What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Sores Caused by Saddle, Tack Rubs


Ill-fitting tack is an underdiagnosed and significant cause of pain and poor performance. Saddle fit can be poor without the development of open, obvious sores. Open sores suggest that the problem with tack fit or positioning is serious and needs to be resolved immediately.

Keep in mind that HERDA found in certain Quarter Horse lines can look like saddle sores. Recurrent inexplicable saddle sores in Quarter Horses should prompt you to consider this condition as the cause.

Evidence of chronic pressure points created by a poor-fitting saddle is the development of areas of white hair. Another clue to poor saddle fit can be seen when a saddle is removed after riding - the presence of dry or rough spots on an otherwise smoothly sweat-covered back. Poor saddle fit can cause there to be areas of swelling and pain following a ride too.

Saddle sores are usually superficial wounds that start out as areas of hair loss with reddening, pain and oozing. If not aggravated by more rubbing from tack, within a few days the external layer of skin dries up and peels off, leaving a bare, non-painful area.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If wounds appear serious or accompanied by swelling or drainage.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • Your vet can assess saddle fit, as well as the healing of wounds.
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your role


What To Do

Horses with saddle sores should ideally be rested until they heal. If this is not possible, saddle fit problems must be corrected. Felt saddle pads with areas cut out to relieve pressure may prevent worsening of injury. In general, simply stacking more padding on tends to worsen the problem.

Wounds can be treated with gentle cleaning with mild disinfectants, followed by drying and the application of antibiotic or steroid containing creams.

If your efforts at preventing or treating these sores are not met with marked improvement within a few days, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates sores to determine the best treatment plan. They may also evaluate tack fit and provide suggestions for avoiding the problem in the future.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Has the saddle or pad changed?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you noticed the horse seeming uncomfortable under saddle?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Do saddle fit, girth and tack look OK?
  • Have you noticed the horse seeming uncomfortable under saddle?
  • Is the horse performing to your expectation under saddle?
  • Have you noticed areas of white hair in the area under the saddle?
  • Are you able to rest the horse until the wounds have healed?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP