With the increasing diversity in the conformation of horses and riders desiring a higher level of positive saddle fit, the chances that an “off the rack” saddle will meet those needs is becoming more problematic.  Consequently, the area of pads and padding is gaining more interest as possible solutions to mitigate negative saddle fit problems.  
     Lately, there have been a lot of new padding concepts, pad designs/systems and new materials being used in pads in attempts to solve saddle fit problems.  Some of these new materials and designs show promise and could be steps in the right direction.  Without test data such as pressure mapping their actual effectiveness is unknown.  One needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each situation.  

If the angle is incorrect none of the other measurements or padding can compensate for or correct a negative fit.

     It is understood that the above statement is dramatic and is meant to be.  In the “pad-up” section, the incompatibility of the bar angle is addressed.  Similar results were found in the use of shims to attempt to correct an incompatible bar angle.  Generally, the best case is that 50% to 60% of the bar has contact with the horse.  So, only 50% to 60% of the bar area is available to distribute the load vector.  One must ask.  Is this an acceptable level of saddle fit?   The answer: maybe!   A rider weighing 90 pounds on a hour trail ride - possibly.  A rider weighing 220 pounds on an hour trail ride - possibly not.    
     The majority of saddle fit problems are caused by an incompatible angle in relation to the horse’s profile or the contour of the tree bars are incompatible with the horse’s back.  In analyzing the effects of pads and padding on saddle fit problems, it is assumed that if the angle is incompatible the contour of the tree bars are compatible.  Likewise if the contour of the tree bars is incompatible the angle is compatible.  It is our opinion that if both the angle and contour of the tree bars are incompatible, the chances that pads or padding will solve the problem is unrealistic.
     When it is determined that a negative saddle fit exists, the only way to mitigate the problem is through pads and padding, because one cannot change the horse’s back or the saddle.  There are two general methods to achieve this :  using a thicker pad or multiple pads and shims.  Click on the links below for analysis.

Copyright 2012 American Saddle Makers Association, Inc.