Help with saddle fit

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Help with saddle fit

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    08-16-2012, 11:36 AM
Help with saddle fit

Hi All,
I've got a 16h TB that I've been riding in a old passed down dressage saddle, who has been only recently experiencing short stridedness, chopping inconsistent gates, and the inability to travel straight when doing upward (walk to trot) transitions (he will veer to the right when I ask him to trot). The catch: these issues started when I began riding him in my new close contact saddle. The saddle has the same gullet measurements, tree width, and seat size as the dressage saddle. It appears balanced as well. My horse doesn't seem to show any pain when palpating his withers or spine although he does seem to be getting girthy. He is not lame, just reluctant to get going. He will trot quite nicely and effortlessly after about a 20 minute warmup. After riding the sweat marks are even and there are no dry spots or rubbed areas. I am perplexed. He is a lazy horse and it has been very warm so I'm wondering if he is trying to pull a fast one on me. ;)
What do you all think? I've attached pictures of his back, the front view of the saddle (no pad, girthed up) and the side view to show the balance. The pad I use is an A/P quilted pad with a thin layer of sheepskin padding along the topline. I'm wondering if it adds too much bulk? Maybe making the saddle too tight?
Appreciate your thoughts.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg back1.jpg (17.9 KB, 123 views)
File Type: jpg back2.jpg (17.4 KB, 121 views)
File Type: jpg front1.jpg (16.4 KB, 116 views)
File Type: jpg front2.jpg (17.8 KB, 117 views)
File Type: jpg side1.jpg (15.0 KB, 114 views)
File Type: jpg side2.jpg (15.8 KB, 117 views)
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    08-16-2012, 12:46 PM
Green Broke
He appears to have a sunken in shoulder/back. The saddle also appears to sit to low. It looks like as soon as you put weight in it, it will sit down on the withers. Besides needing weight/muscle a half pad or something of the sort may help fill in the areas temporily. If you plan on keeping him like this I suggest getting a professional saddle fitter to fix this.
    08-16-2012, 02:18 PM
Sorry - this is an AWFUL fit, like many CC saddles. There's just not enough panel to support the tree width (which looks reasonably correct in the pics, though it's difficult to be certain).

I suggest the horse objects when you do up his girth because the points dig into the back of his shoulder. If you mount from the floor he probably walks off, too, for the same reason. Even with sheepskin your pad won't be thick enough to compensate and I suspect even with the girth done up if you lift the cantle upwards the saddle will tip forward.

The panel looks like non-adjustable foam/felt/fibre to me and if so you have a couple of options.
(i) Get rid of the CC and have the horse fitted properly with a flocked saddle with suitable panel shape (dropped/TB panel) adjusted to him.
(ii) Use a front riser as a stop-gap and make sure you fit it properly (ie. Behind, not over, the back of the shoulder blade).

If you ride the horse on this CC in the meantime he will be uncomfortable and you will just be storing up problems for the future.

I hope you manage to sort him out :)
    08-16-2012, 02:42 PM
Thank you both for your observations and advice. I suspected that the tops of the panels along the gullet were pinching the side of his spine. Definitely will get rid of this saddle (bummer because I just spent $700 on it!) and continue using his dressage saddle.
Are there any brands/styles anyone can recommend for both schooling and showing hunters?
Thank you again.
    08-16-2012, 03:22 PM
Green Broke
Unclearthur - That is what I was trying to get at, the panels, I'm still learning about all the parts of the saddles but to me it also looks like part of the problem is the muscle along the back. It looks very sunken in, I am not sure if this is part of the TB breed though, I would hope not.

You would be best getting a fitter to help you get a properly fitted saddle. With the riser spoken about you have to be careful it doesn't put the saddle to far back, throwing you off balance.

I wonder how well the dressage saddle fits though since his back appears to be lacking/odd shaped.
    08-16-2012, 03:58 PM
Originally Posted by poppy1356    
Unclearthur - That is what I was trying to get at, the panels, I'm still learning about all the parts of the saddles but to me it also looks like part of the problem is the muscle along the back. It looks very sunken in, I am not sure if this is part of the TB breed though, I would hope not.
You're quite right. The problem is the muscle behind the horse's shoulder which runs back to the base of the withers and downwards so it forms a roughly triangular shape - usually called the Trapezius.

In a lot of breeds this is poorly developed - you might say a common conformational 'fault'. TBs are particularly prone, IMO because they are often ridden well before skeletal maturity, saddle fit is not a priority for most racing yards, and a combination of this and work builds muscle on the scapula but not behind it. You often see similar conformation in Dutch Warmbloods (very common - we've got one) and Irish Sports Horses or Draught crosses.

Big-shouldered conformation needs a wider tree than you might expect - I've often fitted Wide saddles on TBs which would be pinched by narrower trees. BUT you then need a deep enough panel (ie. Wide enough and thick enough)to support that width, otherwise the saddle simply drops in behind the shoulder.

Hope this is useful info. It'd be easier to explain with a horse in front of me! :)
    08-16-2012, 04:12 PM
Green Broke
Ahhh ok. I would definitely work on building up his back. My older mare had the same sunken in shoulder but hers was due to lack of overall body fat/muscle. It has been slowly filling in but what I did in the mean time to be able to ride was to find a saddle that fit as close to perfect as I could. My Arab took a very wide gullet. It fit everywhere except that small area just behind the shoulder, so I took a very thin small pad and folded it up until it was the right size to fill in that gap. That way there was nothing added in back to tip my saddle to far forward and it wasn't too much that it tipped my saddle back. But like I said this was a temporary fix as I knew with weight and exercise she would build up that area.
    08-17-2012, 12:20 PM
Thank you all for the insight. It helps to hear the different opinions and takes after seeing pics. I've had people tell me in person it looks like an ok fit but my boy wont move in it! Regarding his fitness, he is back to full time work (since June) after having about 6 months off earlier this year so he is still a little hollow behind the withers still. But he is building nicely as his dressage saddle fits him and allows him to move out. Of course then I go an switch saddles on him and slow our progress...what was I thinking! ;) He just had a chiro appt last week too. Thanks again for looking and providing your 2 cents.
    08-17-2012, 02:02 PM
Look for a saddle with wool flocked wither gussets- they can be stuffed in a way to fill in that sunken area by the withers.

You can see the difference in this Mike Corcoran "Major Event" saddle

Vs. This Bates "Caprilli"

The Mike Corcoran has much higher wither clearance, and then fills in along the sides of the withers before it goes outward. Note that this is a really expensive saddle, and if it's like the "Marvel" dressage model which my saddle fitter showed me, it's likely really hard to find used. I just wanted to throw that out there as an example of what I meant by wither gussets
    08-17-2012, 05:14 PM
Nice saddles.

The Corcoran has what we call 'Top Front Gussets' over here - really useful for fitting TBs as long as the rest of the panel is a suitable shape. I'd suggest it gives higher wither clearance than the Bates more because of the tree shape than the panel. You still have to be careful with adjustment as too much wool too high at the front can interfere as the top edge of the scapula rotates.

The Bates has a 'Full Front Gusset'. On a flocked saddle this gives the panel extra 'thickness' if needed, again great for awkward shapes. On this saddle though it simply retains the close-contact panel shape over whatever they're using instead of flock, one of the reason's CCs can be poor fits :)

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