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Improve your barrel horse's back - Body sound Equine

his post is the 3rd in a series for learning how to enhance your horse’s stride and strengthen your horse’s back to get him to move more athletically. Click here to read the first post andhere to read the second. Thank you for coming back to read about how to improve your horse’s top line even more! It seems to be a never ending topic around here! 

The reason I am going into a part 3 of improving your horse’s stride, is because in my experience I’ve seen certain factors contribute to impeding the health of the top line. We learned that one of those factors is body work, another factor is the body actually working, and another major factor is the SADDLE.  In the past 7 years particularly, I’ve dived into why saddle fit matters so much.

But I’m curious…what would you guys say about saddle fit? Is it kind of one of those things you leave to the saddle rep to handle, or do you just assume that since your horse isn’t going completely bananas that all is well? Below, I have a lot of tips and pieces of advice I hope you will apply to your current saddle or even a future purchase. Because the saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it…” will sometimes leave you high and dry!

In the following video I cheekily talk about why the inside of a saddle matter more than the outside. We might all be drooling at the two-toned, buttery soft leather, with silver dot border  over a dropped rigging but it is  what’s on the inside of that thing that makes it so special (or not special). NOT all saddles are created equal. And you should do your own research to support any decision you make. I’ve seen some fancy apron wearing saddle fitters, and some dapper cowboys “educate” sheep if that gives you any hints…

What Should A Saddle Do For My Horse???

Learn more about Natural Horseman Saddles. (*affiliate link)

Now that we’ve established that the concept of a saddle moving WITH your horse and not rubbing against him is a sound one (haha get it?) let’s talk about fit. Boy-oh-boy saddle fit. Have you guys walked into a tack store or flipped through Smith Brother’s recently? The pad options are infinite. Or at least it seems that way and that’s what gets us a little dizzy. I mean – how are we supposed to pick? Charmayne James endorses this one. That one has sweet Aztec print on it. And ohhhh foam/felt/air/gel/goose down/baby skin/sports material lining! Can you feel the anxiety creeping in yet? Let me help you see through some murky marketing waters…

What you don’t know is that if you read this post, you already have the skills you need to make an educated decision all by yourself. I added this video below to remind you what you need to do. The thing to remember is that our saddles and pad need to accommodate and support a moving back. Find the scapula and set those un-pinching bars BEHIND them at rest. Your horse wants you to know he has more than 4 large muscle groups trying to function under that beautiful saddle.

The thing to remember is your saddle and pad need to accommodate a moving back.

See!? Look how smart you guys are already! You now know how to red light the top line points, stretch your horse out, exercise them efficiently, and know you know how to find the elusive scapula. Too legit to quit now!

PART 4 of my series will ONLY be shared with those subscribed to the INTEGRATED EQUINE NETWORK!!

Here’s the thing – some people do get a little hung up on cost, so they do quit. The saddle the horse needs and the human wants can be totally out of our pocket’s price range. Well, lucky for you… another tip to keep you running strong. Even if you are in a transition saddle (or didn’t know you were until now haha) shimming the bars of the tree OFF your horse’s scapula is paramount to soundness and safety. In fact, did you guys know that most horse’s get dry spots because there is way too much pressure from the tree in one place or another? Additionally, there is a nerve that lies right underneath the front of most saddles – once you cinch up, and add your body weigh your horse is hurtin’ for certain. Trust me, shimming is the best way you can protect your horse and yourself from soundness issues, freak accidents, and major behavioral caveats.



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This isn’t about brand or style. It’s about safety and function. Countless horse’s I’ve ridden have suffered from dry spots, and I almost broke my neck thanks to my baby-sitting budget saddle back in high school.

I wish I could convey how important and VITAL a proper fitting saddle is to each horse owner. In my body working business (sadly) 80% of soreness comes from the saddle, and I’m sure other equine practitioners would agree. As a trainer, I see all too many horse’s being taken through difficult tasks in consequence from behavior that is only motivated by saddle pain.  And as a hoof trimmer, I have noticed that a horse’s bio-mechanics are affected from bashing bars and a tight tree. Bad news.

The good news is that there is always a solution around every corner if you are willing to look.  If you don’t know where to begin with saddle fit there are plenty of resources on my page, if you are looking for a new saddle (*affiliate link) that will last your for the rest of your life and fit all of your horses click here, and if you can’t afford a new chariot then shim the one you have now! If you want to have a sound, healthy and lasting horse though – I suggest you hop to it  so you can hop on it! Your horse needs you!

The last thing to think about is shimming. The video here breaks shimming the saddle down into 3 easy points. And don’t forget to download these 2 PDF for shimming patterns and reasons for shimming to unlock your horse!

PART 4 of my series will ONLY be shared with those subscribed to the INTEGRATED EQUINE NETWORK!!

Click here to join hundreds of other performance horseman and woman getting my best content delivered to their mailbox.

And, if you didn’t read Part 1 or Part 2 on Improving your barrel horse’s stride and times or how I took my new barrel horse from the 4D to the 1D check out them out below.

How to improve your barrel horses stride and time – Part-1 – Top Line Points

How to improve your barrel horses stride and time – Part-2 – Exercises

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