The Princess and the Pea

Princess and the pea
We’ve all seen saddles with a few too many pads under them. This one was passed along by my saddle fitter.

I suspect we’ve all seen saddles like this one — perched so far above the horse’s back that you might not even know you are riding a horse.

I’m sure that the rider’s intentions are good. But while they might want a pad to protect their horse’s back, too much of a good thing can cause problems.

Fundamentally I think people have lost track of the purpose of saddle pads, which used to be to keep your saddle clean. Now there seems to be more emphasis on the pad than on the fit of the saddle.

In this case, it appears that the folded towels are being used to prop up the cantle as well as lifting the entire saddle a good 6 or 7 inches off the horse’s back. Why isn’t this a good idea?

For one, stability. When you have that many pads under the saddle, it’s not really sitting on the horse and is likely to shift during riding. Certainly when you are doing any kind of riding that includes varied terrain or jumping the last thing you need is a saddle that moves independently of you and your horse.

For another, pressure points. Propping up one part of the saddle almost always creates pressure points under the opposite end. A saddle needs to be the right shape for the horse’s back — the tree points should follow the shoulder and the panels should touch the horse’s back evenly, supporting the rider’s weight.

Saddle fit is such an important part of keeping your horse comfortable and the rider balanced that it’s worth spending some time learning more about the basics. I’m lucky enough to have access to an excellent fitter. I’ve learned a lot from watching him over the years. But if you are just looking for some basics, this video is an excellent starting point.

2 thoughts on “The Princess and the Pea

  1. I’ve noticed that a lot lately: Padding to fit the saddle to the horse rather than getting a saddle that fits the horse. I pointed out to a gentleman just a few weeks ago that the reason his horse was bucking was probably due to a too-large saddle. It was one of those “rockers”; the panels were too long and curved up off the horse’s back. I showed him this and explained how this causes discomfort to the horse and suggested a lollipop pad until he’d got a saddle that fit the horse. He replied that he needed a big saddle to fit him. I explained that it’s important to have a saddle that fits both: He and his horse. Hopefully he’ll listen. He did see what I was talking about when I explained it to him.

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