Horses are movement artists, but if they have punctual pressure or pain, they will adapt their movements so that they can escape the pressure. This damages health in the long term. A major trigger can be improper equipment.
It's all a Matter of Equipment
Saddle and bridle have always been part of the standard equipment of the horse. Over the years, the selection of equipment for equestrian sports has increased so much that there seems to be the right piece for every discipline, for every problem and for every horse. Companies and advertising campaigns advertise with the best wearing comfort and the best functionality - but mostly without well-founded studies about it. It is therefore essential that the rider takes responsibility for the choice of equipment. However, this can only be achieved with basic knowledge of the biomechanics of the horse. When in doubt, unsuitable bridles, saddles, etc. can not only lead to constant pain, but also impair performance in the long term. For example, the bandages are often too tight, too deep or too high, which means that there is constant pressure on the same legs and the mobility of the fetlock and carpal joints can be inhibited. Many are quite logical connections within the theory of movement. The wrong handling becomes problematic when mobility is permanently restricted by equipment, i.e. during every training session, since the rider usually does not notice the restriction. The horse, on the other hand, feels the restriction and inhibition in the entire movement process - it changes its movement, which can cause damage in the long term.
- First signs
Horses have a very high pain tolerance and only show pain and discomfort quite late. Far too often the justification for bitchyness is given when the horse makes mistakes, tears bars or refuses help, far too seldom is the cause really investigated. When it comes to equipment, however, there are basic indications that riders should be made aware of: white prickly hair, recurring clogged sebum glands and sensitivity when cleaning. Even a deformation of the nasal bone can be observed if the noseband is too tight. The skeleton itself is extremely flexible. But if there is strong point pressure, the muscles tense up and the mobility of the spine is restricted. The result: the horse has a firm back and the rider can't sit for a long time.
- Chewing must be possible
Due to the sensitivity of the head section, incorrectly or too tightly strapped bridles are often a cause of movement restrictions. Particular care should be taken with nosebands with pulleys, which are easily overtightened. Natural chewing must not be prevented by tightening the straps. Thus, in addition to checking with the two-finger rule, which must always be carried out on the bridge of the nose, checking the chewing ability is also suitable. Here you give the horse with the buckled bridle a treat - the chewing must not be impaired by the buckle. It is a horse's natural impulse and, from an ethological point of view, a sign of relieving tension. The bulkhead or chin strap must also not impair the chewing movement or breathing. A bridle that is buckled too tightly can never compensate for a lack of permeability and contact. This only suppresses the horse's natural behavior of escaping excessive rein pressure by opening its mouth.
- As tight as necessary, as loose as possible
The girth fixes the saddle – both should therefore always be considered a unit. When strapping, the principle applies: as tight as necessary, as loose as possible. With elastic inserts there is now a risk that the straps are too tight. The thorax can even be compressed so much that the function of the heart and lungs can also be impaired - the horse is no longer as powerful, it tires more quickly and the length of the steps is significantly reduced. First and foremost, the girth acts on the horse's abdominal muscles. This is responsible for lifting the back and carrying the organs. If too much pressure is exerted, the abdominal muscles tense up and the effect of the back lifting is lost. In the best case, belts should be strapped on on both sides to ensure even pressure distribution. The correct length, position and fit of the girth must also be ensured. The buckles must not lie on bare fur and the elbow must not hit the belt while moving. Anatomically shaped straps that are cut out in the elbow area are best suited.
- If it fits, I sits
The saddle should be the link between rider and horse. If this does not sit and fit correctly, fine communication and the provision of assistance cannot succeed. In the long term, consequential damage to the sensitive spinal complex can even occur, which inhibits the horse's entire movement pattern. The saddle, panel and tree must follow the horse's back line. Saddle seekers are often influenced by images, videos or social media. It is therefore important to get advice that is as independent and objective as possible. Information about upholstery shops in the vicinity is primarily found quite easily on the Internet, but word-of-mouth propaganda also pays off. It is also advisable to take a look at the offer of the respective shop. If only a few selected manufacturers are sold, there is a high probability that models from these brands will be offered. Therefore, prior research for brands and models makes sense. In addition, those who are looking for a saddle should think about what they are looking for in the first place. Which riding style is desired? Which discipline? Does my horse have any special features in terms of exterior? How often and how long do I ride on average per week? And most importantly, what is my budget? Normally, suitable saddles can be found for almost all horses and riders - at least if you are open to the market. Purchasing the first saddle is always a particularly high hurdle, but even then the saddle needs regular checks to ensure it fits correctly. Young horses change particularly quickly. However, diseases or downtime also play a decisive role in adult horses. The saddle should be checked twice a year if possible - not only when standing, but also when moving under the rider. The layman usually recognizes a badly positioned saddle too late, but there are early indications that every rider can look out for:
- White prickly hair
- Rocking saddle
- Uneven sweat patterns after riding
- Sensitivity when brushing