Recently I treated a horse whose saddle has started slipping to the right in canter. I explained to the owner that saddle slip is almost always caused by asymmetry in the horse, and I thought this would be useful information to share here. Russell MacKechnie-Guire at Centaur Biomechanics, and Dr Sue Dyson, amongst others, have produced several studies into the subject over the past few years. The research shows clearly that if the saddle is slipping, we must first look at the horse to figure out where the asymmetry is, as it’s the asymmetry in the horse’s movement that is likely to be causing the saddle to slip. This is because of uneven push off creating uneven movement through the back. Initially we need to determine whether the horse is lame or asymmetrical, ideally through a veterinary lameness work up including trotting in a straight line and on the circle, flexion tests, and the use of the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram to assess for musculoskeletal pain under saddle. If we determine that the horse is sound, then we can address the saddle slip through adjustments to the saddle (such as shims and balance straps), through postural and strengthening work for the horse, and through mobility, postural and strengthening work for the rider. If the horse is lame, then the underlying lameness must be addressed, but we may use temporary measures to adjust the saddle in the meantime, and work with the rider to ensure that they are not aggravating the issue. If temporary measures are put in place, the horse must be checked regularly to ensure that the measures are still appropriate. It’s really important to address the underlying cause of the saddle slip as early as possible, to reduce the risk of further damage. A team approach is essential in managing saddle slip, and the team might include horse, rider, coach, trainer, veterinarian, saddle fitter, physical therapist, equine dental technician, farrier, nutritionist and more.
© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021
Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion