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Tip 2: Wither Clearance - Western Saddles

Is your horse reluctant to move forward? Are mysterious white hairs, strange bumps or soars appearing around the withers? Although you may have the required 2-3 fingers wither clearance, you may not have enough clearance on all sides, which is vital! Watch this informative video for some saddle fit tips on “Wither Clearance” that may […]

Is your horse reluctant to move forward?
Are mysterious white hairs, strange bumps or soars appearing around the withers?

Although you may have the required 2-3 fingers wither clearance, you may not have enough clearance on all sides, which is vital!
Watch this informative video for some saddle fit tips on “Wither Clearance” that may help you!

Wither clearance is an often misunderstood concept

All of us are concerned that our saddles have adequate wither clearance and do not pinch our horse’s withers. But few of us truly understand exactly what “wither clearance” means.

Many of us learned that our saddle should have 2-3 fingers clearance on the top of the withers. But we were never taught that there also had to be clearance on the sides of the withers. One of the reasons this is crucial is because when the horse moves, his shoulder blades rotate upwards and backwards. The saddle must have an opening (clearance) on the sides of his withers to accommodate the shoulder rotation at the swell.

To see just how much your own horse’s shoulder blade rotates backwards when he moves, stand on the side of your horse and mark the shoulder blade with a piece of chalk. Then have a friend stretch your horse’s front leg forward and mark the new position of the shoulder blade. You will see how much farther back the shoulder blade is now positioned.

Ideally, we should be able to get 2-3 fingers clearance on both the top and the sides of the withers. To determine adequate clearance on the sides of the withers, we measure from the top of the withers to the bottom of the swell.

If there is no clearance (or space) on the side of the withers, the horse’s movement will be restricted. It will be impossible for him to have free range of movement through his shoulders.

A horse whose saddle pinches his withers may be reluctant to go forward. Other more extreme signs of insufficient wither clearance are patches of white hairs (not scattered individual white hairs) or sores on the top or on one or both sides of the withers.

 

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"I have been riding horses for over 50 years and have always felt that the perfect saddle had yet to be developed. I often dreamed of a saddle that could be adjusted to fit any horse and accommodate its physical development throughout its training. A saddle that would encourage a proper seat position and actually enhance the riding experience without causing physical damage or discomfort to either horse or rider. I had thought it impossible and was very skeptical when Jochen Schleese claimed to have developed a saddle that could do that and more.  The horses immediately had a freedom of movement and suppleness that was amazing and actually encourages the horse to work through their backs. We thank Jochen Schleese for devoting his life to researching and developing his saddle system and is now educating trainers and riders to listen to their horses. Horses always tell the truth."

— Will Faerber - Encinitas, CA

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