse Magazine had the pleasure to talk to Dr. Gerd Heushmann, a veterinarian and a classical rider from Germany. Dr. Heuschmann was a key person in bringing to light to dangers and harm of riding horses in Rollkur and was apart of the big 2010 meeting of the FEI in regards to it. He is well-known in the dressage community and admired for being able to speak his mind in what he sees as incorrect and damaging training methods commonly employed by riders and trainers involved in competition today.Read more about Baroque Horse Talks to Gerd Heuschmann [DVM] Download the PDF version of Baroque Horse Talks to Gerd Heuschmann [DVM]
The first thing I should know is if you are a woman, and what saddle you are riding in. But let me answer generically – riding should not be causing you pain anywhere. If you are experiencing pain – especially in the lower back, it could be that you are riding in a gender-inappropriate saddle (which usually means women riding in saddles that have been made for men – which most of them quite frankly still are!). Although many men may also have issues with back pain, they are usually stoic and pretty much keep quiet about it. We know many riders who suffer with back issues...Read more about Why Do I Experience Constant Low Back Pain When I Ride? Download the PDF version of Why Do I Experience Constant Low Back Pain When I Ride?
This month’s Q&A has spurred me to delve into this topic in a little more detail, as it is an issue that we have often heard from our clients (who are admittedly, mostly women!) Anatomy is a crucial factor in saddle fit, as is gender. Men usually have an easier time finding a saddle that fits, as saddles have traditionally been built by men, for men. Most women have an inherent conformational disadvantage (the center axis of the pelvis prevents women from balancing only on their seat bones). With a saddle designed for the female anatomy (and exercises and muscular development), women can achieve a similar position on horseback to the male. The female pelvis has a shorter tailbone and hip articulation angled to the side vs. the male pelvis with a longer tailbone and straighter hip articulation, allowing his leg to hang straight down...Read more about Are You Riding in a Saddle Made for a Man? Download the PDF version of Are You Riding in a Saddle Made for a Man?
Kissing Spine & Hunter's Bump - Poor riding and poor saddle fit can contribute to equine back injuries.
As was mentioned in a recent article in California Riding Magazine (Nov. 2016) concerning gullet channel width, the issue of kissing spine is something that is of concern to many riders – and is very closely related to this saddle fit issue. I have recently come across an inordinate amount of horses where this issue occurred and was, of course, not helped – indeed exacerbated – by poorly fitting saddles. There are still differing opinions as to whether kissing spines is a disease with predilection already present at birth, or whether it is caused by “something” (poor saddle fit, poor riding, etc.) during the course of the horse’s life. Dr. Carol Vischer, a DVM in New York, with whom I work occasionally, (and who has kindly written an insert for my book Suffering in Silence) has done extensive research and come to the conclusion that kissing spine is a disease that some horses are just prone to, but whatever you believe – the fact is that it can definitely be caused and impacted by poor riding and bad saddle fit...Read more about Kissing Spine & Hunter's Bump - Poor riding and poor saddle fit can contribute to equine back injuries. Download the PDF version of Kissing Spine & Hunter's Bump - Poor riding and poor saddle fit can contribute to equine back injuries.
A horse is not able to lie, to ‘act’ like he’s feeling comfortable, happy, or relaxed when he’s not. Watch for the feedback your horse gives you and it’s easy to see what his state of mind is. We all know the usual signs; the eyes, the ears, the tail. In nature, the horse – a ‘flight’ animal – can run full out at a moment’s notice. There is no necessity for the thought process “Okay, I’m being chased by a wolf, I’m going to have to run fast in about 3 seconds, so perhaps I should warm up a bit so that I can go full tilt”. By that time, the horse would be lunch. You know your horse better than anyone – instinctively, you know immediately when something is amiss,Read more about How Do You Know If Your Horse is Happy? Download the PDF version of How Do You Know If Your Horse is Happy?
One of the most misunderstood indicators of saddle fit - GOOD or BAD - are the sweat or dust marks left behind after a ride and when the pad has been removed. Logic dictates that the dust pattern on your pad and the sweat marks on your horse should ideally look somewhat like the photo (see article). The most dirt is accumulated where the most movement is: in the front shoulder moving back and forth and in the back, where the back moves up and down. The quick explanation is that no dirt should show where the saddle hardly touches, such as the gullet or at the transition between sweat flap and panel. The white triangle under the front part of the saddle also indicates a good position and fit, because in this area the saddle should sit the most quietly without movement, since this is where most of your weight sits; i.e. no dirt accumulation and no movement...Read more about Saddle Fit - Dust Patterns and Sweat Marks Download the PDF version of Saddle Fit - Dust Patterns and Sweat Marks
There have been a number of articles appearing in various publications recently about rider fitness and how to get back in shape if you’ve taken the winter off. Of course, gettng your horse back in shape is part of the equation, but how do you even know how fit or out-of-shape he is? What is the ideal weight or condition that your horse should be in? ...Read more about No Scale? - No Problem - Easy Ways to Evaluate your Horse's Weight and Condition Download the PDF version of No Scale? - No Problem - Easy Ways to Evaluate your Horse's Weight and Condition
What does ‘custom’ really mean? What does ‘quality’ entail? The concept of ‘custom saddles’ really needs to be defined, as it there is so much more to a custom saddle than just a type. The concept of a truly ‘bespoke’ product should be honoured — when a saddle is described as ‘custom’, it really should be just that, and we will clarify the difference here. Simply purchasing a saddle that may have been ‘customized’ to fit your horse with a narrow, medium, or wide tree and panel flocking that has been somewhat moved around to accommodate the horse’s back shape does not a custom product make. Neither does your determination of seat size (anywhere from 16" to maybe 19") with special colour combinations and bling or leather types of your choice. There is nothing truly custom about these superficial choices. These are personalized options that absolutely will be according to your tastes and requests, however, true customization begins inside the saddle with the tree itself. For a truly custom saddle, the considerations (particularly for a Dressage saddle) need to go beyond those mentioned above to include: Twist ...Read more about Saddle Fit and Custom Saddles Download the PDF version of Saddle Fit and Custom Saddles
Points 7-9: Many of us are familiar with the term “short-backed” to describe a horse, but even a horse with a back that appears to be of normal length may actually have a very short saddle support area. The length of the saddle support area will determine how long the panels must be. Breeds that commonly have a short saddle-support area are Friesians; Baroque type horses such as Andalusians, Lusitanos, PREs, and Lippizaners; Arabians; and more and more frequently, “modern-type” Warmbloods. One common saddle fitting issue here is that the saddle panels are often too long for their backs...Read more about The Nine Points of Saddle Fit - Part III of III Download the PDF version of The Nine Points of Saddle Fit - Part III of III
Saddle fitting is a term with various meanings. As the interface between horse and rider, the saddle should allow the rider to sit and balance comfortably (in a gender correct saddle) in order to give proper aids without clamping the thighs, relying on hands, or being unbalanced on the back. The saddle needs to provide freedom of movement without restriction so the back muscles come up, move freely and accommodate the horse’s changing conformation. Sometimes saddle fitting is analogous to buying shoes – selecting which are comfortable, perhaps adding orthotics or inserts to ‘improve’ the fit. With a non-adjustable saddle (wood or plastic tree), the saddle fitter assesses whether a narrow, medium or wide tree provides the ‘best’ (not necessarily optimal) fit. Improvements are made through ...Read more about Can the Saddle Fitter Help? Download the PDF version of Can the Saddle Fitter Help?