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How to Solve Saddle Slip

Is your saddle slipping to one side? Saddle slip is incredibly common and so many riders either don’t realise or just put up with it. But it’s a big problem!

As a saddle fitter I’d say a very high percentage of horses and riders suffer with saddle slip, around 70-80% of the new clients I see have some sort of saddle stability issue – primarily slipping to the right. To solve this you first have to understand ‘why’.

The saddle not fitting is one big reason – tree shape, width and type of panel cause a lot of stability issues and this is easy to solve – just adjust or replace the saddle.

But assuming the saddle is a good fit – why does slipping still occur? And it does. Many, many saddles that are a really good fit in all other respects still slip. And actually; a saddle on very broad, flat, low withered pony will often slip more the better it matches their shape! I’ve had instances where I’ve taken a pony out of a tight, narrow saddle (which didn’t slip) and changed them into a much more suitable saddle which does want to slip. This is because the previous tight saddle was jammed on and literally couldn’t move – a better fitting saddle that matches the rolly polly shape of the horse has nothing to anchor on to or dig in to and want to slide from side to side – this is one of the reasons we have balance straps. That’s not to say the slipping saddle is ok, of course it still needs to be fixed.

The biggest reason for saddle slip comes down to the way the horse moves, and this in no ones fault – not even your saddle fitters. It’s just the way living things are made. Yes of course the rider can cause saddle slip but in my experience the horse needs to be addressed first. No horse or rider is 100% straight and any asymmetries will make the saddle move. In the horse, hindlimb action is a huge contributor. Lameness in the backend is directly linked to saddle slip but also asymmetric movement, weakness in one hind limb, tension in the body, shoulder placement, the neck, pretty much any unevenness in the horse will affect the way the saddle sits in motion. Horses almost always have uneven shoulders as well which is another major factor in saddle slip. They have a ‘good rein’ and a ‘bad rein’ again proof that one side works differently to the other.

Finding a solution to saddle slip means working out the cause – if a saddle is being pushed to one side by say, a bigger shoulder then there is no sense in anchoring the saddle into that shoulder. This is why asymmetric girthing should not be the go-to option. Instead straightness is the answer. Straightness in the horse, the rider and the saddle.

Now while you are working on straightness you may need a short-term way of keeping the saddle straight. A horse will never work straight if the rider is sat to one side. This is where short term asymmetric shimming or girthing can be used (but girthing should be a last resort). You need to apply the LEAST invasive method to keep the saddle straight because all asymmetric adjustments will allow and encourage more asymmetry. The only exception to this is when working with a horse or rider who is permanently or structurally asymmetric either through injury or deformation.

In short the answer to solving saddle slip is to have your horse thoroughly analysed for the cause and work with a saddle fitter, body worker and coach to achieve straightness and be prepared to put in the work. Your saddle fitter cannot work miracles and will always try to preserve the longevity of the horse. Sometimes this means saying no and prescribing groundwork or referring you on to other professionals before the saddle can be fitted. The rider doesn’t get away with it either – the rider must also take steps to achieve straightness and symmetry in their own body with independent movement, strength and control.  

Last but certainly not least you need to make sure your saddle is actually straight. Many older saddles have twisted trees, warped panels, uneven flocking or may even have been built unevenly.

Again, this needs to be reviewed and addressed before we can even think about straightness.

If your saddle is slipping get in touch with your qualified saddle fitter and arrange a visit.

If you would like to learn more about saddle fitting visit where you can find online and in-person courses to gain more knowledge.

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