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The only thing worse than the the saddle sore itself is the guilt that comes with it. Nobody likes seeing their horse hurt, especially if the injury might have been preventable. But the fact remains that your horse has a saddle sore… So what now?

The first step in treating a saddle sore is to figure out which type of sore you have. A sitfast is a hard skin lesion similar to a corn on a human toe (from an ill-fitting shoe). The dead spot, which is caused by pressure necrosis, could be just in the skin, or could extend deeper into subcutaneous tissues in a cone shape, with the largest part protruding slightly above the skin surface. A sitfast is usually caused by an ill-fitting saddle, one too small for the weight of the rider, or one with uneven weight distribution. The latter problem can occur when a rider sits crooked, slops around in the saddle or sits too far back.

“Keep in mind that if you, the rider, are hurting, you’ll transfer that to the horse; you won’t be riding properly,” says says Barney Fleming, DVM, past president of the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), and ride veterinarian who has seen a lot of horses which have gone a lot of miles. “The horse is extremely sensitive to balance. You can sit on the horse and turn your head one inch, and the horse feels it.”

Sometimes a sitfast may be so severe that it must be removed by a vet, so for this particular type of sore it’s best to consult with your vet before proceeding with any treatment. .

A saddle gall is bruising under the skin caused by too much rubbing and pressure. Galls usually occur when wet skin either from sweat or tacking up a wet horse adheres to the saddle pad and moves with it, rupturing some of the tissues in the skin or beneath it, allowing serum to leak into surrounding tissues. The area might be raw, or swollen, when you unsaddle.

When treating a saddle gall or trying to prevent a sitfast – it’s not a quantity of padding you put on, it’s the quality. Having a saddle pad that doesn’t move around underneath your saddle and wrinkle is important. Getting a good saddle fitter is also a must.

Prolonged heat rash, which can be caused by a dirty or non-porous saddle pad, can also lead to saddle sores. You can avoid these types of sores by using a saddle pad, like Ecogold’s CoolFit™ Saddle Pads, that encourages airflow underneath the saddle and keeps the horse’s back cool and dry.

Sometimes the best solution when is comes to saddle sores is to choose to spend time working your horse without tack. Groundwork, longeing, or even a little R&R will give the sore time to heal.

When treating saddle sores, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It only takes a few minutes for a piece of hay, a shaving, or a wrinkle in a saddle pad to chafe a horse’s back, so make sure you groom your horse thoroughly before tacking up and check your tack while tacking up. Make sure you’re always using a clean saddle pad, and, should you see a little irritation on your horse’s back, address it immediately.

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