My last blog was a bit ‘ueberlong’ so I will limit myself to a quickie this week.
When I am travelling, I unfortunately often come across horses that have backs that look like the one in this picture. The client maintains that the horse has ‘always looked like that’ but – as I confirmed with my oft-cited good friend Dr. Joanna Robson, DVM – horses are not born like this.
The majority of these horses are ridden in saddles where the gullet channel is simply too tight/narrow. Some manufacturers and saddle fitters (who should know better!) claim that it is just as ‘dangerous’ (let’s say detrimental to horse back health) to have gullet channels that are too wide (as well as too narrow). However the fact is – even if the gullet width is absolutely perfect for a given horse – sometimes other factors are simply forgotten or overlooked. Asymmetry of the horse, unbalanced riding, incorrect fit, etc – all play a role in the balance and ‘twisting’ of the saddle. The saddle which moves around on the horse’s back (twisting – usually – to the right) – will end up damaging the spine of the horse as shown in this picture.
I sincerely hope that more and more riders are aware of the necessity of the saddle needing to be fitted so that it stays straight, the rider sits balanced, and it doesn’t move to the left or the right. (Check out for yourself how many (even top riders!) are pictured in magazines from behind – and are sitting crooked!) Sometimes the saddle looks crooked when it's off the horse, but this is an accommodation that has been made to fit the horse properly when it's actually on the horse.
Dr. Robson qualified the consideration of this picture to state that this symptom – although possibly not even painful to the horse any longer – could at this point be simply developed scar tissue. That’s just sad – the damage has been affected to the point that the build up of scar tissue becomes this obvious (and hopefully no longer causes the horse any discomfort when being ridden). But this is almost like the Chinese women having their feet bound – they adjust to it, it may not cause them any more pain (except when they try to walk any distance!) and they have silently accepted it because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’.
Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE