Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saddle Wear Spots on Horse

Received this question via e-mail from Arlo....”My brown horse is getting white spots, some are oblong, on his back and somebody told me I needed a better saddle pad. Does this generally solves this problem?”

Arlo, I would say that the most common cause of white spots or dead hair on a horses back are a poor fitting saddle. See picture at left. Really no such thing as a saddle that fits all horses. And the most common area on the horse's back is where the bars of the saddle make contact with the horse's back. Sometimes there is uneven contact or pressure from the bars because of poor fit and that puts additional pressure on the horse's back. The picture left is a good example of that on this old roping horses of mine who I bought with these obvious saddle wear marks. He was grossly underweight at the time which can add to the effects of a poor fit.

There is only very little you can do with different saddle pads to make that saddle fit better to eliminate the problem. Of course it is necessary to have a good pad and for it to be kept in good condition. I only use a felt pad and for the last five or six years been using the Impact Gel pads which have impact absorbing gel in place's where the saddle and rider's weight are mostly felt by the horse. I have seen some pretty sweated up and crusty pads, from which the accumulation of salt from sweat can cut the hair, kill it and turn it white. This is most common, from my experience, towards the rear of the saddle pad. I lay my pads, upside down, see photo right, and scrap them with a grooming brush to remove excess salt buildup (and hair buildup) so the pad is softer on the horse's back. In the hot summer months, like now, I do this before every ride. I have seen the beginning of white hair on some horses and if you act early enough you can keep from killing the hair and making it permanently white.

If I were you I would lay my bare saddle on my horses back and check for fit. Ensure that you have some room in the gullet where the saddle fits over the horse's withers. Check for consistent contact along the bars of the saddle with the horse's back. If this is where you are seeing the white hair, chances are it's from the saddle. Make sure your sheepskin lining is intact and not in need of replacing, and maybe a new felt saddle pad is in order. Good luck and safe journey.

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