Saddle sores are painful yet almost completely preventable wounds that your horse develops as a result of being made to wear tack that does not fit him appropriately. Saddle sores are caused when the saddle, the saddle pad or a piece attached to the saddle is rubbing against your horse's skin while he is being ridden.
Horses can develop saddle sores as the result of poor grooming practices on the part of the rider. When dirt becomes trapped between the horse's skin and the saddle or saddle pad, sores can develop as a result of the foreign matter rubbing into the skin as you ride. Saddle sores are among the primary reasons that it is essential for your to thoroughly groom your horse before every ride. Also make sure to brush off your saddle pad, the underside of your saddle and your girth. Tack that is extremely dirty needs complete cleaning with the appropriate cleaning products to prevent saddle sore potential.
Improper saddle fit can cause sores, much like improperly fitting shoes can cause blisters on your feet. It is important that your saddle is shaped properly to fit your horse's back. The saddle's tree, bar angle, gullet width and skirts should be sized appropriately for your horse and positioned correctly when on your horse's back. If you do not understand the basics of saddle fit, you need to contact an experienced saddle fitter and have him come assess your horse and your saddle to determine if a problem with fit exists. A saddle fitter will help you find a saddle that fits properly.
Sores on the Hips
Saddle sores should not appear on your horses hips. The saddle isn't even supposed to be touching the hips. A saddle that has skirts long enough to cover your horse's hips does not fit properly and will never fit properly. If a saddle touches your horse's hips, it will interfere with movement and cause sores to develop. The pommel of the saddle should be sitting just below the withers or on the edge of the withers. If the saddle is sitting any further back than that, move it forward and see if it still touches your horse's hips. Some horses have short backs and require saddles that feature rounded skirts in order to stay off the hip.
Identifying and Treating Saddle Sores
Saddle sores take time to develop. The first signs of a developing saddle sort include visible reddening or irritation of the skin, heat, swelling and hair loss. If the sore continues to develop, it can become an open, bleeding wound. You treat saddle sores by removing the offending piece of equipment, cleaning the sore thoroughly and then applying ointment to it until it heals. Do not attempt to ride your horse while he has a saddle sore; doing so will hurt him and can make the sore worse. You will need to correct the problem that caused the sort before you ride your horse again.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.