Monday, February 3, 2014

Trail Riding 101: Selecting a Saddle

Choosing a Trail Riding Saddle Trail Riding SaddleLet’s begin with one of the most critical pieces of equipment…your saddle. This is not a time to make a saddle selection based on the latest fashion. Select a piece of equipment that is suitable for you and your horse. First consider what type of trail riding you expect to be doing. Will it be state parks, private trails, or back country? For the trail riding I knew I would be doing I chose a leather western saddle with a deep seat, a high cantle and a short saddle horn. My mare had a deep heart girth so I chose a saddle with quarter horse bars. For you English riders that chose a hunt or dressage type saddle, you may want to consider deep knee rolls to help with stability. Most importantly keep in mind that you will be in varying terrain and the most important thing is to select a saddle that you feel secure in the seat and will not make your horse sore. Making your horse sore is not a good experience and will defeat the purpose of trail riding in the first place.

Once you have selected the type of saddle you think will work for you, let’s give as much attention to the saddle and how it will fit your horse. If the saddle is not a good fit for your horse you can end up with saddle sores or galling their girth. You know you have made a good selection when you see an even sweat pattern on your horses’ back when you remove the saddle. There should not be a lot of space between the horses back and the bars. Bars that stand up on your horses back can cause your horse to go lame. Think about it…. Your horses’ back will become sore, they then begin to compensate in their gate and the next thing you know your horse will show up lame. You may think it is a leg or hoof problem when in fact it was caused by an improper fitting saddle and his back is sore instead. On the other hand, the saddle shouldn't set down on your horses’ back either. That can cause lameness.

Stirrups

Now let’s address the stirrups. Trail rides are not normally a short duration. Rides can last up to hours and you find yourself with knee and ankle pain. This can be alleviated by using swivel stirrups or flexible stirrups that take the pressure off of one position. A swivel device can be added but flexible stirrups are something you can do. When you are not riding and have your saddle on a saddle rack apply an oil of choice and inserting a broom handle under the saddle to flex the stirrups in the outward direction. This will “train” the leather to flex in the outward direction thus more comfortable for longer rides.

This concludes our section on Saddle Selection. I hope you have given trail riding some serious consideration. As we said in the beginning, there is nothing better than camping and trail riding your horse for fun and relaxation.

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