Is Your Saddle Rack Damaging Your Horse’s Back?


Holly Barnett, owner of August Equine, is a certified saddle fitter and professional equine therapist, based out of Ontario, Canada. Holly embraces the “whole horse” concept and presents a comprehensive approach to maintaining equine back health and proper saddle fit. Here are Holly’s thoughts on a common culprit for both saddle damage and back pain: Your saddle rack!

In almost every tack room you will find something that damages your saddle, every time you put it away. Your saddle spends most of its precious life sitting on your saddle rack and so you may find it quite concerning that the very place you store your saddle is actually harming it!

Have a look at your saddle on the rack. Is it resting on a rounded metal tube with all of the weight of the saddle being supported only by a few places in your panels? If this is the case fear not, here are some tips to prevent further damage to your beloved saddle and what to do if you notice saddle rack damage.

Photo courtesy of August Equine

The most common type of saddle rack I see is rounded tubular kind (as shown here in blue on the right). While these racks are relatively inexpensive and sturdy, without proper padding they cause serious damage to your saddle’s delicate panels. The yellow arrows show where the racks cause significant panel indentation. Over time the leather actually molds to the rack tube and can become increasingly difficult to reshape back to the original form. Saddle rack damage has a substantial negative affect to the fit of your saddle for your horse. Examine your saddle on whichever rack you are using. Do the panels touch anything or are they free of any foreign pressure or contact? If you notice your panels come in contact with your saddle rack, flip your saddle and check your panels for indents. Call your fitter for a re-flock if you detect any saddle rack damage.

Photo courtesy of August Equine

Protecting Your Panels

With the saddle rack damage identified and repaired its time to ensure your saddle is stored safely from now on. You have a few options for modifying your rack to drastically reduce the damage it causes.

  1. Pool Noodles or Pipe Insulation – very inexpensive and provides 6 months ~ 1year of protection (then needs replacing). Wrap the foam around the metal tube and allow your saddle to sit on a cushion – which greatly reduces the panel indentation.
  2. Yoga/Pilates Mat – Cut up an old yoga or pilates mat and wrap it around the rack to provide a long term cushion, drastically reduces the panel indentation.
  3. Alternate Saddle Rack – Ideally nothing should come in contact with your saddle’s panels except your horse’s back. A saddle rack that supports the saddle down the channel and allows the panels to ‘float’ is the best way to preserve your panels and the fit of your saddle. There are several basic designs that allow this and you could also wrap them in foam for added protection.

Stacking Saddle pads alone often do not provide enough protection and it is wise to use one of the options above.

Holly Barnett is available for consultation, clinics and seminars throughout Central and Eastern Canada on a variety of topics related to saddle fit and therapeutic care. Visit August Equine’s website for more information!

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