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Problems Which May Be Related to Tack

Before riding, first check that the saddle is a good fit and is sufficiently padded. This is especially important on horses that have a poor conformation or on those that have lost a lot of body condition. In either case, a saddle pad made of sheepskin, rubber, felt, padded material or foam may help prevent the saddle from slipping.


On a very thin or narrow-chested horse, the saddle tends to slip backward along the loins. A breastplate, consisting of a neck strap passing to the girth and anchored to the D-rings on the front of the saddle, may help to hold it in place. Similarly, a breast girth may have the same effect; it is a webbing strap that runs along the front of the chest and is attached to both sides of the girth.


On small ponies, the saddle tends to slip forward from the withers up the neck, particularly when the animal puts its head down. An adjustable leather strap leading from the back of the saddle around the dock called a crupper, should overcome the problem.


A sore is a thickening of the skin resulting from pressure and friction from ill-fitting tack. Saddle sores are found on the withers and the middle of the back, usually on top of the raised vertebral processes of the backbone. Sometimes sores may occur on the side of the backbone because the gullet of the saddle is not wide enough and the saddle is pinching. In every case, removing the source of the pressure is essential. A saddle pad, or a foam pad that has had the relevant area above the pressure point cut out, should ease the pressure and enable the skin to heal.


Along with saddle sores, you may also notice the development of mouth sores. First, check that the bit is the correct width–a jointed snaffle should protrude a quarter of an inch on either side. The cheek pieces should also be checked to make sure that they are adjusted properly to keep the bit in the correct position, which is just touching the corners of the mouth. Some horses have very soft skin at the corners of the mouth. The mildest possible snaffle bit should be used and, if the lips are cut, an ointment should be used immediately to aid healing. Cracked lips do not heal easily, and tend to crack repeatedly unless treated. Pressure from the rings or the shanks of a bit can be prevented by using rubber bit-stops.


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