Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Saddle Pads and Saddle Fitting

I rode again yesterday in the saddle I have on trial.  Regardless of what it does or doesn't do for my position, the pony seems to like it.  There was (drumroll please) NO BUCKING.  There was a tiny kick at the girth once or twice, but there was no bucking at all.  We had a pleasant, uneventful, normal ride.  Yeah!  The only snag we are running into is that her square pad is rubbing the hair off at the back of it.  I put the pad on her yesterday and her tail went crazy.  It's probably pretty uncomfortable to have it rubbing the hair.  So it got me thinking about square pads and all that.

What ever happened to using fleece pads that are saddle shaped?  Is it just a dressage thing that we want to use square pads?  Also, there are so many products out there that most of us on a regular basis under our saddles.  I know that every single person at my barn uses some sort of Thinline pad between their saddle and the square pad.  Isn't this just adding extra padding because the saddle doesn't quite fit?  Shouldn't we be seeking out a different saddle instead?

The Kent and Master's S Series Dressage Saddle
 I know that with growing horses, there can be a need to fill in spots until the horse's topline fills out.  Same thing for horses coming into work for the first time or after a long period of inactivity.  But for a regular horse in regular work, shouldn't the saddle fit well enough that a pad just adds to your horse's comfort?

Side shot.  It looks a little far forward in this shot, but that could be the square pad making it look like it's more forward.  I have it pulled up into the gullet.  This picture shows off the pony's croup high 'hump'.  
I know on the internet it's hard to read tone so I want you to know that my questions are genuine and not the sarcastic, self righteous, rhetorical questions that they  might seem to be.  :)  I also know that money is a factor.  Money is a factor for me also.  The saddle I am looking at costs three times what I paid for my horse.  However, I expect it will last me at least ten years and that the saddle is the most important piece of equipment I will own.

So, let's hear it.  What's up with saddle pads?  Crutch?  Comfort?  Fashion?

One of these days I will buy my pony a cooler that actually fits her.
Also, if anyone has any solutions to my square pad rubbing problem, lemme hear 'em.  I have already tried shorter pads which just rub her on a different place on her back....


  1. Gotta love those short backed Arabs. I had a similar problem with my Arabs. On one I could only use a 17" saddle. Anything bigger was too long for his back. My other Arab gets ruffled on his back behind the pad because his is hollowing his back. She is young and a little weak in the lumbar so that could be causing some of the issue.
    I like square pads because they are thin, but I have seen shaped dressage pads. Can't remember where but I was surprised to see them. We ended up with Wintec Isabels for our Arabs. Money wise they can be pricey, but you can find them used and being able to change the gullets as your horse develops saves on changing saddles constantly.
    This will sound weird, but one way to help with her back muscles is to do sit ups. Run your hand down the center line of her belly and push your fingers into her belly. She should lift her back. If she does not like that, some take offense, try doing a carrot stretch with her head coming down between her front legs.
    Good luck with the saddle hunt.

  2. My local fitter (SMS master saddler) loved the fit of my saddle for my boy, but she wanted to see another finger of wither clearance, so now I have a thin sheepskin half pad I put between the saddle pad and the saddle. But I do think in most cases the saddle should fit well enough with just a thin pad.

  3. : ) Yippee for buck-less-ness.

    Thoughts on the saddle pad thing...I LOVE my little 1/2 pad with sheepskin back and rolls. This *might* be something to look into for the Princess. The sheepskin helps with keeping the back temperature regulated. A lot of people for some silly reason (they get dirty??) put their fleece pads over thin baby pads, which defeats the whole purpose of the fleece on the horse's back...The rolls on the fleece would likely not rub the Princess's back since they're uber soft and extend BARELY past the saddle.

    I own an Isabell Werth wintec like Nicole and LOVE it. Bought it used for less then 1/2 price ; )

    P.S. For yesterday's post, ever consider you may be less assured around the pony because like most of us as we reach adulthood, you're aware that you own a 1000 lb tank that could easily break you if she chooses? (okay, Princess is probably only 900 lbs...). Self Preservation. You have a beautiful daughter and husband to go home to. : ) Experience builds confidence, so don't worry too much about your alter ego for now.

  4. Did the hair rubbing start after you started riding in the new saddle? If it did, then I think it's likely that something is not quite right about the saddle fit. New saddle looks like it has gusseted panels--is this different from your other one? I have heard gusseted panels are known to cause issue in backs that have a steep angle like your mare has. They were developed originally for uphill builds. I definitely would bow to the authority of the saddle fitter over my mumbo-jumbo though.

    Having said that, a lot of horses deal with this in the winter. The hair is long and brittle, and breaks easier than a sleek summer coat. It seems to me I was reading about quite a few dressage riders who were having this problem a while back.

  5. I, too, have a Wintec Isabel for my short-backed Arab and I love it. I use the dressage square pads when I do a clinic, but a lot of the time I just use an all-purpose pad.

  6. At least you are saddle fitting a normal sized horse.... =)

    I use a mattes dressage pad under my wintec all purpose. I'm going to ride in that per my saddle fitter for the next 2 months. She's going to check again. Rosie will finally hit her full maturity in this next year. Then it's saddle shopping for me. I'm leaning toward the Isabell if it fits her. I know *I* like it.

    Good Luck!

  7. You are right Mona, ideally, in normal situation the saddle should fit without a saddle pad - though I don't know if that is true for Western saddles. If you look at a lot of photos of English tack in the 60s - 70s, most of the pictures back then show horses ridden without saddle cloths. I think now it's mostly about what's in fashion; although using a thin cloth at the least will stop the formation of grease jockeys on a leather saddle - that won't be an issue though if you are using synthetic leather.

    If you are having problems with your square saddle pad I would definitely go for a shaped saddle cloth, or a softer one like a fleece/sheep skin. Personally, I just use a half-numnah synthetic fleece pad; lots of fluffiness so it's nice and soft. Sparrow seems to like it, and I've never had issues with rubbing.

    Good luck with it - I hope you find the perfect fit. :)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

    P.S. - Sorry, that seemed to turn into a bit of an essay! :S

  8. Also, if you're looking for a used wintec isabell, let me know as I've got one I'm no longer using.

  9. As everyone else has mentioned, a saddle should fit well enough to ride with just a normal pad (or no pad at all). I like to use a shoe analogy. While my shoes fit, I will be very sore in my heels if I don't have insoles. That's how I view specialty pads like the thinline or a fleece half pad. They make a well fitted saddle even better by absorbing shock, regulating temp, or minimizing roll (as in a grip pad). I really like the thinline pads and notice a big difference when riding in one versus just with a regular quilted pad.