Written by Fred Taht, Veritas Saddles
As a saddle fitter, one of the most common scenarios I encounter are flocked saddles which have compressed faster in the front – especially new or recently flocked saddles.
In most saddles, the stirrup bars are attached to the tree points (right).
This focuses the rider’s weight on the front of the saddle and compresses the front flocking, resulting in uneven pressure on the horse’s back, movement of the saddle, and issues with the rider’s position. When fitting a new or recently flocked saddle, I anticipate this settling by flocking the front more firmly than the rest of the saddle.
As a rider, certain clues can make you aware that this is becoming a problem. These include one or more of the following:
- new behavioral issues
- struggling with your position
- feeling your upper body pitched forward
- your balance in the seat becoming more forward
- encountering the pommel
- your aids becoming less effective
- your legs drifting rearward
- noticing your saddle’s thigh rolls more, especially at the knee
- your horse becoming reactive to girthing
- rub marks at the back of the saddle
In Photo 1, you can see a saddle with this issue.
It is downhill – pommel low and cantle high.
In extreme cases, the rear of the saddle will lift off of the horses’ back, which is especially noticeable at the rising trot.
One easy way to test if this is the case with your saddle is to use a Thinline Trifecta pad with front shims on both the right and left sides.
Photo 2 illustrates how the pad puts the saddle back into the correct position, balancing the rider’s weight appropriately.
Once the pad is in place, ride in the saddle and see if your balance now becomes easier, the thigh rolls stop interfering, and your horse’s behaviour improves. If so, it’s time to have a saddle fitter come out and evaluate your saddle for re-flocking.
In the interim, the Trifecta pad is the best solution.