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Saddle for a Short-Backed Horse
  ©  2006 Cherry Hill

How To Think Like A Horse
From the Center of the Ring
Making, Not Breaking
Longeing and Long Lining
the English and Western Horse
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
Longeing and Long Lining the Western Horse
Dear Cherry:

I am trying to fit my mare with a saddle that doesn’t hurt her back. I have tried an Arab tree and a semi QH tree but they both left dry spots and welts on her back. She has a short back and has been 4” higher at her rump than at her withers for years. She is 8 years old and 15.1 hands.

I am currently using a gel pad with the rear 2 pads removed and replaced with thin felt pads. She seems to move much more freely. I am 6’ and 190 pounds. My saddle has a long skirt (31”). I am sure this causes problems with her hip hitting and then pushing the saddle onto her shoulder blades.

Some articles I’ve read suggest getting rid of the horse which I don’t want to do. I know her back hurts on the hills. I was able to ride her in an English saddle (even though I was a nervous wreck) and she amazed me at how differently and freely she moved.

I am hoping that a shorter skirt will solve the problem and wonder if a full QH tree with a gel pad would be the answer. I would have a saddle made if I could be sure it would help the mare.


Hi Jan:

Yes, your mare has very difficult conformation to deal with but it sounds like you have a good start on solving the problem.

Use a saddle with the shortest skirts you can, and one with round skirts rather than square skirts.

It sounds like you probably ride in a 16” seat (Western). This makes it difficult to get a seat to fit you but with bars short enough for your horse’s back. I think custom is the only way to go and even then it will be a challenge for the saddle maker. If you can look at the western saddle on the cover of either of my longeing books

101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises or Longeing

and Long Lining the English and Western Horse

you will see the custom saddle I had made about 5 years ago to fit the black gelding who is wearing it on the covers. He is very short backed but fortunately has a slightly uphill topline. Until I had that saddle made, I rode him 95% of the time with my dressage saddle. As you say, when a saddle fits well, the horse flows and he really showed me that he preferred the dressage saddle over my previous square skirted, longer western saddles. Now, with my custom Western saddle, he goes just as well Western as English.

You will have to find a knowledgeable saddle maker and go for more of a balanced ride type saddle with the deep part in the center of the seat rather than one that has a seat with a built-up front that sets you back behind the center of balance.

Avoid stiff, long pads too – make sure your pads are about the same size and shape as your saddle. Elevating the front and minimizing padding at the rear like you are doing is a good strategy for your downhill horse but you can’t take it to extremes or the saddle will be unstable in the front and cause undue pressure on the horse’s loins.

Cherry Hill

2006 Cherry Hill, all rights reserved. 

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