Solutions to Horse Saddle-Fit Problems

If your saddle doesn’t fit your horse, adding shims may help, said Dr. Joyce Harman, an expert in saddle fit. Simply adding a pad at a pressure point merely presses the padding onto the horse’s back without solving the fit problem, and riser pads can cause discomfort.

”Each horse and saddle combination is a unique situation,” Harman said. In the chart, we’ve grouped common problems with Harman’s related solutions. Some fit problems originate in the horse, but many reflect the saddle. There are some saddles that just won’t fit a particular horse, but choosing from these tips may give you the solution you need to make you and your horse comfortable.

Both English and Western saddles can be helped with simple shims. You can make your own, or English and Western shims can also be purchased, of course. You may also be able to purchase shims to fit a certain saddle pad.

Dr. Harman recommends Equalizer shims, also known as the Skito Shim System (, 800-292-6442) and the correction system from Mattes (, 888-637-8463). Dr. Harman also has a selection of shims available through her web site.

Foam — closed- or open-cell — is popular shim material. Shims need to be the correct thickness for your specific horse and saddle, wide enough to transfer pressure along the full width from gullet to lower panel or bar, and tapered so the front and back (and sometimes upper or lower) edges conform to the horse’s back.

Shims can be placed between the horse and pad. They can be attached to your pad with double-stick tape, glue or thread. You can adapt a pad by stitching pockets to accept shims in the right place for your situation.

Or, you can buy pads with shim pockets. Skito sells English, Western and Australian pads with shim pockets, and Mattes sells English pads with shim pockets.

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