Saddle Fitting

Saddles and equipment play a significant role in equine performance. Imagine running a marathon in shoes two sizes too small - ouch! Now explain to a horse how he's going to jump in a saddle that vice-grips his shoulder! Many clients need the objective image evidence of the inflammation that is caused by their ill-fitting tack to be encouraged into making positive changes.

Rider balance also plays a significant and often under-discussed role in equine performance. Thermography demonstrate the difference between the influence of tack and the influence of an imbalanced rider, on the horse beneath.

Case Study A

A dressage horse that has a curved back and has had pain from saddles that have not fitted. Because of his shape it's been difficult to find a saddle that fits his back and his rider. He is treated through out the year with physio so it has been a problem with pain at the back of the saddle region. We trialed 2 different saddles on his back and also one of the NSC with packing put at the back.

The case study is of the NSC which fits him well. When the saddle is taken from his back after riding he is happy when you rub his back. Only a thin cotton saddle blanket was used under the saddle.


Back shot taken before riding         Back shot taken after riding 30mins.

Normal red stripe down back          More heat at back of shoulder

Heat behind the right shoulder       More heat on the right side of back.

                                                               Light pressure at the back of the saddle



Side and back view of the NSC saddle.


This shot looking at the saddle shows that the rider puts more pressure through the knee roll and also thigh region. The underneath of the saddle shows more white on the right hand side meaning she sits heavier this side and uses the right leg stronger. She is causing pain in the right shoulder of the horse.

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Picture taken after riding and you can see the knee roll on saddle right side more heat, calf area and where the thigh goes.


Case Study B

This is the same horse from case study A, this was the horses previous saddle. After riding he was angry when you touched his back. While he was being ridden compared to NSC saddle he did not lift his back, less elevation through his shoulders, transitions where not smooth and his hocks where not stable - slight wobble.


Before riding                                 After riding 30 minutes

The saddle has to be packed up at the front with sheep skin as too low. The pattern on the back is very inconsistant. The white is the hottest area. It creates more pressure at the back of the saddle and the shoulders. From what we know this horse does not like pressure at the back of the saddle. Pressure at the back of the saddle means he cannot lift his back up correctly.

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Red circles show pressure          Green circle no pressure.

This saddle is not allowing enough clearance in front and is sitting on parts of the withers meaning he can not lift his withers and back when ridden.



Case Study E

Thermal images have been taken from an Anky saddle that fits the horse quite well. The white and  red areas show where the rider has been putting weight. The white area is the most pressure. Comparing both sides of the saddle it is clear that the rider puts more pressure through the left side of the saddle. When the rider legs are imaged, more pressure is put through the left calf muscle.

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This is the underneath of the saddle after the horse has been ridden for 15 minutes. It shows more pressure through the left pannel of the saddle. White is the hottest then red. For a correct fit and that the rider is sitting straight even colour will be seen through the panels.

Equine thermography can quickly and accurately show where the saddle or numnah is in contact with the horse's back. Problems such as bridging, saddles which are too wide, or over or under flocked can all be picked up with thermography. When coupled with an image of the horse's back an both saddle and back images before and after exercise are compared, you have a true view on whether your tack could be leading to or exacerbating problems.