Saddle fit, freedom of movement and performance

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

In polo the horse, arguably, makes up for 80 % of your chances of success. Their ability to accelerate, turn and stop as quickly as possible determines how swiftly you get to where you need to be. Horses are not structurally designed to carry weight on their backs, let alone in excess of 15% of their body weight while performing manoeuvres that they are also not structurally designed for; a horse is biomechanically designed to move predominantly in straight lines. In other equestrian disciplines a huge amount of effort is put into the fit of the saddle to the horse’s back, because every movement the horse makes travels through the spine. Imagine how wearing shoes that are too tight or loose affects the way you walk and your ability to run or jump – saddle fit for the horse has the same importance on their performance.

The basic rules of saddle fit (and why the typical polo saddle breaks every one).

  • The panels of the saddle should not go past the last rib. If your saddle does go past the last rib it will be digging into the weakest part of your horses back where there is no skeletal support from the ribs for rider and saddle weight. A huge amount of polo saddles do this, because they come in such big sizes so that the players have room to move around. Having the panels pressing into the lumbar area will make it difficult for the horse to round and use the lumbar area, which is crucial to them in order to bring their hind ends underneath themselves for stopping and acceleration.