The theory of sweat patterns can be very confusing... The idea that a dry area is caused by high pressure has come about because a lot of horse's are ridden in saddles that are very tight in the front and putting a lot of pressure in this area. Sometimes the pressure can close off the blood vessels and even damage nerves if very high. This is why it rightly worries people.
However, unless you are using a BALANCE saddle in a very incorrect or strange way, it is almost impossible to get high pressures underneath it.
There are several reasons why people see uneven sweat patterns and ‘dry spots’ in the wither area or in other areas under the saddle after riding:
Pressure from the points of the tree. This a very common problem with conventionally fitted saddles, but it is very rare with BALANCE saddles unless the saddle is not balanced correctly (for example, if the saddle is slightly tipping forward and/or the rider is very braced into their stirrups).
Previous pressure from a tight saddle has caused the area under the points of the tree to become 'shut down' and the sweat glands stop working correctly in that area. This often improves gradually in a less tight saddle.
If a BALANCE saddle is very generous in width, then there is room for sweat to evaporate from under the points of the tree as it produced (like it is on the rest of the body that is not covered). This area does not come into constant contact with the saddle and so there is room for the air to circulate through the fibres of the wool fleece here. After riding, the rider will then find 'dry spots' under the points of the tree.
We sometimes see a drier area in the middle of the back when the horse is not quite engaged up into the saddle enough, so the saddle is, in effect bridging very slightly. Quite a lot of people use this symptom to identify how well their horse is moving and when they get even sweat patterns it identifies a really good training session where the back has been lifted and the pressures more even.
If a horse and/or rider is habitually not straight it can create uneven pressure left-to-right on the saddle, which in turn can create uneven sweat patterns when comparing left and right-hand sides of the horse after riding.
A lot of horse owners have been trained to believe that a dry looking area always means high pressure, but in fact, it can mean quite the reverse. We always say that a rider should not ignore a change in sweat patterns, but also not assume that they are necessarily bad. It is a good idea to get into the habit of palpating the horse's back gently, at least one hour after riding to assess if the horse is comfortable, and always pay attention to the way the horse is moving under saddle.
When people refer to 'white hairs', it is usually when a horse with a non-white coat develops areas of white hair where previously the coat was a different colour.
It is important to pay attention when this happens because they are usually caused by one of two things:
Pressure – this can be from equipment or clothing such as rugs or saddles. However, it is very unusual to get areas of high pressure under a BALANCE saddle because they are designed to be fitted wider than the horse’s stationary shape. With a BALANCE saddle, risk of pressure would usually only be an issue if the saddle was padded very incorrectly, or if an inappropriate width was being used (too narrow, so that it fits like a tight conventional saddle). Pressure tends to create an area of all-white hairs.
Friction – Friction occurs when there is repetitive movement/rubbing of the skin and/or coat(and ruffled hairs are an early warning sign of friction). Friction can cause patches where some of the hairs are white, while others are the usual colour of the coat, creating a ‘roan’ effect, or it can create areas with all white hairs. A sprinkling of white hairs is a warning sign. Friction will cause skin soreness and the horse will usually hold the back away from the saddle in an attempt to reduce that soreness. It is important to check how clean the horse and the underside of the pad are. Dirt, grit or sand from the arena can act as an abrasive if it is in the horse's coat or the wool of the pad.
In either case, the cause of the problem needs to be identified and remedied, as it is sign of a significant problem.
A saddle that 'bridges' is one that makes more contact with the horse's back under the points of the tree and under the back of the panels than it does through its middle. This worries people because they are concerned about pressure being concentrated under the front and back of the saddle instead of it being spread evenly along the length of the saddle tree/panels.
In order to address this topic, it is important to first understand that when he is efficiently using his body as nature intended, a moving horse will lift his back to enable correct engagement of the hind legs and subsequent lightening of the forehand; however, when he is standing still, it is biomechanically correct for him to have more weight on his forelegs and for him to drop/hollow his back a little.
This means that in order for a saddle to make even contact with the horse's back (via the pads) during movement, the saddle will have to bridge very slightly when the horse is standing still.
However, it is important to note that while BALANCE Saddles are designed to accommodate natural biomechanically correct movement, not all riding styles and practices encourage it - in fact some may even hinder, interfere with, or restrict the horse. So, if the horse is being ridden in such a way that encourages or forces him to drop/hollow his back during movement, or if he has developed a habitual pattern of a hollow back which now hinders his ability to actually lift his back when needed, a saddle that bridges may well start to cause a problem. However, in this case, for the sake of the well-being of the horse, it is essential to adopt a riding style and/or groundwork practices which will help him to recover a more natural, bio-mechanically correct posture, rather than fitting a saddle with curved panels that will, in effect, lock his back into an unnatural hollow posture preventing any hope of recovery.
It may sound obvious but saddles do not move on their own! In most situations, a BALANCE saddle will be moved forward by one or more of the following:
The rider sitting too far back or leaning back (behind the movement)
The rider's seat being used too strongly in a driving action
The rider's rein contact being too restrictive or braced against the necessary movement of the horse's head and neck
The horse being lunged,'circle game', loose schooled, at liberty and moving in an unbalanced way that has his weight thrown forward and down over his front legs
The horse being dropped in his back and disengaged
The horse being ridden too fast, causing him to be out of balance and on the forehand
The horse being ridden too fast with the rider unstable
The saddle being placed too far back when tacking up and then moving forward during work
The saddle sitting too high in front and too low at the back which encourages the rider problems in points 1) and 2)
It is obviously important to identify which of the above applies in your
situation, and you may be able to make the relevant adjustments
However, if you need more support:-
For issues relating to the rider. Some options include:
Contact the BALANCE Office and request a ‘Distance Riding Lesson’
Check the Dates/Events page for information about BALANCE Riding Clinics in your area
Some BrSC's and TRFs have spent time training with the BALANCE Co-founders in Functional Riding & Training and would be well equipped to help you with these issues - check out the 'Equestrian Experience' listed for any Team Members in your area.
For issues relating to the horse. Some options include:
The BALANCE Remedial Programme is designed to help the
horse to recover a more Natural, Biomechanically-correct posture and way of
For an overview of the Remedial Programme, click below or go to the Downloads section of this site:
Look up the 'Saddling Services Offered' section of any BALANCE registered Team Members in your area, as it will say if they are able to help you with the Remedial Programme
The Horse's Voice Book, available via the BALANCE Web-shop, or via Amazon covers the topic in detail
For issues relating to the saddle. Some options include:
If you were originally seen by a BALANCE registered Saddle Consultant, contact them direct as they are there to help you.
Otherwise for correct positioning of the saddle:
Read your Saddling Manual and then check the positioning of your saddle
and for correct padding of your saddle:
Read your Saddling Manual and then check the padding of your saddle
If you are still having some difficulties, you are welcome to Contact us at the BALANCE office using the email address you have, or via the 'Contact Us' page of the website and ask for help.
Being able to move in a powerful, balanced and engaged way, without restriction or discomfort, is every horse’s birth-right and essential in order for him to be able to carry the unnatural weight of a rider, without doing harm to himself.