I have recently bought a 12.2 exmoor pony, he has very little back muscles due to wearing a saddle that was too short and an incorrect gullet size. The owner advised me to buy him a wintec, so I went on ebay and found a 16.5 Wintec close contact, with a high pommel but apparently a wider back, which would be good for his awkward fitting.
So I paid £200 for this saddle and it seemed okay, his back muscles came up much better and I thought it fit. However after shedding his winter coat, white hairs came up on his withers on the end of his mane. I put the just the saddle on and I couldn't see any way in which it would touch the withers it has like 3 fingers + of clearance. Plus plenty of spine clearance.
After going cross country the following week I noticed how much the saddle bounced off my ponies back literally, whenever I was jumping or cantering if just would bounce off it. My sisters saddle didn't even come off her back.
The next free day I had a rode around my fields concentrating on how much pressure there actually was on his back, very little contact at all! The girth was tight but the back would just slip off really easy as well.
My friend recommended her half pad and wintec comfort pad to try, both helped but you could see it was pinching the skin by his withers, but still there was not much pressure on the back! My seat felt much more secure too. I also noticed I have this thing of collapsing forward after a jump.
I don't have enough money to go buy another saddle, if I don't sell this one, just looking for some advice if I should just resell or maybe there is something I can do!
You're probably wondering why I don't just get a fitter out, but I can't he was beaten as a youngster and I'm the only one who can't get near him. It's a battle to stop him bolting when being trimmed by the farrier!
White hairs on the withers below the mane are most usually caused by rugs and saddlecloths, rather than the saddle (unless it's a REALLY bad fit).
It's a bit difficult to advise without seeing pics of your horse, but the saddle lifting at the rear is most often caused by:
(i) The gullet being too wide so it drops behind the shoulder and allows the back of the saddle to lift
(ii) Correct width gullet but the saddle panel is not adjusted to the horse's shape so the same thing happens, or maybe
(iii) The gullet is too narrow, causing the saddle to slip back too far, when it can lift at the back
Bear in mind whichever of these is the case, pulling the girth tighter usually makes the problem worse :(
Your saddle's probably not a complete disaster, it just needs a little help to fit better :)
A few things -
You really should get a fitter out, can you do some retraining work with your pony? Help him learn that not all people are nasty, which will make it so much easier in the long run.
I may be off but I always thought it took around 6 months for white hairs to show up. That being true, the problem was caused 6 months ago not recently.
You're might be thinking about the horse changing its coat, when white hairs caused by pressure which hasn't damaged the hair cells too badly (ie. the original hair itself was killed but the follicle re-grew a white one in its place) will often grow back the original colour. :)
Thanks guys probably my next step is to get a wintec gullet gauge, and I can't retrain him unfortunately, he's 10 and been this way since he was 5. It's worse with men. But still he sees my sister every day but he won't be caught by her :)
If you were wondering, I did luckily find a female fitter in the area, she came out and said there is no way on earth how this saddle would fit, too long and big, turns out it's a horse saddle and isn't straight enough cut on him. The panels are too round and that's why it's bouncing.
She said it's strange how he hasn't bucked or reared as it's been going into his shoulder :( Anyway I have now forked out £400 for a native pony saddle, which has flatter panels, straighter cut and a pony saddle!
Thanks for all your help :D
I'm going to tell you something that you're probably not going to like: get off the horse and work those back muscles BEFORE you go out and buy a saddle.
I'm always astonished at how many people actually think that if they ride their horse, their back muscles will magically improve as well.
It's incredibly common to see well-conditioned horses with atrophied back muscles.
The reason back muscle improves is because it MOVES. If the horse can work the back muscle, the back muscle becomes stronger, becomes larger. On a horse with a weak back (even with a nicely fitting saddle), the horse is not going to be able to work the back muscle very much.
You need to get off until the horse's back muscle has improved enough to where your saddle is able to fit properly. You also need to realize that once the back muscle has improved, so STILL need to get off at least once a week and work that muscle to keep it in condition, or it will regress again.
Horses build muscle through trotting, and floating over ground poles is a wonderful way to build back muscle.
Get off and leave the saddle off. If you're competent enough to free lunge, that's the best way to do it. The lunge line messes with the horse's balance and can slow down your results. (Plus, isn't it nice to have your horse well-trained enough to respond to your commands without tugging on a rope?).
If you must use a lunge line, it's ok.
1) Make sure the horse can lunge properly. He should be balanced enough to keep a steady tempo around you. If he isn't well-balanced or can't keep an even tempo, you need to stick to trotting. Work both directions evenly. You want a nice working trot, no jogging, no speed trotting. (Though you should be able to control the speed at will. Jogging is nice for increased muscle control).
2) Once that's down, set down poles. Get him to do five walk poles. He should walk with his head down, back lifted, slightly stretching to get over the poles.
3) Once he can do those, set up trot poles. Set up three at first. For a horse, that's about 4 1/2ft apart at first, eventually working up to 5ft apart. I'd try 3 1/2ft at first, though do whatever distance your pony can do, just SLIGHTLY stretching for. You want him to keep up his even trot tempo. He should have his head lowered, back slightly raised when going over the poles. Eventually work your way up to 5 poles, spaced half a foot farther than you first started out with (so he has to almost prance to get over them cleanly). If he's tense, he isn't using his back properly.
3) Once he's got that down, go get yourself a milk crate or overturned bucket and set out three poles. Raise one side of each onto a bucket. Set them apart to whatever you originally started out with (3 1/2ft or whatever). He should go over them at an even tempo, calmly, head lowered, back raised. He should almost have to prance over them. That calm prancing really does wonders for the back. Eventually work your way up to 5 poles, spaced half a foot farther.
4) Once he's got that down, go to three poles and raise both sides. A 14.3hh horse can easily do 1ft high, so maybe try 8" or so for your pony. Set them apart to your original spacing. He should still prance through them, not jump. He should calmly go through them, head lowered, back raised. Eventually work up to 5 poles spaced half a foot farther apart. Once he can do that easily, he ought to be strong enough to go back into a saddle.
If you do this correctly, you'll probably find that you will need a new saddle. You'll find his balance improved, and he will probably work better for you. You'll need to do the free lungeing at least once a week to keep up with him.
If you do this properly, it will usually take a month or so.
I've had to do this on several horses and it's worked out well for me. I've spent several years working on it with my personal mare and even though she's been out of work for two years, she hasn't lost much back muscle.
Thanks Rascal boy for your advice, but as I previously mentioned he has been abused at some point in his life.
I've been told he was made to go round and round in circles on the lunge. I have no where flat or in closed to lunge him either. When I have lunged him we either walk or canter, in flight mode never relaxes just tenses all the time. For a while I worked with him and our trust suffered, in the end when I got to get him walking over poles he would simply bolt and be gone, no matter how I held on.
He sees it as a punishment when hes never done anything wrong.
When lunging he just speeds, never keeps to a tempo or nothing.
I can ride him over poles but I never get the distances right and as I said nothing is flat up here :)
Unless you witnessed this pony being beaten you are listening to hearsay. I think you have a very smart pony that knows how to get his own way. Before the farrier is due the next time, take the pony out for a good hard ride so he'll be more willing to stand for the farrier. If you get back before the farrier arrives, untack and lunge the pony with lots of change of direction. If he won't stand for the farrier, lunge him some more. He'll learn that he can either stand and behave to go to work. You'll have to do this a few times before he figures it out.
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