Monday, March 25, 2013

5 Saddle Fitting Myths Every Horse Owner Should Know

Spring is just around the corner here in the Midwest - March 20 to be exact (we’re not counting or anything!). With thawing snow and budding trees you are probably itching to get out in the stalls and sort through the inventory of saddles, tack, and equipment you have collected over the years.

If you find yourself in the market for a new saddle, here are five saddle fitting myths to keep in mind as you search for the perfect fit.

Myth #1: One size fits all.

We frequently find ourselves explaining that one size saddle does not fit all horses. This seems like basic information, but for a first-time horse owner, it can be baffling to find that saddles not only come with different seat sizes for the rider, but they also come with different tree sizes for your horse. Regardless of how much your horse weighs or how wide you think his back is, measuring just to make sure can save you the headache of returning an ill-fitting saddle. Need more help? You can download our free gullet templates at

Myth #2: I’ll be able to buy a saddle that fits two different horses.

There is a rare exception to this myth, and that is if you have two horses that are extremely similar in weight, back width, back length, and wither shape. But a mere 25 pounds in the wrong spot, a 3 inch shorter back, or a slightly higher wither can mean a saddle fitting one horse and hurting another. If you are shopping for two horses, we recommend focusing on one horse at a time instead of trying to come up with a compromise between the two. Compromising saddle fit is, quite frankly, compromising your horse’s comfort, and therefore, his behavior. 

Myth #3: A good saddle pad will solve my saddle fitting problems.

Many horse owners think that putting a good saddle pad under an ill-fitting saddle will alleviate pinching, slipping, or uneven pressure. Good saddle pads can cause the saddle to fit better. There is much technology in the pad industry to help a saddle fit better and you should take advantage of that technology. However, padding-up to help eliminate sores from a poor fitting saddle is not a good choice. Many times, padding up will just magnify the fitting issues you are already experiencing.

Myth #4: All saddles that claim to be semi-quarter horse have the same gullet width.

There are many variations to this myth. The truth is that the saddle industry uses terms loosely. Semi-quarter horse bars are often referred to as quarter horse bars, but others use the term quarter horse bars to describe wide bars, so the same saddle can be given different terms. This is very confusing to someone buying their first saddle. We have tried to wrestle this myth to the ground in our shop by standardizing our terms. We apply the term “medium” to regular, narrow, or semi-quarter horse bars and the term “full” to wide, full quarter horse bars.

Myth #5: I have to be an expert to tell if my saddle fits properly.

With all the helpful articles on saddle fitting on the web today, it can feel like you have to know a textbook full of information to be able to select a well-fitting saddle. Many customers call feeling exasperated wondering, “Is it really THAT hard?” No, it isn’t! All you have to be sure of is your horse and your saddle needs - no one can be an expert on those two areas but you!

Here are a few tips: If you are having a specific problem, like white hairs on your horse or saddle slippage, troubleshoot those areas first. If you know your horse’s build and figure out what size tree will fit, half of your work is done. Most saddle fitting problems arise from a saddle that…doesn’t fit!

For more saddle fitting myths and tips like this, make sure you visit our Help Center over at

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winter Care for your Aged Horse

At the age of 51, I can attest that winter seems to be longer and colder than those of my younger years. Our aged horses most likely look at winter this very same way. The cold months of winter are the most difficult for an aged horse, particularly one that may also have underlying chronic health conditions such as holding a healthy weight, arthritis, respiratory issues or dental problems.


It is best to prepare your horse in advance for the upcoming winter season, and it is very important to insure he is coming into the winter months at the best possible health, body condition and weight. It is very difficult for an aged horse to gain weight during winter due to the amount of energy required for him to keep warm; however, with consistent attention and effort you may be able to keep his weight steady.

You must keep your elderly horse warm during winter to prevent him from becoming chilled to the point of shivering. An enormous amount of energy is expended when a horse shivers to keep warm, and he will drop a lot of weight because of this.


The most important tool in combating the chill of winter is nutrition. A horse expends a lot of energy trying to stay warm and this energy must be re-kindled with ample amounts of food. Calorie intake not only provides energy, but also builds fat which puts on a protective layer against cold weather. Hay, which metabolizes more slowly through the digestive process and provides the best heat, is the most important food product for your elderly horse during the winter months. If possible, keep good quality hay in front of him around the clock, particularly at night when temperatures are their coldest. If dental problems prevent your horse from eating hay, you can feed hay cubes. To up the calorie intake, grain can be made into a “gruel” when mixed with warm water. A heated meal will help warm your old guy up a bit.

Placing a heater into the water trough or bucket will also provide some warmth, as well as prevent colic since horses do not find cold water palatable and will drink less, whereby setting the stage for an impaction colic.


Blanketing will keep your horse warm, but it is important that you check under the blanket every day to assess body condition to make sure he is not dropping weight. Blanketing can also be problematic for horses with Cushings disease by allowing fungal growth on the skin. It is very important to regularly inspect your horse to make sure there are no skin problems caused from the blanketing.

Be mindful of the weather and temperature when you turn your horse out. If it is cold, clear and sunny, your blanketed horse would be okay to spend some time outside; however, if it is cold, windy and cloudy with precipitation, it is best to leave him in.


Mobility is an issue for an aged horse with arthritis or other lameness issues, who will find it very difficult to navigate over uneven, frozen ruts that lie in wait near pasture gaits and watering troughs. If you notice your horse having difficulty navigating in the pasture, you may want to stall him during the winter, with regular daily in-hand exercise. Also, if your horse has a respiratory problem such as heaves, it is best that he not be turned out in frigid conditions, because the cold air will worsen his condition. Hay should be moistened with water prior to feeding a “heavey” horse to lower dust levels.

Careful and observant attention to your older horse during the winter will bring him through the winter and into spring and another year to enjoy together.

Happy Trails!

By: Darlene M. Cox (