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-   -   Wither riser pad, breastplate or both? (

Opus 06-13-2011 04:08 PM

Wither riser pad, breastplate or both?
OK. So, the OTTB I'm riding in my lessons (and will be leasing this fall) has long withers. They're a little high in front, but mostly, they come down his spineneck/back a good ways. They're kind of long. To the point where my saddle slides down his back a couple of inches, until there's no space under the pommel of the saddle. (When tacking up, and first mounting up, the fit seems OK. I can get three fingers under the pommel. After a few laps of trotting, it slides back. My saddle is a a M tree Crosby PDN, FWIW. And right now, it's the best-fitting saddle in the barn for this guy.)

Right now, we do have a bump pad on him, which helped some. But it's still sliding back.

Here's my question. And apologies if my thinking is flawed. I've never dealt with this before.

But would it make sense to add a wither bump pad (like this one) or a simple hunter-style breastplate to keep the saddle in place? Or both?

He definitely needs a little extra padding around his withers. But I'm wondering if this is just going to keep pushing the saddle back? Or do y'all think the extra padding would be enough to stabilize the saddle?

I'm open to any and all suggestions. My trainer and I are talking about it now, but seeing as how there aren't any breastplates or wither pads laying around, it'll have to be a 'buy it and try it' kind of deal.

Thanks in advance, everyone!

bsms 06-13-2011 05:21 PM

I'm confused. Is the saddle sliding towards his rear, which would give more clearance for his long withers, or is it sliding to the front of the horse and ramming his withers?

If the latter, a wither pad can help. My Appy/Arab cross has long withers, but the natural cinch/girth point is just behind his front legs. I've used a $7 wither pad to raise the front of the saddle perhaps .5", and that angle is enough to give good wither clearance all the way back. He spent an hour trotting happily today with zero indication of discomfort.

But if the saddle is moving to the rear of the horse, I don't see how a wither pad would help.

Edit - Sorry, your link came up. Something like that might keep the saddle from sliding aft, but I don't see it helping any with wither clearance. If anything, it looks like it would reduce it.

CJ82Sky 06-13-2011 05:30 PM

none of the above. correct the saddle fit, and place the saddle BEHIND the withers and off the shoulder. most common mistake i see when checking saddle fit and working with the chiro is people placing the saddle ON the withers. that is incorrect. the saddle should be a few inches BEHIND the END of the withers. using a pad and/or other tack to hold the saddle on the withers will just further falsify the movement of the horse as saddle on withers coupled with being on the shoulder will restrict movement in shoulder and reach of the forelegs. it will also disconnect the horse from driving hind to fore because of the weight of the rider being on the shoulder and wither rather than being on the back of the horse itself.

here is an article that will help:

bsms 06-13-2011 06:40 PM

Behind the shoulder blade? Yes. "BEHIND the END of the withers"?

I had a mare whose withers pretty much ended at her shoulder blade. That made it tough to keep the saddle on. Trooper (Appy/Arab) has tall and LONG withers, combined with a very short back. The challenge with him is getting clearance where his withers finally end. Frankly, if the saddle started after his withers ended, I'd have about 10-12" left for the saddle.

I rode Trooper today with my Bates AP saddle and the wither pad raising the front end slightly. Then my daughter-in-law rode him, and then my daughter. Trooper was a happy camper. At 26", my western Circle Y Arabian saddle is really too long for his back, although the high gullet clears his withers. The Bates was shorter, and with help from the wither pad, rode high enough to prevent contact with his withers.

CJ82Sky 06-13-2011 06:48 PM

for MOST horses behind the shoulder blade is behind the end of the withers. the article i sent clearly shows that. if you have a horse with extremely long withers and short back, then yes you would risk putting the saddle too far back (interfering with hind movement and potentially causing lower back pain and problems).

sorry if i wasn't totally clear on that.

CJ82Sky 06-13-2011 07:04 PM

here is another great article about fitting a saddle to a low-backed horse that may help.

EquiSearch’s Ask the Vet: Low Back Saddle Fit

MyBoyPuck 06-13-2011 07:10 PM

You're describing my horse exactly. Withers go on forever. No amount of flocking or muscling will fill it least not yet. The only thing that works for me is beefing up the area behind the shoulders with a shimmable pad. I use a Thinline, but they aren't cheap. When jumping. I use a breastplate to increase the saddle's chances of staying put.

bsms 06-13-2011 07:38 PM

Here is something I didn't really understand about horses and saddles, and learned from trying to get something to fit Trooper. Others can jump in and say if I'm wrong...

A number of English saddles now come with an interchangeable gullet. The gullet is the inverted V where the saddle fits on the 'shoulder', which is really behind the shoulder. The interchangeable gullets make that upside down V change angle from narrow to wide. This is supposed to make it possible for the saddle to fit any horse.

However, take that inverted V and cut the top off, and bridge the gap with a horizontal line. That is the gullet width. Just as horses have different angles where the saddle meets the horse, they also have different widths. Some quarter horses (I'm told, I don't own any) would need a wide gap with a narrow angle. Trooper, OTOH, needs a narrow gap (width) with a wide angle.

But the gullets all have the same width. All you can adjust is the angle.

If the width is too small, the saddle will perch up high in front even if the angle is perfect. If the width is too large, the saddle will settle and be low on the withers, even if the angle is perfect.

In the first case, I think you are screwed. I also think most manufacturers build a wide gap for Quarter horses, because they know that a pad can fill in the too wide gap for those of us with narrower horses.

If the horse has very long withers (Trooper), screwing up the gap will cause the saddle to hit against his withers where the withers end. You can have enough fingers of clearance on the front of the saddle, but still rub his withers at their rear. And some saddles will NEVER have enough clearance at the rear of the withers because they are shaped wrong. A forgiving horse, like Trooper, will endure the contact, but he may lack enthusiasm for trotting or sometimes flip his ears back or raise his head and hollow his back. He tries, but sometimes it will bug the heck out of him.

Ideally, we would all ride in custom saddles, or be able to take our horse to a tack shop and get good advice. Real world, the tack shops within 150 miles of me are staffed by morons who will try to sell you any saddle they have in stock. The only shop I know of within 200 miles with English saddles sell Collegiate saddles. I'm not slamming them, but like my Bates, the interchangeable gullets change angles, not widths.

And my family and I ride western or English, depending on the day, the horse, the goal, etc. We live with compromises in saddles fitting us, and our two horses have small but significant differences in their backs.

With a western saddle, what works well with Trooper is a saddle pad with a long cutout in front. It doesn't do much good to have a curve, because the curved top will leave the pad hitting his hips. A long split allows for some extra clearance on his withers. Even so, I may be stuck with using saddles that have a sharper rise from back to front than I like. I'm not sure it is possible to put the flat type of saddle I like on Trooper, because it would sit so far back.

With an English saddle (and Australian style), a wither pad fills in the gap. My mare doesn't need it, but Trooper does (Mia needs a slightly wider gap than Trooper, and has shorter withers). It is a compromise, but since he is ridden perhaps 4-5 hours/week (and usually with the western saddle...maybe 1 hour/week English), it works. The alternative would be a custom built saddle, but a custom built English saddle used by me alone for an hour or two a week tops is WAY out of budget.

It is also outside necessity. I think Trooper is just happy to have owners who try to make the saddle work, and who don't use spurs...he has scars on each side where someone spurred 2" diameter holes through his skin.

If I needed to compete with Trooper, or needed to work him for 12 hours days, my saddle needs would be different. I sometimes jog in cheap sneakers, and have done so for 40 years. I don't go that fast or far, and I get away with it. If I ran competitively, I would need top of the line shoes. When I peaked out running 30+ miles/week, I needed very good shoes. But I now do 15-20 miles/week, so I can compromise.

Sorry for the novel. Saddle fit is an important part of caring for a horse. I'm learning, and still have far to go.

Opus 06-13-2011 11:03 PM


Originally Posted by CJ82Sky (Post 1064075)
none of the above. correct the saddle fit, and place the saddle BEHIND the withers and off the shoulder.

This guy's withers are LONG. When we place the saddle on, it is behind his shoulder, but there's still a bit of withers there. And after that, it slips back.

I don't have pics, but I'll try to get some next Monday when I go back out. First, when tacking up, then maybe some when we're at the end of a lesson.

Opus 06-13-2011 11:14 PM

ETA: I've seen a lot of high-withers that have that big drop and then it evens out. But with this guy, he has about a medium/medium high withers, then it trails down at a slight angle and just goes on and on. I feel like I'm riding in the middle of his back by the end of the lesson.

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