Circle of Influence

The Role of the Saddle within the Circle of Influence

A saddle needs to distribute the weight of the rider correctly over the horse’s back so that the rider’s center of gravity becomes one with the horse’s center of gravity. The horse will change in conformation over the course of its life due to many influences, least of which are his age and training. To illustrate some of these influences, consider a circle surrounding the horse, divided into (a minimum of eight) equal pieces. One of these pieces represents the rider;  other components include the trainer, the veterinarians, body workers (physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists), the nutrition and supplements for the horse, the farrier, and last but not least tack – including bits, bridles, saddles, and pads.

It requires training and empathy with the horse to discover the cause of symptomatic issues. I call this the Circle of Influence around the horse, in which the saddle and the work of the saddle fitter are never to be considered in isolation. ALL of the influencers are interdependent – if for example, training methods change or nutrition is supplemented or changed, the body conformation of the horse will change. It follows logically that then the saddle will no longer fit – and the reason is not because the saddle fitter did a bad job.

Saddle fitting is nothing more than attempting to prevent long term damage to horse and rider by avoiding pressure on the reflex points and by distributing the rider’s weight optimally on the horse’s back. Keeping the horse sound and the rider healthy should be the ultimate goal for each one of the ‘pieces’ of the circle, who need to work together cooperatively to achieve this. Every change effected by any one of the pieces – whether deemed positive or negative – will have a consequence on the others, which may have the simple end result that the saddle will no longer be balanced. (Let’s recall Newton’s 3rd law here that every action brings with it an equal and positive reaction!)

For the most part it will not be the saddle which changes; it is the horse’s three-dimensional back shape which will alter the saddle support area. But it is without exaggeration the saddle (as interface between horse and rider) which has the potential to inflict the most anatomical and physiological damage especially to the horse if it no longer fits.

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Equine Professional

DSC_0050 Having spent years doing exercises to supposedly loosen my hips in an attempt to sit deeper in the saddle and prevent my toes from turning out while riding, I discovered when I ride in a ‘female’ saddle, I am immediately sitting deep in the saddle with my toes pointing forward – without even warming up. I wonder what unnecessary damage I’ve done to myself from years of putting torque on my joints from these exercises from a classical riding book. I wonder how many other women have unnecessarily hurt their body believing they struggle with ‘tight hips’.

— Laura Whitteron, Saddle Ergonomist, England

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