Never underestimate how much of an impact your saddle has on the performance or behaviour of your horse. Gradual or sudden changes in behaviour are often indicators of pain, and saddle fit is usually the culprit. There are many possible behaviours or evasions your horse might try to communicate their discomfort with you, including:

  • Girthiness
  • No longer stands at the mounting block
  • Doesn’t want to walk or trot over poles
  • Jump refusals
  • Sucking back/unwilling to move forward
  • Hollowing the back/loss of topline
  • Atrophy of the trapezius or longissimus muscles
  • Bucking
  • Rearing

The list of possible evasions goes on. If you encounter any new issues, give your horse the benefit of the doubt, and check your fit.

Young and growing horses need to be checked at least every few months. Their bodies are constantly changing. As unfit horses are brought into work, their saddles also need to be checked every few months. Bodies change shape in many ways as muscles develop and their weight changes. Mature horses kept in work should have their fit checked every 6 to 12 months, minimum.

Even professionally fitted saddles can create problems depending what you’re doing with your horse, especially if they have highly mobile or sensitive backs. They can be challenging for even the most skilled fitters. So, it’s important to find a fitter you trust that will watch you ride to make appropriate adjustments, and find something that will work and be comfortable for you and your horse.

This saddle  was fit 5 weeks prior to this photograph on a 4.5 year old. Observe how much the saddle is lifting at the back with the horse at rest. This saddle fit perfectly at the time of fitting, but the young horse’s body changed this much in a month.

The same saddle on the same day… Asking the horse for a slight back lift, simulating how much he naturally lifts his back at the trot, we can see how much drastically higher the back of the saddle lifts off.

Putting a rider in a saddle like that pictured would cause the saddle to dig in every time the back muscles are engaged, ultimately preventing their engagement, and causing atrophy over time. Every time the rider lifts out of the saddle, such as in posting trot, this saddle will bounce and then hammer down into the horse’s back muscles as the rider sits. Regardless of how light, or gentle, or lightly posting the rider is, or even if you only want to walk this saddle will not work.

For reasons like this, it’s absolutely essential to check the fit of your saddle regularly. If your horse suddenly starts stopping, or resisting going forward, these are early warning signs that something is amiss. Listen to your horse and seek professional guidance if you’re unsure.


When dealing with pain related to poor saddle fit, PEMF therapy has been incredibly beneficial to bring horses back into comfort as they recover, promoting healing and relaxation of those aching muscles. But PEMF alone won’t fix saddle-related issues.

Saddles really must be fitted properly, or should not be ridden in at all.

For more on recovery and strengthening the back, read our article Managing Equine Back Pain: 6 Steps to a Strong, Healthy Back.

* MearaPulse Therapies is not a saddle fitting company, but we have a healthy respect for how crucial good fit is and can help support an improved recovery.