I read an interesting article recently and discussed it in an online study group. The writer drew an analogy between correctly fitting walking boots and correctly fitting saddles. There followed a discussion about the role of numnahs and socks, and whether they should be thick or thin. The learning point from this was that if your saddle/walking boots have been fitted with thin socks/numnahs don’t them wear them with thick ones! A useful point to remember, and one I could have done with learning before I gave myself blisters through not following that advice.
The other point that came out of the analogy for me, was the use of footwear as the analogy. We all know understand that a good farrier is worth is weight in gold. Indeed, a story from a William Fox-Pitt lecture tells of a horse his mother bought that had failed the vetting, “what did it fail on?” came a question from the floor. “Navicular” he replied. There was a pause, after which he added, “we had a very good farrier. He was sound and eventing till 16 years old.” Need one say more?
But in fact, in my mind the comparison to the saddle is the backpack that you choose to carry when walking. Now, this is something that people don’t think about, or they buy the cheapest, or the brand they know, or the pink one…However, walking any distance with an ill-fitting backpack will reduce your back to a seething mass of painful muscles, and that is only carrying the fraction of the weight that a rider represents to a horse.
The problem with pain is that we can’t see it. We can feel our own pain, but not that of others. But anyone who has had to walk any distance with blisters will remember how very sore it is. There is no point buying the most expensive walking boots, if you then carry everything in a poorly fitting backpack. You must see the whole picture. Yet how many people are guilty of ensuring their horse’s feet are well-maintained and then riding it in a saddle that does not fit. It is our responsibility as horse owners to ensure that we provide good care for our horses and all the areas this encompasses.
So, the next time you are wondering whether it is worth getting the saddler out, put a cheap backpack on your back, fill it and go for a long walk….