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Getting & Keeping your Horse/ Pony Fit to Carry a Side Saddle

DOWNLOAD: Prepare Your Horse for Side Saddle (PDF)

There is nothing better than to ride a well mannered horse side saddle. That will only happen if you have a saddle that correctly fits the horse and yourself well, and you take care of your horse’s back.

Remember that you are now riding at least 6kg heavier; in the first instance you really need a good experienced instructor and side saddle fitter together to achieve this fit. Sadly today we often have to make the best use of the original side saddles, mostly antique, refurbished. The saddle tree was originally handmade to fit the horse; the fixed head, leaping head and seat were made to fit the rider; every stirrup fitting was individually forged. The horses were fit, well muscled, in full work and grooms strapped them regularly. Not so easy these days, but it is very unfair to expect any animal who has not carried a side saddle before to suddenly work for hours without preparation. The saddle is heavier and sits further back than a cross-saddle, too much use in the early stages may cause pain and tension across the loins - like any athlete training is essential.

The golden rule is preparation; taking ten minutes daily and before you ride, using either your hands or body brush, following the lie of the coat with soft long strokes in time with the movement of the muscles works wonders. Take care not to apply pressure over the loins as that is the horse’s weakest point. When first starting, it helps to ride one day aside and one day cross saddle, that way you can regularly check for any heat, rubs or soreness, especially near to the wither and back area. Build the time up slowly starting with 20 - 30 minutes, if your horse is sharp, work in two short sessions.  
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Hill and pole work help to supple and strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and hindquarters, keeping everything simple. Lovely long canters can be a pleasure if you have the green lanes to enjoy, it being a far better pace for the horse’s back than the trot.

If the horse is very hot after hunting etc., do not immediately remove the saddle, let them cool off - being trapped for some time, the circulation needs to return to normal without the weight of a rider before removing the saddle. Always take five minutes to run your hands softly over the back with long supple strokes, you will feel any bumps or heat immediately and it helps to restore the circulation and develop the muscle.

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Remember to check the girth area and the offside balance girthing for rubs.  A wash down with vinegar and water can be very beneficial, if you find any areas where the hair is rubbed bare, something like Sudocreme or aloe vera gel work well and don’t put the saddle on again until it is healed, in the meantime get the saddle checked, flocking goes down very quickly, horses change shape constantly, good quality numnahs are essential if used.  When clipping always leave a saddle patch area shaped to the side saddle.

In no time at all you and your horse will be enjoying many happy hours together, simply because you took the time to care for him properly.

Thank you to Nadya Brown for this article


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Side Saddle Association 4-6 Aug National Show


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We would like to thank you all for attending the 2022 National Side Saddle Show organised by the NSSSG. We look forward to welcoming competitors back in 2023 Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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The Side Saddle Association aims to encourage and promote the practice of riding side saddle. There are a number of categories of membership and application may be made online Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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The Association offers a wide variety of classes, to suit all standards of rider and horse/pony to encourage and give all side saddle riders the opportunity to participate in a range of disciplines Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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