Does anyone have experience with their saddle causing lameness?
Starship has been a little off the last couple of days and we've been prodding and poking him like crazy and he doesn't react to any of it.
While lunging him in the round pen he seems just fine, no sign of limping whatsoever.
I have an older Kieffer dressage saddle. The saddle doesn't rock back and forth and seems to fit just fine.
My friend at the barn said to wait a until tomorrow and check if his back musscles are tender, are there any other things I can look for to determine if it is the saddle or not?
I will definitely borrow someone else's saddle to check the difference, but first I'll rest him a few days.
It's probably hard to tell from pictures, but just in case.. Starship5 on Flickr - Photo Sharing! Zenfolio | Todd Naskedov | Our Kids (Pentax K10D)
Well, he's definitely hollow through the back and your position is thrown back.
Look at this photo. First, the horse's body language is saying "OWE!" Head high, neck tense, shoulder's tense, back dropped, and hips "fidgety." The saddle looks too low in back, you're sitting too far back, your legs are out in front of you and braced, your hips and shoulders are tense, and your knees look to be pinching. You can see this same reaction in you and your horse in most of those photos.
Oh boy, he's really PO'ed at the canter here.
I would give him some time off, let his back 100% heal up. Do some stretching with his neck and legs. Give him some turn out time everyday to run and roll around.
So we can check his saddle fit, put the saddle on him without a pad. Girth it up just lightly (so it stays in place). Take side, front, and back shots. From the front, stand away from him, just to the side, to get an angled shot showing how the front of the saddle lays against his WHOLE shoulder.
Without seeing the above photos, I'd say the saddle is too tight in the front, causing it to be too low in the back. This throws your position back, which causes extra pressure on the horse's lower back. The half pad and poofy square pad is only making the problem worse.
I'd also suggest some lessons to help your position (though not until you get a saddle that won't fight you on it). You need to open your hip/pelvis, bring your leg back under you, lift UP your hands (bend your elbows), relax your back and shoulders, and try to keep your center over the horse. Your center is right in the middle of your lower pelvis. You'll feel equal weight on your two seat bones and pelvic bone. You only need to tuck your rear and ride your seat bones when you need to drive your horse forward or sit a very energetic working trot. Otherwise your seat should be in a "neutral" position. Once you can open up your hips and get your leg back (don't push your heels down, you're riding Dressage, not hunters! ) I'd like to see your stirrups 1-2 holes longer. There's nothing more elegant than a tall rider with a LONG and relaxed leg ).
IN MY OPINION, lameness issues cannot be solved over the net...waaayyy too many variables to consider. One of the ways you can tell if a saddle doesn't fit properly is if there are dry spots behind the withers. FWIW, it has been my experience that an ill-fitting saddle will show up as behavior problems (sourness, pissiness or acting out) during riding long before it shows up as physical lameness. BTW, what happened to his left knee?
Wow, that was honost. Thank you for your advice.
The saddle is older, but I hadn't considered it might be too narrow, definitely time to look for a new one..
We do take lessons and it helps a lot, but if I were to lower my stirrups I would have a hard time reaching them and keep my heels down (I know you said not to, but I feel safer that way)
Starship is an OTTB, he is 12, but raced (and won) until a year and a half ago. It's hard to keep his attention and he loves cameras, always knows where they are, which made that day a bad day.
The knee is a leftover from a racing injury, it is not as bad as it looks, but does cause some stiffness (he gets supplements for it). We warm up and cool down extra long.
He prefers his head up and back hollow, we've been working on it and there are good and bad days. Draw reins help, but I don't want to get dependant on them, so we only use them once every 4 rides.
He's too good a boy to act up for any reason, so I don't think he'd act up even if the saddle is hurting him, he loves to work too much.
We prodded, poked, stretched and bended his knees again last night and he doesn't react to any of it. Tonight we'll turn him out with a buddy to see how he looks (he doesn't move while out by himself).
Wouldn't it be great if he could talk, so he could just tell me what's bothering him?
I didn't mean for my critique to sound harsh, I'm sorry if it did!
When you put your heels down, just don't jam them down. Let them relax into a down position. If you push your heels down, you will push your leg forward, close your hip, and stiffen your lower back. Of course, getting a saddle that is better balanced on your horse will help you keep your leg under you better, but so will relaxing those ankles .
To help with his head being too high, work on asking him for a stretching frame on a large circle. At the walk, lengthen your reins a bit. Keep your outside rein stead. Lift your inside rein up about 2" and pull it back until you can see his eye turn toward you a bit. Use your inside leg to keep him on your circle (BIG circle, at least 30 meters). As soon as you feel him give to the bit, drop the inside rein back to neutral. And this response needs to be QUICK! So he gets it. Give him a pat too. Rinse and repeat. Don't forget to go the other direction .
Once he's responding well, ask for his head to go lower and lower while driving him from behind. This will help his hind end reach under him better and get his neck rounded. This will be HARD, so praise every little effort and give him lots of breaks. Just work on it at the walk for a while, until he's being more consistent, then work at the trot.
My mare was a stargazer too. The above worked GREAT on her! After about 4-6 months of consistent work, she was able to sniff the sand at a canter and was consistent about being either stretched or on the bit. It takes a LONG time to build those topline muscles up. Having a saddle that doens't fit will make Starship fight your every attempt at lowering his frame. He won't round up through his back until his back is comfortable and your position is also relaxed and comfortable.
To check for saddle fit, put your saddle on without any pads, lightly girthed, and take some photos for us. When you're looking at it, see how the front matches the shoulder angle. Run your hand under the pannels from very front to very back. Do you feel even pressure all the way? Look under the pommel. You should have no more than 4 fingers of clearance between his withers and the underside of the pommel. Look under the back. Do the pannels lay flat on his back? Does the gullet give his spine enough room? Step back and look at the saddle. Your cantle should be 1-2" higher than your pommel (for most Dressage saddles), or even. It should not be lower. Look at the lowest point of the saddle seat. It should be roughly in the middle, at the back of the twist, where it starts widening to the seat area.
Thank you for replying.
I can get his head down in a walk and he's pretty good at a canter, but trot is a disaster. On a circle he doesn't keep his head straight, eventhough it is down I can see his nose, but not his eye. Going around to the right is also a lot harder on him then the left (racehorses go to the left), which we're trying to fix by going to the right for 75% of each ride and end to the left to cheer him up some, as he does not always enjoy going to the right.
It's either the saddle or he's messing with me, because I turned him out yesterday and he took off at full speed, hit the brakes in the corner, turned on his hind feet and took off again bucking and jumping, that horse is not in pain! He even gave me a show-off trot with head and tail high, like he was laughing at me. We're good buddies, I can take a joke.
Just in case I'll use someone else's saddle tomorrow for our lesson and ask the instructor to look if she sees a difference, it was common knowledge I didn't have the best saddle out there.
I never get to the barn before dark, so the pictures will have to wait until the weekend, but I have the instructions and will do the best I can.
Yes, saddle issues can cause lameness & are commonly responsible for hurting horses. I don't get why you were pushing & prodding him all over. Need more info on his lameness to have much idea at all...
I disagree that anything much specific can be said about the first pic. Perhaps he's not fidgetty, perhaps he's just stopping. Just because his head is up & he's not collected doesn't *necessarily* mean pain. I don't think you're at all too far back - wouldn't want to be any more forward IMO. There is nothing wrong with a saddle sitting low on a horse - they're often way too high esp in back - if there is adequate spinal clearance. Yes, your legs are a little forward, but in the other pics of you riding, not just sitting they seem OK
The other pics make it appear that he's definitely uncomfortable with something tho. The saddle appears to be back off his scapula far enough but does look rather narrow at the shoulders. His ewe neck shows he's accustomed to carrying himself in a hollow frame. Could it be that you're a little heavy handed? Perhaps because you try to 'collect' him & he can't because of pain? Perhaps that's also what led to you tying his mouth shut, or perhaps he has other problems with the bit too?
Balance International have lots of great info on their site - & they're happy to answer questions - about saddle fit. This should help you work out whether saddle fit is his only prob.
Thank you Loosie, the flash is no longer on there as it didn't prevent him from sticking out his tongue anyway. It looks kind of cute.
The prodding and poking is to see if he reacts to anything, so when we saw something was bothering him after the ride we took the off saddle and started "massaging" his back to see if he would change from his happy self to a horse with his ears back or some kind of other indication that the spot was tender. We picked up his feet and bended and stretched his knees, nothing, no reaction to anything.
I ride him with pretty long reins for dressage as I found he just pulls back and goes faster with short reins, I squeeze the inside rein to get him to give which works great in a walk and canter and hardly (if at all) in a trot.
He is not "lame", there is no constant obvious head bobbing. He just seems off, with the occasional head bob that goes away again after a few steps. My friends say he's short-stepping and seems stiff, but without a rider he seems absolutely fine, so I think it's something my weight is causing and the only thing I can think of is my saddle. He has gained a 150 pounds since I got him, so maybe he has outgrown the saddle as it never seemed to bother him before.
Tonight my lesson was cancelled unfortunately, but I'll go bareback and with a different saddle to see how he feels. If I'm still in one piece (he's not easy to stop without a saddle) I'll let you all know how he felt.