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Does Saddle Width affect the spinal mechanics of my horse?

Research view on saddles.

Research Review

Title: Kinematics of the thoracolumbar spine while cantering in horses fitted with a saddle of three different widths. Published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

Date: 2019

Author: Russel Guire


This study looked at the spinal mechanics of horses in ridden canter fitted with three different saddle widths.

  1. Correctly fitted

  2. Narrow fit

  3. Wide fit


  • 13 horses were used for this study.

  • 1 rider

  • Non lame horses

  • Saddles were fitted by 5 qualified saddle fitters

  • 8 inertial sensors fitted (poll, withers, thirteenth (T13) and eighteenth (T18) thoracic vertebrae, third lumbar (L3) vertebra, sacrum, left and right tuber coxae (LTC, RTC)

  • Data collected on the left and right reins


The results from this study showed that compared to a correctly fitted saddle, for both the narrow and wide saddle, a decrease in vertical ROM was found for T13, a medio-lateral direction for T18. Changes in rotational movements were found with a decrease in axial rotation for T13 and L3, flexion and extension for T18 when using a narrow and wide saddle. The main limitations to this study was the subject size, and that only one rider was used.

Take home:

What I found interesting about this study is that both the wide and narrow saddle reduced range of movement in thoracolumbar kinematics. We need to be aware as horse owners and riders that saddle fit is key to performance for our horses.

How often do you get your saddle fitted?

Who is your saddle fitter? Are they endorsed by a company?

Does your saddle fitter watch you ride?

Do they assess the saddle with no rider?

Is your saddle fitter fitting the saddle to you or to your horse? There is no point being in a saddle that you hate but your horse loves, or vice versa.

Further research and studies are required on other saddle types and makes with various breeds and riders. Also, in agreement with the this study, further study is required to understand the mechanics behind these changes.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me:

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