Ill Fitting Saddle ?



Often times one hears of an 'ill fitting saddle' creating discomfort and occasional saddle pressure sores. This may well be the case, and accordingly a master saddler should be consulted.

However another not uncommon entity presenting with similar symptoms is N.P.. (Neuropathic Pain). A horse demonstrating symptoms of '"'cold back'"' (drops or sinks when saddle pressure is applied) quite often is actually demonstrating the presence of altered sensitivities particularly about the whither and dorsal thorax (whither to back of saddle area). Responses to graded pressure and light touch are often heightened meaning these areas are showing neurological symptoms referred to as '"'mechano allodynia' and 'hyperaesthesia'.

Horses with this presentation are often poorly muscled about the dorsal spinous processes of the wither and under saddle area (the muscle falls away about the spine). A comparison of this region with the corresponding musculature of the lower back, often shows distinct differences. Responses to deep graded pressure and touch should then be estimated in both regions for comparison.


1) Have a saddle constructed to fit the altered contour of the horse. By spreading the pressures evenly the horse should experience reduced discomfort and then be more accepting of saddle contact and pressure.

2) Treat the underlying cause of these altered sensitivities and altered muscular development. Permanent relief from these altered sensitivities has been achieved in many cases with 2 CVMUA'S (cervical vertebral mobilisation under anaesthetic) performed 8 wks or longer apart. It would appear that the origin of these symptoms is most often found in altered neural biomechanics of the lower cervical vertebral complexes and may well involve the sympathetic chains.

Successful treatment should result in development of the musculature and abolition of the altered sensitivities often meaning that the original saddle may well FIT.


Ahern T J : Spinal mobilisation therapy: with particular reference to cervical vertebral mobilisation under anaesthetic (CVMUA).In: Pain Management of Dogs and Horses:Some Alternative Therapies, CVE Murdoch University,Western Australia 1997; 43-49.

Ahern T J: Pain of spinal origin (PSO),Centaur (India) 1992;IX: 6-17.