*For my most recent insights on saddle fit, check out
How to Evaluate, Find and Enhance Saddle Fit for Faster Barrel Racing.
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When it comes to saddle fit, the journey that led me to the level of understanding (and my horse’s level of comfort) that we currently enjoy started nearly two years ago. In this article, I’ll be sharing what I learned so that you and your horses can benefit as well.
For many years, I had been riding in a high quality and comfortable (for me) barrel saddle. I bought it slightly used and remember when I first swung it on my horses back without a pad – it fit like a glove. A match made in heaven, or so it seemed.
Slowly over time, I noticed that the area behind my horse’s withers started to atrophy. You’ve probably also noticed these “dips” that occur in the area behind the shoulders. However, because it’s so common, you (like me) probably thought nothing of it. Tana Poppino didn’t think much about her grey gelding, Goose’s prominent withers either, until she joined forces with Martin Saddlery.
This slow change in my horse’s topline, combined with some insight from my amazing equine bodyworker, suggested that there could be a saddle fit issue. She often found subtle but repetitive tenderness and “stuck” areas while working on my gelding.
Once I realized there was an issue, it sparked some intense study on the subject of saddle fit which also resulted in numerous consultations with a variety of professionals. During this time, I stumbled upon research done by Martin Saddlery – it was clear they’d been doing their homework. Connecting with Martin led my gelding and I to personally consult with NFR barrel racer Tana Poppino. With her help and many months of trial, error and insight, I came to some interesting conclusions. Conclusions that have not only helped me SEE, but FEEL a difference in my horses, and ensure they can compete to their fullest potential – without discomfort, pain and restricted movement.