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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm at the point of tearing out my hair in frustration of saddles. To my surprise, the buyer's market is not great right now, it is difficult to find a true 18" seated saddle, and my horse is just a major PITA to fit.

Just as a reminder, this is my gelding, Toofine, who is a 22 yr old half-Arab, and has what I would consider med-wide shoulders and tall, narrow withers. I don't ride him much anymore, but my SO does. My SO is a 6'1" man, who is around 220 lbs, and only walks and trots for now. I bought him a beginner saddle, a Stubben Siegfried (made in Germany), 30cm tree (medium), and a 19" seat. My SO got up and rode in it, and remarked "this feels RIGHT - I didn't know I could feel like this while riding". He was riding in my saddles previously, which didn't even fit me. Well, great that it fits him, but does it fit Toofine?

Here is the sweat marks from riding:


Big surprise, I forgot to take pictures straight from the side. Way to go, me. Tacked up, with a basic all-purpose pad, and a P.E. Merino wool half-pad:


And on his bare back (should've put the girth on, again, way to go me!):


Holding the flaps down, the leather is pretty stiff, you can see the tree point though:


And the forever-issue, his dang withers:


And in my mind, I know, it doesn't fit - but nothing ever has FIT! And just for fun, I've tried a three variations of Big Horns, a branded work saddle, an Ebay work saddle, a Simco, an Australian Saddle, a Tucker knock-off, a cutback saddle, my Collegiate, an aged Crosby, an unbranded hunt saddle, a Rembrandt dressage saddle, and more I'm sure. In the Collegiate I tried the medium-narrow gullet, the medium gullet, the medium-wide gullet - NOTHING.

At what point do I just make something work? I hate, hate, hate considering using special pads to try to give his withers clearance, but what other choices do I have? I can keep chasing the perfect saddle, but I feel like by the time I find it, he will either be retired or my SO will have his own horse.

Things I've been considering:

1. A shoulder bridge pad


2. A stiffer pad that the barn I used to work at used under all of their saddles


3. A mechanical horse that doesn't care about saddlefit for my SO


4. Bite the bullet, get a saddle fitter out, hand over my credit card and SO, get a second job and sell all of my belongings to pay off the credit card



Where do I go from here? Treeless? More narrow? Different brand? Different pads? Different horse?
 

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Not sure where to begin on this.

From the pictures, the tree width appears ok but the tree's too flat for the horse's back profile, and the panel is far too flat to give any support behind the shoulder. Probably the same along the whole length. If you're using a pad, apart from extra thickness mid- and rear panel, you'll probably need double the same thickness in front to deal with the hollow behind the shoulder for that size of rider.

It's hard to be any more specific without being able to see horse and saddle, I'm afraid. Probably bite the bullet time :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Not sure where to begin on this.

From the pictures, the tree width appears ok but the tree's too flat for the horse's back profile, and the panel is far too flat to give any support behind the shoulder. Probably the same along the whole length. If you're using a pad, apart from extra thickness mid- and rear panel, you'll probably need double the same thickness in front to deal with the hollow behind the shoulder for that size of rider.

It's hard to be any more specific without being able to see horse and saddle, I'm afraid. Probably bite the bullet time :(
That's what I was thinking too, unfortunately :( luckily, I got this saddle for a steal, so it should sell quick and add to my budget for something else. I have access to a Qualified Saddle Fitter with the Society of Master Saddlers, if she is still saddle fitting, that is.

But, if I bite the bullet and get something nicer, it has to fit both myself and my SO which may prove to be a challenge. I haven't rode in the 19" Stubben yet, but I have found that I prefer a more open seat after riding in cutback saddles when I showed saddleseat, so if something is a tad too big, I will just make it work.

Is there a brand of saddle that caters more towards high withers? Or will it be a matter of a wild goose chase + custom flocking to fit? He is 22 so I don't want to spend a fortune, but he is currently 100% sound and I see no reason that he won't be able to be ridden until his final day, if his health continues to be as great as it has been the last 13 years.
 

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You could try a cut back saddle like the old plantation style or a stiffer half pad that is shimmable. My experience with fitting a saddle and sending pictures like that was told the saddle was too wide. They narrowed it down and added, redistributed the wool flocking. Fits perfect. This was a spring tree where adjustments to the tree were not just possible at gullet. I use a thin line half pad with shims for it to fit one of the other horses. Works perfect so far. Been riding with that saddle with a baby pad on the one and saddle with TL pad combo on the other for 3 months now. It also works on all but one of the others. The saddle is a Smith Worthington. The owner has been fitting saddles all his life and eventhough by emailed pics (I swear close to 100 digital images ) and the measurements he asked for traced from a flexible ruler he nailed the fit.
 

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A bridge pad...yes!
I would try a bridge or swayback pad made for English saddles to take up the drop of the spine you are also trying to deal with.

Greenhawks website picture of their specialty pads is exactly what I was thinking of...
Incorporating 2 pads in one for comfort...https://greenhawk.com
A pad that addresses the dropped back, with a bit of cushioning apparent to raise the saddle evenly away from the wither bone but not strangle the wither either..

I would also look at a half-riser pad that will indeed cover the entire spine under the saddle and pad that wither bone, however it will also possibly "pinch" that area softly with pressure because it will fill in the void area in the front of the saddle...
Something with the shape of this {below} but not necessarily to have built up areas like this one has...it is the shape though I was trying to show to you.
No lollipop pads, they will dump the saddle down on the wither strangling it...
You need to fill the spine void of "dropped" to then address the rest of the saddle fitting correctly.

My gut feeling is if you address the dropped spine, "swayback" of Toofine's age then much of your issue is now gone needing to fit.
This saddle though appears to sit close but not to close...

I think a pad like this would work well for both your horses with saddle fit...
Both your horses appear to have a lowered spine for different reasons but that deeper settling of spine..going to be miserable to fit any saddle to that back without first addressing "back-drop" is my thinking.
:runninghorse2:...
 

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I have a Roma like HLG posted for a mare with high withers and some atrophy. Works well. They may make one that is not thicker at either end but with enough of what you need all along that back.
 

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I always like to take any opportunity to learn something about fitting English/dressage saddle from @UncleArther


So, could you explain, as if speaking to idiots or newbies, how you know the following things:







Not sure where to begin on this.

From the pictures, the tree width appears ok but the tree's too flat for the horse's back profile, and the panel is far too flat to give any support behind the shoulder. Probably the same along the whole length. If you're using a pad, apart from extra thickness mid- and rear panel, you'll probably need double the same thickness in front to deal with the hollow behind the shoulder for that size of rider.

It's hard to be any more specific without being able to see horse and saddle, I'm afraid. Probably bite the bullet time :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So, we had another Christmas in August last night, for Toofine atleast :oops: A bridge pad is on it's way, along with a front riser pad. As I read more about bridge pads and watched videos on how/why they are used, I feel like I should have gotten one sooner. He's always had less 'padding' over his spine than other horses, and I feel like a bridge pad could have at least given him a bit more comfort.

I'm also going to take him back from my SO, at least for some of the week, to really work on his topline - while teaching my SO how to do exercises with him as well. I feel like the time is now for preventative measures for his aging body.
 
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I always like to take any opportunity to learn something about fitting English/dressage saddle from @UncleArther


So, could you explain, as if speaking to idiots or newbies, how you know the following things:
Ok. If you look at the front of the saddle, the angle of the front arch appears to match that of the back of the horse's shoulder. That means if you lifted the saddle at the front the shoulder should rotate backwards and slide under the panel without the tree point interfering with it. Even though to allow this the panel itself drops down behind the shoulderblade, the fact it's soft, by comparison with the point itself, means it shouldn't restrict shoulder movement.

The pics make it hard to really compare saddle with back but I've seen lots of Siegfrieds and even though they're not particularly flat-treed they're certainly not as dipped as this horse's spine. I suspect it would be particularly difficult to get any modern saddle tree to fit well - the tree should follow the line of the horse's back - so you're then forced to fall back on flocking the panel to match the back profile. In this case, it would mean what they jokingly call a 'banana' panel (I'm sure you can guess the reason) and again, a lot of modern saddles don't have enough breadth mid-panel (under the rider's seat) to convert into depth by shaping with extra flock. Doing the latter reduces the width of the bearing surface on the horse's back, so that's something else to consider.

If you look at the pic of the offside front with no pad you can clearly see the panel is collapsed away from the horse from the channel down to the top of the knee roll position. This part of the panel (from knee roll up to channel and then along the horse's back) is what actually supports the saddle, and thus the rider's weight. There should be even contact right through this area, though to achieve this the flock will usually vary in thickness depending on the horse's musculature and the amount of body fat it carries. The latter often makes fitting more difficult since fat tends to move away when you apply pressure, as against muscle which doesn't. For example, a horse which carries fat in the 'pockets' behind the shoulders will often need just as much extra flock to keep the saddle in balance as a TB or part-bred which has defined hollows, even though the latter will appear to be a more difficult fit.

Hope that's ok but if I haven't explained anything clearly enough let me know. Quite often a fitting issue may have more than one cause and I'm always explaining to owners the importance of considering the saddle panel in partnership with the tree shape/width rather than being a separate thing. Plus much of the difficulty with fitting is that there's a lot of differing opinion, even amongst SMS qualified fitters, I'm afraid.
 

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So, we had another Christmas in August last night, for Toofine atleast :oops: A bridge pad is on it's way, along with a front riser pad. As I read more about bridge pads and watched videos on how/why they are used, I feel like I should have gotten one sooner. He's always had less 'padding' over his spine than other horses, and I feel like a bridge pad could have at least given him a bit more comfort.

I'm also going to take him back from my SO, at least for some of the week, to really work on his topline - while teaching my SO how to do exercises with him as well. I feel like the time is now for preventative measures for his aging body.



I"m confused. Wouldn't these two types of pads sort of make each other useless? I mean, cancel each other out? to me it doesn't make sense to use those two at the same time.


am I missing something? (It wouldn't be the first time)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I"m confused. Wouldn't these two types of pads sort of make each other useless? I mean, cancel each other out? to me it doesn't make sense to use those two at the same time.


am I missing something? (It wouldn't be the first time)

I'm going to try each one of the pads and see what works better - I figure the bridge pad will add what his back is missing. The bridge pad accounts for shoulder muscle atrophy around the withers as well - I hope that only this pad fixes things enough.

I found the front riser pad to be in stock in only one place, so I bought it just in case it works.
 

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Perfect ClearDonkey...that was how I was hoping you would engineer the pads and their use.
I started writing this response and got sidetracked making dinner, feeding the animals and only now got to come back to finish my comment...bear with me as I did not edit just corrected typos and hit "send"...

tiny the poster has 2 horses...
Similar but different fit issues of saddles.
Now sometimes you can use a bridge pad as it addresses a dropped spine appearance on a horse so fills in the void, but it doesn't necessarily add "height/bulk" to front or back of the animals tack, only the center.
Other times, you would use a riser pad to uniformly lift a saddle that sits/fits to close but not change the pitch of the saddle.
Sometimes you need both used at the same time...not sure that that is needed for the older horse.

Now riser pads can come with graduated thickness front to back, or back to front, shims added in pockets so if loss is area specific it can be addressed to make the tack sit even and the rider less likely to pitch the balance uneven/off falling in a hole/gap. Or they can come a unified thickness, even throughout.
A riser pad though sits under the entire saddles panels where say a keyhole pad would slip into the gullet and disappear from the front but lift the saddle rear/cantle = change pitch of the saddle.
The OP does not need to change pitch and have the saddle now fall down/collapse on the wither, she needs to raise the saddle entire to give a bit of spine clearance along the entire underside of the saddle so pressure is not exerted to a spine dropped from aging.

The pads I was referring to would fill gaps, not change pitch.
The drop in the spine needs to be filled, period.
One way or another you need to make a back level out more than is possible without padding up that space.
I think pitch of the saddle when placed on the back properly is going to sit fine, but close to the spinal processes that need protecting on a aged horse who has poor muscle mass right now or atrophy occurring.
The saddle if it is what I remember is able to be flocked and fitted but I sure would not do that till work on building muscle mass and memory took place so you are not re-flocking so often, hence the bridge pad and riser pad come back into being.

That was my idea of suggesting those type of pads.
To ease the stress of finding a saddle that will address all the issues faced, that would be a nightmare to find in one unit.
Actually impossible and honestly I don't think except in custom you can address all the issues faced, even custom not happening easily.
That would be a very "strange" shaped looking saddle to me and if the horse gained more muscle mass a whole new issue of fitting arises.
Properly padding for now I think will work for the better as the horse is works differently to build what was lost.
:runninghorse2:...
 
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