Help! All of a sudden, my horse has rub marks under his saddle

Help! All of a sudden, my horse has rub marks under his saddle

Equitopia’s Saddle fitter from the UK, Georgie Welge, is one of founders of  Master Saddle Fitters International (MSFI) and has worked as a saddle fitter for more than 12 years. In this post, she explains why rub marks may appear under your horse’s saddle.

Although rub marks under the saddle are considered a good indication that your saddle should be checked, they are also to be expected at certain times of the year, and it is fairly normal around now to see rub marks that have not occurred before.

Phases of hair growth explained

Hair grows in phases on horses, as it does in humans:
Anagen – the phase of active growing;
Catagen – the phase where the hair has grown to its fullest potential and the hair bulbs starts to shrink away, no longer supplying any nutrient to the hair root; and
Telogen – where the hair is in complete rest, ready to be pushed out by a new hair that will be coming through.

In humans these phases are random and spread all over the body at different times meaning we don’t end up with short hair at one time. In horses these phases happen with the seasons. Popular belief is that the temperature is the reason this changes but it is actually more about the day light hours – the photoperiod.

When hair is in the Telogen phase it has no root and no way to be fed, therefore, after a period, the hair becomes weak and fragile, which is why you will see more rubbing or disturbance of the hair. When the next phase of Catogen starts, it will start to push the old hair out of the follicle, making it easier for the hair to fall away. This is why we see the areas of movement i.e. at the back of the saddle hair will come out much faster and form almost bald patches.

Check your saddle!

If you see this rubbing occurring in Spring or Autumn when you start to see shedding, then don’t be too alarmed. However if there is failure of the hair regrowing, then a check of your horse’s health and saddle fit would be advised. If you see a change in your horse’s condition or extra movement from your saddle, then of course please ensure to get you saddle checked as soon as possible.



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