Saddlefit 4 Life on Bridging and Lifting of the Back

close up of horse with saddle

Written by: Sonja Gagnon Director of Operations with Saddlefit 4 Life Academy

Believe it or not, there are saddle fitting schools out there that teach fitters to create a bridge fit under the assumption that the spacing will both allow and encourage a horse to come up and lift the back to close the space and create even contact against the saddle.

Now, we’re not sure what planet these schools are on, but here on earth we have this pesky thing called gravity which only cats seem to be able to opt in and out of.

Let us take apart the bridge fit to better understand why it is absolutely ludicrous to think that a horse will be anything but hollow and tense with this fitting method.

First and foremost, in order to bridge, there must be 2 points of contact to lift the center up and away. Those points of contact are almost always on the shoulder, and also for many of these saddles, well beyond the last thoracic vertebrae and sitting on the lumbar. Already, the saddle is putting ALL the weight of the rider onto areas and structures that you should be avoiding.

Moving on to gravity – whatever goes up must come down. When the horse is in motion it goes through a short suspended phase in the faster gaits right before landing. It is precisely at the moment when the horse is coming back up into suspension, and the rider is coming down that there is the highest impact. When you’re expecting to be poked or hit, you instinctively flex and tense your muscles. The same applies to a horse who is expecting a saddle to press and poke in sensitive areas such as withers, shoulders and lumbar.

A tense back, is not a soft back, is not an engaged back.

Again, tension in the back prevents engagement.

So you start off with a hollow horse, who becomes more and more tense in the back as they try and get away from the impact of the saddle and rider on non-weight bearing areas.

I don’t know about you, but if someone were to stand on my back with a pair of stilts, the last thing I would ever do is round up into those points.

The horse must remain in this hollow, protective posture to avoid further pain and direct trauma (but increasing the risk of secondary trauma and injury such as kissing spine and so much more). Unless you administer local anesthetic all along the back every time you ride to mask the pain caused by the saddle, the horse will NEVER come up with this type of fit because he physically can’t.

The only things that should be bridging, are bridges.

Not saddles.

So many horses are needlessly crippled for life because of BS fit methods based on nothing other than opinion and maybe fashion. Anything that does not respect the anatomy and biomechanics of the horse is flat out abuse.

No different than a physician prescribing the wrong medications, a fitter who doesn’t fit to what the HORSE needs is the reason for the suffering that horse endures.

Too often these “fitters” try and fit the horse into a particular mold for whatever brand they carry, as opposed to really taking the horses needs into consideration. They have it backwards, and the amount of injured, crippled and broken horses we see is testament to that sad fact.

You don’t need to be a fitter to protect your horse.

You don’t need to be certified to protect your horse.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to protect your horse.

You don’t need to know everything about every saddle brand to protect your horse.

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