The Perils of Over Packing or Over Shimming an English Saddle: A Closer Look at its Impact on Fit

For equestrians, ensuring the comfort and well-being of their equine partners is of paramount importance. Among the many factors influencing a horse's comfort while riding, the fit of the saddle plays a crucial role. Achieving an optimal fit involves careful consideration of various elements, including saddle padding and shimming. In this blog, we'll delve into the potential consequences of over packing or over shimming an English saddle, shedding light on how these practices can affect the saddle fit and, ultimately, the horse's welfare.

Understanding Saddle Fit:

The fit of an English saddle is crucial to distribute the rider's weight evenly and avoid discomfort or pain for the horse. A well-fitted saddle should provide adequate clearance over the horse's withers, a balanced seat, and even pressure distribution along the panels. Achieving this balance involves considering the horse's conformation, withers, back shape, and muscle development.

The Role of Padding and Shimming:

Padding and shimming are commonly used to address minor fit issues and create a better interface between the saddle and the horse's back. Padding refers to the use of additional layers of material, such as saddle pads or half pads, to adjust the saddle's fit. Shimming involves the insertion of specialized inserts or pads, often made of foam or felt, to modify the saddle's panel contact and address imbalances.

Consequences of Over Packing or Over Shimming:

1. Pressure Points and Soreness: Over packing or over shimming can lead to the creation of pressure points between the saddle and the horse's back. This excessive pressure can result in localized discomfort, muscle soreness, and even the formation of sores or rubs.

2. Imbalanced Weight Distribution: By adding excessive padding or shimming, the rider's weight may no longer be evenly distributed along the panels. This imbalance can create pressure points, causing the horse to compensate by altering its posture and movement, leading to potential long-term musculoskeletal issues.

3. Restricted Shoulder Movement: Over packing the saddle, particularly in the wither area, can restrict the horse's shoulder movement. This restriction limits the horse's ability to extend its forelimbs freely, affecting its stride and overall performance.

4. Stability and Balance Issues: Overly packed or over-shimmed saddles can alter the saddle's stability and balance. This can make it difficult for the rider to maintain a correct position, affecting their balance and potentially compromising their riding abilities.

Finding the Optimal Fit:

Achieving the optimal fit for an English saddle requires careful attention to detail. It is advisable to work with a qualified saddle fitter or professional who can assess both the horse and rider. The saddle fitter will consider the horse's conformation, back shape, and muscle development, as well as the rider's position and requirements. They will help select the appropriate padding or shimming, ensuring a well-balanced and comfortable fit for both horse and rider.

Regular Assessment and Adjustment:

Saddle fit is not a one-time affair but an ongoing process. As a horse's conformation and muscle development change over time, it's essential to periodically assess the saddle fit. Regular check-ups and adjustments, if needed, can help prevent discomfort, soreness, and potential long-term issues.

Over packing or over shimming an English saddle may seem like a quick fix, but it can have significant repercussions on the horse's well-being and performance. Achieving an optimal fit requires considering the horse's unique anatomy and using appropriate padding or shimming techniques. By prioritizing the horse's comfort and working with knowledgeable professionals, equestrians can ensure a harmonious partnership with their equine companions