I see many people riding in those older saddles in which their gullet channels end up narrowing so much, even some down to a finger width!
Many brands are improving their designs, ensuring the channel is somewhat same width all the way down and/or at a reasonable width too.
Did you know it is just as detrimental to have a channel too wide as it is to have one too narrow? For different reasons of course.
You must have a channel that is wide enough to allow for the spinous processes, PLUS the thin multifidus muscle and ligaments that stabilize the spine each side of the vertebrae.
TOO WIDE - having a channel TOO wide for your horse places the pressure from the panels too low down each side of the horses back and this can cause serious discomfort and pain in "pulling" the multifidus muscle and ligaments away from the spine. On a rather lean horse with minimal width of the Longissimus Dorsi muscle (the muscle of which is capable of carrying the rider, placed on the TOP of the horses rib cage) for example, if you have too wide a channel and too wide a placed panels, this could cause you to put pressure/weight at the edge (or further down) of the Longissimus Dorsi muscle and cause the rider to sit directly on the rib cage - ouch!
You do not want to pull the multifidus or ligaments away from the spine, nor be sitting directly on the horses rib cage!
TOO NARROW - having a channel too narrow pinches that multifidus muscle, ligaments and the spinous processes. This restricts any ability the horse may have of being able to turn and bend comfortably under saddle. This is one thing I see most common out and about while doing my saddle fit evaluations. Many horses and ponies end up very, very sore in the (roughly) T16-T18 area due to a saddle pinching the spine when using a saddle that narrows a lot towards the cantle end and is too narrow for that horse.
There is so much more that comes into determining the correct channel width for your horse. This is a little taster of some of the general consequences of having something too wide or too narrow.
If you are in the Waikato and would like to learn more, have your saddle fit checked or try any of the Glamourhorse second hand saddle range, get in touch.
Never stop learning!
- the blog of a training saddle fitter