An ill-fitting saddle is frequently the underlying cause of equine back problems. With young horses, you should be particularly on the lookout - a young horse will inevitably change shape in the course of his training, and will be more prone to rubs and sores.
With any horse, ensuring a correct fit is an ongoing responsibility. If the saddle contains too much padding this will cause a sore back, as it will have a tendency to rock from side to side, causing friction points. Flat padding endangers the spine, as the gullet can meet the back, leading to pressure points and sores or misalignment of the vertebrae. If the saddle is too low or too wide at the pommel the withers will be rubbed. If the padding is lumpy, then localised pressure points will cause sores and discomfort. If the saddle looks as though it is perched on top of the back with the pommel extremely high above the withers, then the tree is probably too narrow and will pinch your horse’s back. If the saddle appears to swamp the horse, with the pommel very low at the wither, the tree is probably too wide and will fail to keep the rider’s weight away from the sensitive bony ridge along the midline of the horse’s back.
Keep an eye on fabric numnahs when your horse is moulting, as the hair tends to work into a hard ball at the pressure points under the cantle and can make the horse very sore. It will be causing discomfort when the horse is ridden and what appears to be bad behaviour may be the result of the horse trying to avoid pain. Also, if you are tempted to try and compensate for a saddle that doesn’t fit and is too tight for your horse by using extra numnahs then STOP!! Just think how it would feel if you had a pair of trainers that was too tight and someone made you wear extra thick socks to help…..maybe not such a good idea after all.
An unsound horse or one with ill-fitting tack will be reluctant to move in a way that makes it more uncomfortable. Removing the source of pain is sometimes all that is needed to make good progress
An Expert, preferably a member of the Master Saddlers Association, should always do initial fitting of a new saddle. However, you must also know what to look out for if problems should arise in the future.