Saddle fitting Conundrum

In January, I was on the hunt for an endurance saddle that could get me through my first season. It needed to be lightweight, with lots of options to tie/attach items, and budget friendly. I ended up settling on the Abetta Endurance saddle. This was a big switch from my bulky (and heavy!) western. My western fit Nakai, but it was just too heavy and a bit too long to work for longer rides.

I’ve been riding in the Abetta with success. Nakai moves freely in it, and he hasn’t been back sore. I thought I had a winner… up until a couple days ago.

See these? The roaning spots just showed up…as in, they weren’t there last week, and now they’re front and center.

(This is a closer view)

 I immediately jumped to poor saddle fit. Nakai has gained quite a bit a weight in the past two weeks. Convinced I was having pressure issue, my barn owner and I played around with my saddle and Nakai’s back. The roaning spots are low, and we both took turn placing our hands on the spots while exerting pressure on the saddle. There wasn’t any pinching or pressure that would suggest an issue. Next, we did the same thing with my built-up pad underneath. There was a very mild change in pressure, but again no pinching, poking, or anything else to suggest it’s from my saddle.

What is most confusing is that Nakai is working the best he ever has. He’s definitely not back sore, the spot themselves elicit no reaction from him when poked, squeezed, or prodded, and he is a genuinely happy horse. The spots also sweat. He moves out willingly, extends his trot for miles at a time, does his lead changes, rollbacks, and other movements without an issue. He’s not compensating anywhere that I can tell, and he receives glowing reports back from his massages… I’m a bit at a loss as to what to do.

The other bizarre aspect is Nakai’s coat pattern (I will never pretend to understand the LP and PATN2 gene of appaloosa color). Over the years, Nakai gets new spots. His coat color changes frequently depending on the time of year, and I’ve discovered spots within spots as well as spots on top of spots when I clip.

After this most recent body clip, I discovered his entire body dotted with white hair that was not previously there before. There are a couple new roaning spots as well, but they are significantly smaller than those pictured above. There is a spot (or two) on the roaning on his right side.

(A small example of new white hair growth – his chestnut used to be solid)


At this point it could be saddle fit or his appy coat. The logical side of me says saddle fit. Because of his recent weight gain, I’m worried that his built-up pad is too thick (potential cause?). I’m immediately switching pads, but otherwise am not sure what course of action to take. If he isn’t sore or showing any other signs of issues, should I worry? I’m also reading conflicting information online about how long it takes white hair from saddle fit to show up. Some report as shortly as 8 hours while others claim it’s from the previous season.

There is also further assertions from a well-known saddle fitter about roaning forming due to there being a history of fluid under the skin:

3) White HAIR OR ROANING OF WHITE IS A PRESSURE PROBLEM?  White roaning is a history of fluid under the skin. Solid white hair is where it was slipped in more serious galling and pressure. Roaning of white is not a pressure problem, 1st it is one of movement, 2nd it is mild pressure. Enough heat from friction and said pressure causes fluid under the skin. That is where you see roaning. This roaning can disappear with  a coat change if you make necessary changes in saddling. Stirrup strap swing can cause white hair if the saddle isn’t constructed properly to protect from friction to the horse in the upper strap area. Narrow straps also add to this problem as do riders that stand the stirrups or swing their legs.  – Len Brown

The only issue I take with this is that Nakai’s never had noticeable swelling in the area where the roaning is. I ride frequently (4 days a week) and spend non-riding days stopping by as well. Neither myself nor my barn owner have noticed fluid..but if it’s minute amounts contributing, that might be a possibility.

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