Minimizing Saddle Movement on the back?

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  • TheFoxRider Original Poster
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    I have a young horse who is still growing who also has large, uphill motion and is still building (and thus isn’t consistent or strong through) her topline. This horse is still very narrow and juvenile through her shoulders which makes saddle fitting and tack in general a bit of a nightmare.

    I have a jump and dressage saddle that appear to fit her well and she doesn’t show any problems or discomfort, and moves freely. My dressage saddle, however, appears to be slowly rubbing under the back panels. The hair is beginning to look thin or shorter than that around it, but she is never tender or warmer than usual under the spots, which are palm sized and placed under where the panels sit. I believe this is caused in part by her own unevenness in her body, and made worse by her big movement and tendency to “drop” my contact, her back and not come through consistently when working.

    TL:DR moral of the story: something is rubbing my horse where the rear panels sit on the back – not sure if it’s the pad or the saddle or the thinline trifecta pad with single rear ultra thinline shim. Rubs are a thinning or shortening of the hair, no sores/heat/pain associated. Saddle fits soundly with no bridging/pinching but panel is a touch low in back, thus the single shim to bring it up to visible balance.

    Any recommendations on products to stabilize my saddle or prevent rubs? Sheepskin, Success equestrian pads, etc?

    The baby horse and I appreciate it!

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at:

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    I would need better pictures. Can you take one from the side by the shoulder with the saddle on and girth. Then one from the side at a stand still with the saddle on and girth. It looks like you need to shim behind the shoulder as well. She has no muscle there and the saddle can lock the shoulders when in movement because it sit’s down in this place behind the shoulder instead of being level with muscle so the shoulder can slide. When you girth up, bring a front leg up like in extension and slide your hand with the shoulder as it goes back. Feel the pressure difference and the Block I’m trying to explain. If you start here it might make everything else very different as well. I think trying to shim the rear sounds correct if you didn’t have the issue with the shoulder lacking muscle. A picture of the whole horse would tell a lot about how this horse wishes to move in general. I have lots of saddle issue’s and it’s no fun but you learn a lot.

    ottbrider ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    All I can think of is having a saddle special fit to her. My thoroughbred gelding has a very odd shaped back. Some saddles I have appear to fit and he doesn’t get fussy but they tend to leave him tender and/or rub the hair on the withers or the where the back of the saddle sits. His Endurance saddle was built on him so it was contoured to his specific back shape. It’s a little more expensive but worth it over all.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by ottbrider ottbrider.

    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    TheFoxRider Original Poster
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    Thanks for the replies, both of you!

    Team Buttercup, I’m hoping we can make it through this latest growth spurt before calling the saddle fitter, but it’s probably in our eventual plan. I keep noticing little changes week by week with this horse since the rubs became apparent so she’s growing like a bean pole – I definitely know she’s not done growing because her shoulders are still baby-horse narrow!

    Thanks for your input, Elizabeth – I’m riding her in a saddle that works well for my wider backed, MW horse with a large developed shoulder as of late. The saddle definitely “wants” to sit in the right spot clear of her shoulder, but I may start shimming it in front as it’s not quite clearing the usual three fingers of space – it’s not sitting on her wither or back, but it’s not clearing it really well, either. Once her shoulder comes in I think her jumping saddle, which is a MW/W-ish tree (again fits her “Sister” really well) will have fewer problems with side-to-side slippage, because from the withers back she’s a pretty broad backed girl.

    Has anyone ridden with multiple shims stacked in a thinline pad? I feel like my single shim isn’t quite enough but my lift front wither pad seems like too much.

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at:

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    I have not but be careful of bridging in the middle. I used the cotton thin line at first and then I used the one with sheepskin to help lift the whole saddle until the fitter came to put more flock in my saddle. Then once I switched to the sheepskin I lifted the pad in front. It worked. Before it had compressed the flocking so much in front I was getting a bad rub, after shimming the way I did it helped. My horse has now built enough muscle behind there shoulder so I can take the shim out with one of them. The other which is a wider horse is fitted to the saddle. Remember lot’s of long and low to build muscle but also mix it up with other things. Don’t want the horse to do to much mental and emotional excerise if they are young. It helps to develop the top line and and prevent lameness. Just speaking in general. This is such an important topic. If your saddle is not balanced and comfortable for your horse it is not only effecting the horse but the rider as well. Especially when finding your balance point.

    TheFoxRider Original Poster
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    Hi Elizabeth –

    I may try it but will definitely be very picky about the fit – bridging is definitely not what we need! I really appreciate your input – while I’ve worked with many green horses to bring along, this is my first young green horse and I’m definitely not sure what to do with these growth spurts. I was considering sheepskin as well – it’s good to know that it worked for you in the interim. This horse is such a happy, forward little worker that I’m constantly worrying over her back and her comfort. Thanks for all of your input!

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at:

    DutchessBridleSaddle DutchessBridleSaddle
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Hello FoxRider! My name is Kate Wilson – I am a Qualified Saddle Fitter certified by The Society of Master Saddlers. My business is Dutchess Bridle & Saddle LLC and I travel all over the upper Mid-Atlantic and lower New England area for on-site saddle fitting. I wanted to throw my hat in the arena with a few other thoughts for stabilizing your saddle on your young horse.

    Fitting young, underdeveloped horses is always a challenge. I would not recommend getting a fully custom saddle built at this point in time as you cannot predict how and when the horse will change. Most saddles can be altered along with the horse however, this can get expensive and the saddle will need to be worked on causing lengthy downtime. In discussing saddle fitting on young, just-in-work horses, I usually recommend getting either a well fitting used saddle or shimming/padding a saddle that you already have that fits as well as can be.

    There are some basic elements to your problem that fit directly together. You mentioned using a saddle on her that is meant for a broader withered horse. I can see from the first picture that the withers have some height and the base of the withers (approximately 6″ down each side from the spine behind the shoulder) is not that broad. Typically, rubbing under the cantle area is a signal that there is a lack of stability in the saddle. This usually begins in the pommel area and physically manifests the instability in the back portion of the saddle. When a tree is too wide, the tree points are not parallel in angle to the horse’s wither shape. When this happens, the underside of the pommel sits too low to the top of the withers (diminished clearance) and the top inside of the panel is too tight on either side of the withers. You won’t get bridging in this scenario. With the pommel too low, the back end will lift off the back just enough to either fishtail side to side or pop up and down – this is especially apparent in the trot phase (not seen as much in walk and canter when the rider stays seated). When the cantle area moves, it scrubs the saddle pad against the horse’s back causing the hair loss. It won’t necessarily have heat as it is a friction rub and not a pressure point. The pressure points in this scenario will be located under the pommel closet to the gullet of the panel and under the stirrup bars.

    The only two things I can’t tell from the photo of the horse on the lunge line is the placement of the saddle in relation to the back edge of the shoulder blade and also how the saddle is billeted. It’s not easy to say but it looks like the saddle may be either placed too far forward or it slid forward. Usually with a saddle that’s too wide, they have a tendency to slip backwards (pommel tipped down with a point billet drags it backward). You did say that you felt the balance was tipped back with little clearance between the cantle gullet area of the saddle and the spine – this would indicate to me that the saddle is being placed too far forward onto the back edge of the shoulder blade. This will make the pommel higher than it should be and can result in bridging. Depending on the positioning of the billets on the saddle, I see clients placing saddles too far forward in order for the billets to line up with the girth. It is the tree of the saddle needs to be behind the shoulder. The tree points can be located by the line of hardware (headnail, falldown D and saddle nail) that secures the seat’s skirts and the top of the flap or the point pocket underneath the flap. If the saddle has a large thigh block covering the tree point pocket, use the line of hardware. Make sure this line of hardware is behind the shoulder blade. If this placement now puts the billets too far back, you may need to use an off-set or anatomical girth that places the buckles backward and the main body of the girth forward. Also, if the saddle you are using has a point billet, this pull pull a saddle that is fitting too wide more down in the front adding to the instability.

    Although shimming the rear of the saddle seems logical because that’s where the physical manifestation of the pommel not fitting correctly is showing, it’s not the area that needs correcting. The pommel area needs to be lifted and this will, in turn, make the cantle area more stable and have more contact with the horse’s back. However, if you are concerned about diminishing the clearance over the spine underneath the gullet of the cantle area of the panel, a wool or Thinline style pad would give you the all-over lift you will need for clearance over the spine. I am not a fan of the Thinline shims but prefer to use the Mattes PolyFlex shims for all shimming applications. I cut them in thirds and layer them so that at the bottom on the front pocket, there are three layers, the middle layer is 2 layers and then the top closet to the top of the withers is one layer. This way, you are filling in the gap underneath the tree point and supporting it so it is more stabilized and takes some pressure off the top inside of the panel. You can also use more of less graduated layers on one side versus the other for an asymmetrical shouldered horse.

    I hope this tips have been helpful!

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Obviously saddle fit, balance, and stability are the most important factors. But if you’ve got all that and there’s still a little rubbing, try the Ecogold Frictionless saddle pad. Or put your sheepskin pad on the bottom (next to the horse) with your square pad on top. I only do this in the winter, otherwise the amount of sweat is just disgusting. Good luck! I’m in the same boat with a slow-growing youngster myself.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    You didn’t mention the age of this horse, which would help. She does appear to be at that horrid stage of undeveloped and old-enough-to-start. I would take a little different approach. First off, I would forget about having a saddle made for her, as, once she has developed, you will likely then have to restuff or sell.
    Second, if you have a dependable horse from which to pony, I would take time to pony this horse. Ponying her will allow her to get out and muscle up, whilst allowing her to see what goes on in the big wide world. Pony her up and down hills to develop shoulders and quarters. This will also help her “leg up” so there is less risk of leg issues as you go along.
    Finally, I would lounge her. If you have a lounge cavesson, that would be ideal, as you can change the lounge line from above the nose, to a ring lower on the inside (the side on which you are lounging). Constructive lounging helps develop balance and suppleness. Start with lots of walk and trot transitions, add halts and finally halts to trot. Make sure you keep the tip of your lounge whip low and at the inside hind. The object being to move from the inside hind leg, as opposed to leaping away from the whip.
    The fact this horse has no top line is causing her to go upside down. She may have a large movement, but she is not using so much of her back and quarters. It is hard to tell from your photos, except that the one showing her in hand shows no real “working” muscle – that she has got along simply moseying. If you try to work her into a frame at this point, you will get the saddle rubs, an uncomfortable horse, and possibly a horse who will give up trying for you. Trying to maintain a round horse will wear both of you out – she doesn’t have much to give. Help her build up by allowing her to develop naturally – pony or even riding her up and down hills, long straight trots, etc. She will develop the muscle, then you can bring it on and make what you wish out of it.

    TheFoxRider Original Poster
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    Hi all,

    Thank you so much for your replies! Luckily this problem resolved pretty quickly after it presented itself – I appreciate the input.

    Ashley & Bailey

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at:

    Peg Briden
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 6

    Look into the Ecogold line – you have to go to their website, products come from Canada, not sold through retailers. I have an Irish Draught Horse, got him when he was 4 coming 5 and it seemed like every day his back was different – withers higher then croup, croup higher than his withers…..then at 5 coming 6 he had a growth spurt, went from 16 h to closer to 17 h!!!!! My friend recommended Ecogold and their product line helped eliminate all rubs…’s not inexpensive but you will use the saddle pad(s) for years and years to come and they are easy to maintain and clean..

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    A handy half pad to have is the AirPad from the makers of the Flair system. It has 4 chambers of air and a small hand pump. It sits under your saddle just like a regular half pad but you can adjust the amount of air in each chamber with the pump (you can even do it while you are in the saddle) and even out how the saddle is sitting. It even works to even out how the rider is sitting if they have issues with being crooked. It is great for horses that are growing and haven’t finishing developing or horses that are crooked. It’s not cheap but worth it. As long as your saddle isn’t pinching (too narrow) on your horse, it can help.
    Good luck! I had to have my horse and saddle fitted every two or three months between the years of five and eight until he finally grew into himself.

    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 29

    Maybe a memory foam half pad or a special saddle pad.

    Life is not about waiting for the clouds to pass, its about learning to ride in the rain

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