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Tip 2: Wither Clearance

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

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 in Pony Club 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.

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 point just above where the stuffing of the saddle starts. On a mutton-withered horse, however, we may get as much as 4-5 fingers clearance.

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.

 

Is this a challenge you are facing? Are you experiencing other saddle fit issues? Tell us about them and let us help!

Contact miriam@schleese.com or solutions@schleese.com, book a Personal Saddle Fit Evaluation, or attend an educational lecture/demo.

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I am writing to thank CDS (California Dressage Society) and Schleese Saddlery for the CDS 50th Anniversary Saddle Spectacular Raffle. I was thrilled to be the winner of the Schleese saddle which was fitted and delivered to me February 17 [2017].  Jochen spent several hours educating me on the importance of proper saddle fit.  He began by watching me ride in my old saddle then taking the saddle off, he used colored chalk on my horse to explain how a saddle is fit according to the horse's anatomy. Then he sat me on a saw horse to check my position and how my leg hung naturally. I was measured for saddle size then I rode in a demo saddle which required only a minor adjustment. The change in my horse's gait was amazing with more shoulder freedom and more 'step under himself' with ease.  My position changed into a more upright position and my leg hung naturally without any effort from me in placement.  I loved the demo saddle and took it with me the same day. The experience with Jochen and his team was very educational and a complete pleasure. I look forward to our next saddle fitting session and I continue to be thrilled with my new Obrigado saddle! Best regards,

— Leslie Anderson - Walnut Creek, CA

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