Is your tack right for you and your horse?
Correct tack fit is vital for achieving optimum performance from your horse, it is the piece that connects you to your horse. A horse can change shape several times through its lifetime and this can be due to weight gain or loss, muscle mass increase or decrease as well as maturity, this is especially relevant to horses that are in the early stages of training. As a veterinary physiotherapist I may ask to see the tack your horse is wearing, this is just to help me put together pieces of information that may contribute to your horse's movement.
Starting with the saddle - a tight saddle can cause pain or discomfort for your horse when they are working. There are key areas to check when tacking up, these are underneath the knee roll, the width of the gullet and also the length of the saddle from the point of pommel to the point of cantel. A horse who's saddle is too tight underneath the knee roll can restrict the movement of the shoulder, whether you're jumping or dressage, this is not desired. This can also "switch off" the nerve supply to the muscles in this area, and this can influence the stability of the shoulder. A narrow gullet can alter the pressure through the horse's back, this can increase pressure points down the muscles that run alongside the spine which can also cause pain and discomfort. Similar to a narrow gullet, the length of the saddle can also create pressure points if it is too long for the horse's back. This can be correctly identified by looking at where the last rib connects to the spine and the saddle should not extend further than this.
Moving onto the bridle - The bit can influence the way the horse moves tremendously, a painful mouth aid can induce a horse that might displays behaviours that a rider associates with being naughty or lack of training. A tight fitting bridle or bit can also create excessive pressure on certain areas such as the poll or the bars of the mouth, this again can restrict the ability of the horse to perform the movements that you are asking off them.