Skip to main content

What is your horse saying to you?

Ever wondered if your horse is comfortable under saddle? You can be sure he or she is telling you the answer. Deciphering horse “body language” is worth the effort if you want your “dance partner” to feel safe and happy when carrying you. When your saddle doesn’t allow your horse to move freely or is ill-fitting in any way, there will be definite signs. If you “read” some or all of these, it likely means your horse is experiencing discomfort. This would mean a truly happy partnership is not possible: During the saddling process: Horse exhibits anxiety via such things as face and ear expression, moving away as you approach with saddle, dropping back and lifting head, biting at the girth while tightening, unable to stand still…
At the Walk…
    • Short and tense stride
    • Carrying weight on the forehand
    • Ears – If they’re pinned they’re not just checking in with you!
    • Head nodding UP instead of down
    • Stiff, straight neck
    • Length of head/neck shorter than the length of the body
    • Hindfoot can’t reach where front foot left off
    • Tends to halt on the front end or stab up puffs of dirt in front
    • Dropped back and abdomen
    • Reluctant to move or tend to rush
At the Trot…
    • Doesn’t like this gait
    • Stops, breaks gait or gets faster
    • Short and choppy stride
    • Feels rough to the rider
    • Head comes up
    • Doesn’t ‘step through’ with the hind feet
    • Stumbles
    • Remains tense
    • Neck appears tense and skinny
    • Under Neck muscles bulge while top of neck muscles look flat
    • Length of head/neck looks shorter than their body
    • Facial expression strained
At the Canter…
    • Difficult to transition into canter
    • Head shoots up in transition
    • Bucks into the canter
    • Head high, neck short, hollows back, drops abdomen
    • Can’t “collect” and round up
    • Stumbles
    • Won’t maintain gait
    • Lead changes difficult
    • Becomes impulsive
    • Hind legs can’t reach deep underneath
    • Footfall in front sounds and looks heavy
At Natural Horseman Saddles, we believe in a holistic approach to horse health care. If your horse feels pain, travels inefficiently or has behavioral issues, we can help make sure you eliminate saddle fit as a cause. Enlisting the help of a qualified bodyworker, hoof/teeth professional, or having a veterinary assessment (beyond regularly scheduled health maintenance) can be done if saddle comfort doesn’t fix the problem.
If you would like a FREE assessment of your current saddle set up, please request our Saddle Fit Evaluation. It will provide advice on the quickest and most cost-effective way to improve your current saddle or offer a thorough recommendation of saddles to best serve your needs.
Your saddle should be therapeutic for your horse! So read the signs. They WILL be there…If you’d like to know more about saddle fit and the comfort of your horse, head to