Available translations

Defensive behaviour when strapping: When saddling becomes torture

Tanja Dietz


2 Min. Lesezeit

When horses show defensive behaviour when saddling and harnessing, it is usually referred to as saddle or harness pressure. There are many reasons for this: an unsuitable saddle, a badly fitting belt, general sensitivity, blockages in the back or simply a rider who rips the belt down carelessly. But many do not think of a stomach ulcer as a cause at first. 

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Why do horses with stomach problems react sensitively to saddling and tightening the belt when the pain is inside?

Although the cause of the pain is in the horse's stomach, it can be so severe that it can extend into the horse's back. The sympathetic innervation of the stomach is essentially located at the vertebrae at the withers. When a horse has stomach problems, such as gastric mucosal irritation or stomach ulcers, the pain is transmitted through the nerves in the withers to the brain. This increases the activity of the autonomic nervous system, which increases the tension of the muscles and makes the horse more sensitive, especially at the withers. Because of this sensitivity, the horse reacts particularly sensitively when the saddle is placed on the withers and the girth is tightened.

How do horses enforce saddling?

As with other symptoms, it varies how pronounced the symptoms are when horses are forced to saddle. It can be a simple pushing away of the back when tightening the belt, similar to a hollow back, an energetic hitting with the tail or the threat and biting as soon as one comes with the saddle in the direction of the back. With some horses the saddle force is so strong that they throw themselves on the ground when saddling or when restrapping.

How can I tell if saddle pressure is caused by an ulcer?

In general, the horse does not directly show you why it has developed a compulsion to saddle. Therefore you should also have a check to see if the saddle fits well and if the belt fits correctly. However, if it is conspicuous that the horse suddenly develops a saddle force with suitable saddle equipment, although otherwise there were never problems with saddling and straps, the causes should be clarified. In addition to a stomach ulcer, injuries on the pasture or otherwise caused blockages can also be responsible for saddle pressure. However, if other symptoms typical of stomach ulcers also occur, the horse should be examined.

More on the topic

On our topic page you will find a lot more information and links on the topic of symptoms and signs of gastric ulcers in horses.

What are the signs that my horse has stomach ulcers?

Equine 74 Gastric

The long-term solution

Buffers the excess acid in the horse's stomach instead of blocking it.

Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax

In case of acute stress

Supports the nervous horse stomach in stressful situations.