Gender correct, properly fitting saddles saddle seats are necessary to allow the natural shock absorbers of the human skeletal system to work properly. Many women feel their saddles fit just fine, but sometimes they ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and the status quo is deeply ingrained. A soft supple seat can only be achieved when the rider can move in harmony with the horse- both in balance. Her back and abdominal muscles are properly and lightly contracted (not tense or cramped) when the rider is sitting in the correct straight position. This allows the discs between the vertebrae to do their job as shock absorbers and keep the vertebrae in proper alignment. If the vertebrae are stressed in some way because of incorrect positioning in a badly fitting saddle, disc problems can occur.
A slipped disc can be caused over a period of time from the same repetitive motion when the rider’s pelvis falls back in the saddle (not enough support) and the rider has to continue to force the correct position to keep over the horse’s centre of gravity. The photo shows a pelvis with two lumbar vertebrae out of alignment. A slipped disc can easily occur when the pelvis is tilted back continuously in a ‘chair seat’ where the saddle is out of balance. The rider tries to bring her upper body closer to the balance point by pushing her lumbar vertebrae forward. In order to achieve a flexible seat and protect both the rider’s and the horse’s back, the rider needs to pivot her pelvis forward on the seat bones so that the vertebrae align properly with their discs.
A woman should not ever ride in a saddle that has not taken her unique anatomical requirements into account. If there is insufficient support - especially in the lumbar area, backache will result.
Author of ‘Suffering in Silence - The Saddle fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses’ (2013) Jochen Schleese teaches riders and professionals to recognize saddle fit issues in Saddlefit 4 Life lectures and seminars. We help you find answers in a personal 80 point Saddle Fit Diagnostic Evaluation.