Determining how well tack fits can be difficult. Horses can’t tell you where a saddle pinches or a bridle rubs, and not all ill-fitting tack looks out of place. So you’ll want to keep a close eye out for other, more-subtle signs of trouble:
• Rub marks.
If there are any skin injuries, or even “broken hairs” under where equipment sits, you almost definitely have ill-fitting tack. Look carefully for such areas as you untack so you can catch them before open wounds form, which can take weeks or months to heal completely.
• Muscle atrophy.
Uneven development of muscles under the saddle can be an indication of poor fit, especially if those muscles are also sore or painful. If your horse looks asymmetrical in his musculature, scrutinize his saddle fit.
• Uneven sweat marks.
Sweat should be evenly distributed under saddle panels and bridle straps. If your horse has a dry area where tack sits while the rest of him is damp, be suspicious that tack isn’t resting properly on that space.
• Changes in expression and attitude.
Research supports the observation that a horse in pain will show it in his face and body language. A horse just “looking uncomfortable” is reason enough to investigate all possible causes, including tack fit.
As you track down possible fit problems, keep in mind that tack that is too large can cause just as many problems as tack that is too small. Also remember that while adjustments and padding can work in the short term, investing in new, properly fitting tack may be the best way to keep your horse comfortable and sound.
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