All horses are asymmetrical, just as we are as humans. Our measurements from left to right vary, some slightly and others are more drastic.
Let’s say we have a horse with a more prominent right shoulder and a more sloped left shoulder. As a Master Saddle Fit Specialist, I would diagnose this by:
- Standing the horse square on a hard level surface like cement making sure there is no grade in the surface like in a wash stall.
- Making sure the horse is standing even on all four feet.
- The head is steady and neck is straight.
While a handler is making sure the horse is standing quietly, I would then stand on a stool and look over the horses hind quarters and carefully look at both the right and left scapula (shoulder blades) and the shoulder holes behind the scapula. Usually one will be more pronounced, while the other will be more sloped. Keeping in mind, the more pronounced shoulder usually will likely be visually higher.
When checking the horse from the front, it is imperative to always look at the horse from the shoulder, to the upper leg, knee, cannon bone, fetlock, pastern, hoof and right down to their heels. The way their conformation is through their legs greatly affects the way the horse moves and it is imperative to the way the saddle will fit.
EXAMPLE - A horse that is under-run in the left front foot and clubbed in the right foot will most definitely be:
- Left knee will be lower/Right knee will be higher - causing the horse to move differently
- Right shoulder will be higher and more pornounced
- Left shoulder will most likely be more sloped
- Horse will most likely be more difficult to be ridden to the right due to the more pronounced side and the saddle causing pressure and pain.
- The rider will feel the saddle fall to the left due to the right pronounced shoulder catching the tree point, causing the left tree point to sit into the left shoulder, resulting in pain and restriction.
After evaluation of the scapula, it is important to look at both sides of the longissimus dorsi muscle (saddle supporting muscle) to measure the symmetry of both sides.
Following the intersection of muscles in the lower back including the latissimus dorsi and the gluteal muscles. This is a very important area that is usually inflamed. Due to whenever there is a muscle end, there are nerve endings and with this intersection there is a cluster of nerve endings. This area is also a very weak area, it is past the area of the last supporting rib (past the saddle support area) and also in the area of the kidneys and in mares is where the ovaries are located.
Moving further back, evaluation of the hip and pelvic conformation is important. Checking to see how even the horse is from hip point to hip point and how the horse travels under and through its back.