42/ JULY 2018 THE RIDER Saddle Fit & Technology:

by Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE ©2018 Saddlefit 4 Life® (with thanks to St. Georg, June 2017 issue) Even though you may know that of course

your bridle has to fit your horse properly, you may be surprised to hear of the impact a poorly fitting bridle may have on your horse. This week I will go into some of the key points on the horse’s head, continuing with these in the next blog, and then fin- ish off the series in a third blog with some pros and cons of the various types of bridles available for your consideration. Bridle fit can be considered just as important as saddle fit to maintain your horse’s comfort and optimum performance. No other part of the anatomy has as many sen-

sitive areas as the head. Recent design changes in bridles to become more ‘anatomically friendly’ are crucial in ensuring your horse is comfortable with his headgear. There are many nerves in the horse’s head. Some of them originate at exactly those areas where the noseband or flash lie. If a bridle is too tight, all sorts of behavioural

issues can arise, including tossing the head, lack of chewing, and lack of engagement with an unwill- ingness to move. These reactions warrant a closer look to what’s under the skin of the horse’s head. The gross anatomy of the head is easily recogniz- able in a horse – there is only a thin layer of skin covering the skull, while veins and muscles are

It’s all in your head… or your horse’s head!

Fitting a Bridle Properly - Part I

venting the ligament from rubbing on the vertebrae and getting damaged. They cannot withstand a lot of pressure, and will react to a poorly fitting or too- tightly-buckled bridle by increasing fluid produc- tion and swelling. They become obviously swollen – for dressage horses this is seen mainly at the atlas (1st) vertebra, and in jumping horses mainly at the 2nd cervical vertebra. These affected bursa are not only visually ob-

vious, but may cause the horse to ignore the aids, toss its heads, or refuse to go on the bit. When it really hurts, the horse may ‘invert’ its neck in an attempt to escape the pain. The muscles of the topline may begin to atrophy, and the horse devel- ops a ‘ewe’ neck. Even well-intentioned padding of the headpiece may actually be counter-produc- tive – instead of helping, padding can even increase the pressure and cause skin folds – which may lead to further concentrated pressure points. (Again – it’s trial and error on your own horse to see the re- action to more padding). There is no universal for- mula for all horses as to ‘how much is too much’ when it comes to the ability to withstand pressure at the headpiece. A sensible rider will listen to her horse and see what works for her (while recogniz- ing that these issues may not necessarily be actu- ally due to poorly fitting bridle, but could also arise from dentition problems or even simple rider error!)

The bridle should be fitted to allow a hand to

only minimally visible. What you don’t see are the multitudes of nerves, and the delicate connective tissue at the various junctions of bone – all of which make the head extremely sensitive to pres- sure and pain. This connective tissue between the 29 indi-

vidual bones of the skull, plus a jaw which allows a side to side movement of the teeth during masti- cation, are responsible for movement of the head. There are numerous nerves originating at the

base of the skull, spreading upwards over the skull – and often present exactly where the various pieces of the bridle would lie. Too much pressure caused by the bridle can also cause referred pain elsewhere; muscles can cramp up and engagement will disappear. Fascia (connective tissue) runs

through the entire body. A poorly fitting bridle can even cause problems all the way down to the hocks – impacting the flexibility and range of motion. Although there are unfortunately only a few studies documented concerning how a poorly fitting bridle impacts a horse, there is anecdotal evidence of this, and horses do move better in a bridle that fits. The most severe problems arise in the neck/base of the skull if the bridle fits badly (where the headpiece lies), but a noseband or flash that is buckled too tightly will also cause problems here.

The Neck Sensitive bursa are found between the nuchal

ligament and the first two cervical vertebrae. Bursa are little sacs filled with fluid with the job of pre-

Some of the wonderful stores and people who carry The Rider! Be sure to stop in and check out what they have to offer.

slip under easily at the headpiece. There should be two fingers room between the cavesson/noseband and the nose. Bridles should be considered as a DIY craft- project – with potentially differently sized noseband, headpiece, and cheekpieces to ac- commodate the individual horse. A noseband which is too tight can also impact

the horse’s neck and the ability to engage. For full comfort and relaxed movement, a horse’s bridle should still allow the horse to chew freely. Chew- ing movement means the jaw needs to be able to move side to side freely. If the horse tries to chew with a bridle that is too tight, the resistance will cause cramping of the jaw muscles and pressure in the neck – and this muscle ‘bracing’ will impact the horse’s entire musculature and ability to en- gage. Some horses are in such pain around their heads that riders may have misdiagnosed them as being ‘head shy’. This can be avoided by properly fitting bridles.

McCarron Feed & Needs is located on Hwy 10 in Caledon. Karolina White is ready to give out copies of The Rider.

You can get equine health products, feed and tack, pet food, bird feed/feeders, Garden and Farm Supplies propane and pool supplies.

Brothers Don and Dave Cheyne operate Hillsburgh Feed & Supplies on Hillsburgh’s Main St. Besides picking up a Rider you can buy horse feed, pet food, bird feed/feeders, Sharpening services (skates, chain saws, etc) and water softening salt.

Carol Wetering, Kristen Armstrong, Terry Walsh and (kneeling) Kim Micallef of Budson's - Provisions for Country Living get a chance to read a hot off the press edition of The Rider. Budson’s has been serving the local community in and around Erin since 1955.

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