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Ask The Vet – Flextree Saddles

I just bought a flextree saddle, but a now hearing these may cause back problems in my horse? What is your opinion?

Courtesy of AAEP

More important than the specific saddle or style of saddle, is the specific fit of the specific saddle to the individual horse, and the suitability of that saddle to fulfill the needs and anatomy of horse and rider. The saddle should be well-suited to the horse’s anatomical features and the pursuit, as well as to the rider’s size and ability. There are saddle-fitters, and saddle fitting guidelines, along with high tech devices to assure an even distribution of pressure under the saddle. Saddle pads are critical, as is their cleanliness. The horse’s back must be sound and inflammation-free to begin with, and the ribs must be quiet. Often, if you can believe it, where the rider’s heels ride along the horse’s rib cage there can develop tenderness and bruising from inadvertent and purposeful kicking. Rib pain must be ruled out before and after each ride. It is important all of the ribs and back are carefully palpated for inflammation and tenderness before and after each saddling. Grooming and brushing the back are important. The horse’s stable life needs to be fulfilled and enriched with abundant friends, forage, and locomotion.

Most important to equine back health is the rider’s finesse, ability, and style of riding, along with the effective fluid development of a willing partnership between horse and rider. It is critical the rider moves with the horse, and assists the horse in her locomotory pursuits, avoiding any aggravation or limitation of natural motions and gaits. Rather than saddle issues, many back problems are the result of imbalanced riding.

There are flexible trees, and solid trees, and saddles with no significant tree at all. Each has their place when properly fitted and applied. Horses need to be abundantly fulfilled, massaged, and warmed up before being saddled. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

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