Better Saddle Fit – Wider Saddle, Shorter Saddle, Or No Half Pad

Without eyes on the ground very often, pictures can really help, with a lot of things!

Every time there’s some new shots I look, wishfully, for any small sign that she’s working more loose, more supple, more bettah’ than last time.

Staring at the hind.  To see if it looks like it’s working more.  The lumbar area.  The entire back.  Fretting there could be something in the work bothering her, physically.

She has the shortest, steepest sloped hindend ever.  Getting anything other than what I call a” duck trot” has been super hard, and if the saddle is even just a tad too narrow she won’t even try it.

Around December, I got stuck on worrying about too long saddle panels – where the saddle is extending too far back.  With a short backed horse, it can easily happen.

But her saddle, when checking, and double checking in the cross ties, isn’t too long.  Still.  There seemed to be something more to make the canter easier for her…

She needed more room at the shoulders.  The awesome Mattes half pad was just taking up too much space.  Or not?  Only way to be sure – experiment back and forth over many rides between the Mattes, the slimmer Thinline, and one without shims.

mattes pad taking up too much space
With the Mattes pad, no shims.

Riding with the slimmer fitting Thinline Trifecta felt better for her.  Couldn’t tell if removing the 1 mm thin shim made a difference for the shoulder.

thinline trifecta taking up too much space
With the Thinline Trifecta, no shims.


Finally deciding that the Trifecta had to go, too.  She needed the extra width! Without any half pad she felt the best.

riding without half pad

Keeping an eye on her topline if it changes back to more narrow later on.  Probably not…

Trying to figure out how our biomechanics work together, the up and the down stride of the canter has been the trickiest.  She won’t give anything if bothered at all, so riding her means to help as much as can with everything.

You look at this too, right?

Constantly searching for a way to ride more effortlessly…


That was a lot of you who had rider position stuff to hate on last week…  And horse issues.  Makes me feel in good company, so thank you!

19 thoughts on “Better Saddle Fit – Wider Saddle, Shorter Saddle, Or No Half Pad

  1. Dealing with this exact thing too! I got a custom saddle made for Clay a year ago, but it has never fit him right (the main issue is it slides forward). Even though it was made for him. :\ He’s a very tricky shape to fit. And, turns out, the shape of the horse standing still in the cross-ties is very different from their shape when they’re working, especially when in more collection. I too feel like the panels are too long for him when he shortens up in collection, and I have noticed that he is looking more and more croup-high over the past year…which *can* be a result of him not using his whole top-line correctly to lift…Anyway, my saddle fitter is coming soon for another adjustment and I am looking forward to asking him my questions and learning more about the very elusive and complicated subject of saddle fit.

    It’s good news if your saddle fits best without a half pad. However trendy they may be, they are really just bandaids, except for in rare cases of super sensitive horses who need extra padding between them and their rider. Keep us updated as you learn and observe more–I’ll be interested to hear what you figure out. What kind of saddle do you have on her now?

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    1. This is her 3rd saddle. (argh) Started in a really nice County, but tiny. Some shorter rides in a Custom Perfection with external rolls showed immediately that she’d never go well in a saddle with too long panels, so I’ve been alert to that the whole time.

      We also tried a handful of rides in friends’ Wintec and different JRD’s, to see the difference, before settling on a Lemke Deluxe. Lemke does great with designing saddles for more “baroque” horses and we had the Lemke (which had a way too huge seat for me and a much too wide twist for my hips!) for well over a year.

      Now we’ve switched to a fantastic Custom Perfection with internal knee rolls. They’ve been important for me as they are actually moveable, and for some time I rode with smaller ones really low down. The Custom saddles are simply great and I was lucky to buy it “new” used, almost untouched but at a better price. Since June, she’s widened and really doesn’t have room for much of a pad underneath. Time for saddle fitter to reflock and guide us, before the start of spring for sure!!!
      Fill me in what your saddel fitter has to tell you when the time comes!


    2. Wait!! I also meant to tell the girth can make a huge difference. I have an anatomical, shoulder relief one, that’s really made a difference. With a forward saddle girth grove, maybe Clay would benefit, who knows!

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        1. Yeah, Sometimes is just a shape of the horse period the length of their back and their abdomen and their withers. I bet he goes really round and lifted in his back sometimes and it just moves everything.
          I have no clue how to solve it… 😉


          1. Yep he’s a shape shifter! Completely different shape standing in the cross ties then when he is going under saddle. I asked the clinician’s opinion on my saddle this past weekend, and all he said was “This shape is really hard to fit.” Lol!! Yes, I know.

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  2. Yup! I try to temper my various obsessions with a good fitter. She’s rather holistic. Often we’ll end up having a riding lesson/lesson in groundwork/full nutritional analysis during a fitting session – she’s a gold mine of knowledge. I also try and remember that only 20 years ago the vast majority of horses and many horses on professional yards still, have one of a handful of saddles made to fit with saddle pads and they just have to get on with their job. I’m *trying* to focus on my riding skills rather than the minute details. As long as Abbey is comfortable, I’m happy!

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    1. Agreed! It’s easy to get obsessive about it, but being in tune and doing the very best for them is so important too. We’ve come a long way in understanding what works, and doesn’t, for horses, and it wasn’t long ago that it was sort of “expected” and accepted that a horse would wear away bone substance on their shoulder tips from a too tight fitting saddle! Ouch! They’d sort of just have to deal with the pain, and for the ones who didn’t, move on to other careers.
      My mare is such a tulip she just refuses to go at all if she’s not comfortable 😉 Sheeeshh!! 🙂


  3. Interesting experiments with half pads and if it works best without one at all that is excellent. I use a half pad because I use Ecogold pads and they really do not have any “padding”. I recently tried a new German half pad that was all techno wizardry and it did not work AT ALL. I have a Prestige saddle with a “freedom” shoulder and that seems to suit Biasini very well. My half pad is pretty minimal so as not to interfere with the shoulder movement.

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    1. This is why I like the simple Thinline pads too – they only take up some 1.5 mm of room but still offer benefits for the back. I bought the Tinline Trifecta, which has cotton sown in underneath and in the front (I like the extra breathability) and some “decorative” sheepskin rolls in front and back. However, I finally figured out it’s just too thick, taking up a fair bit more space, although not as much as the Mattes, shimmed or not.

      So. Saddle reflocking is due for us. Before spring! We locked it over in June when the saddle was new, and it’s definitely time now!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been on the hunt for a proper saddle for Tricia for over a year now. I finally purchased a Balance Horizon, and she thinks it’s amazing. The saddle and fit can make all the difference. It was interesting watching her attitude as the WintecWide needed to be adjusted. She would get cranky as we were saddling, and I knew we needed to move up to the next width. She hates having her shoulders pinched. Best of luck!

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    1. Hi Jenni! Thanks for your comment! Would love to see more posts from you on your site!! I love how you’ve made big strides forward with your mare, it’s very motivating!
      And yep, I always look at attitude during saddling! Can tell a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. I shopped for a new saddle late spring and early summer and absolutely hated it. So happy to have found something that works wonderfully for both of us. This one better last!!


  5. But your silver saddle pad with the silver sparkly dressage boots are just super Cinderella in style. Who wouldn’t want to dance in that outfit? Love it. Good luck with the fitting adventures….

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