View Full Version : Dressage Saddle for Short Backed, Small Horse?

Dec. 14, 2007, 10:50 AM
I have a 14.3H Irish Sport Horse - she is short in terms of her height, but has good bone and muscle. I am trying to find a dressage saddle that will fit her and I'm having trouble, mostly because her back is so short. So, I am wondering, what do folks who are riding smaller horses or dressage ponies using? Am I going to have to go custom?


Dec. 14, 2007, 10:55 AM
I have a 17.5 County Connection that works ok for our 14.1 H gelding. What really is too big for him is the Isabell. The panels just stick out too far behind. I think the smallest seat you can handle without being squished would be best. Unless she has other fitting issues besides being small, you shouldn't have to go custom.

Dec. 14, 2007, 11:25 AM
I ride a 14hander in my 17 1/2" Custom Saddlery dressage saddle. It's the same one I use on everything else.

Dec. 14, 2007, 11:57 AM
I have a Passier on my leetle guy who is WAY short backed. Usually gussetted saddles are too long in the panels, yet it's hard to find wide enough with the right angle in non-gussetted. The Ancient Passier fits that bill.

I've also used a Reactor Panel, with short panels for him, and a bigger seat for me. Best of both worlds. Would still be using it, but he outgrew the tree.

Treeless works too. Particularly the Fhoenix. It's only because of my degenerative hip that we had to 'move on' from that. :sigh:

Night of Songs
Dec. 14, 2007, 03:44 PM
I have an 18" Duett Encore for our 15HH very short backed gelding. He has a very wide back, his saddle is a 34 cm.

Duett was very helpful with going through wither tracings and sending us about 4 saddles back and forth until we got the right fit.

Good luck!

Dec. 14, 2007, 04:00 PM
Allie is short everywhere, and I've got an 18" Albion SLK that fits her nicely. I had a saddlefitter out, and while she admitted a 17.5" probably would fit BETTER, the 18" with a bit less padding right under the cantle works very well, and Ms. Sensitive Back hasn't had any trouble at all with the 18" (which *I* need).

Sunny Santa Cruz
Dec. 14, 2007, 11:37 PM
I'm on my 3rd Karl Niedersuss! Great for the small short backed wide horse/pony. Using the 16 3/4 (43cm) wide tree. It's wonderful!:yes:

Dec. 14, 2007, 11:43 PM
I second duett....and currently ride in an Anky 17.5w on my 14.1 hand haffie..........its a 35cm....

Dec. 14, 2007, 11:48 PM
I have a 16hh ISH with a short back and almost no wither to boot. I ride in a Niedersuss Symphony and it fits him fine. I haven't had as much trouble fitting his back as I have fitting his bulging shoulders/low wither issues. My saddler has always told me that short-backed horses generally have stronger backs and as long as you are not sitting on their kidneys - you should be okay. I don't think your horse has a freakishly short back does she? If she is Irish, she should be a strong, stout girl. How old is she?

Dec. 15, 2007, 03:23 AM
I ride in a 17 1/2" Albion, which fits my 15 hand Arab, but I have ordered a Fhoenix treeless, because he goes so much better in it.

Dec. 15, 2007, 07:36 AM
I have an 18" Lauriche for my 15 h Trak/SWB mare who is very short-coupled, but also round-bodied with fairly high withers. My saddlefitter moved the girth straps a bit farther forward and we got a perfecft fit. BTW, the Lauriche is incredibly comfortable.

Dec. 15, 2007, 08:14 AM
Yes, I've gone through so many saddles for my 14.3H Morgan that I've earned that title! My mare is short-coupled, round-barrelled with mutton withers, big shoulders. I am currently riding in a Thornhill Vienna II with a Thinline pad. It is an 18 inch seat (I have long legs) and a 32 cm tree (MW). I find it comfortable and balanced and my mare, a 'princess and the pea' horse, seems to be happy. KarenRO

Dec. 15, 2007, 08:15 AM
Seconding the Fhoenix, here. Give it a try if you have a chance. Plus, you can use it on any other horse and not have fit issues - so it really holds up its end of the stick.

Sanely Eccentric
Dec. 15, 2007, 11:10 AM
I love the Schleese JES Elite that was fitted for me and my cute, short-backed mare and I honestly believe my mare loves it as well. Yes, it was not cheap, but oh my gosh, it's heaven to ride in and my mare moves so nicely in it. It's adjustable for a lifetime as well, so as my mare changes musclature we just adjust it rather than buy a different saddle. My two cents worth:)

Dec. 16, 2007, 09:40 AM
I have an 18" Duett Encore for our 15HH very short backed gelding. He has a very wide back, his saddle is a 34 cm.

Exactly what I use for my 15hh very short backed breeding stock paint.

Dec. 16, 2007, 10:39 AM
We have a herd of wide, round, short backed, bulging shoulder saddle fit challenges in the backyard. The saddles in my tack room are - Niedersuss Symphony, KB Santis dressage saddle and Wintec Isabel in addition to a few western saddles. I also have found the following Albion models, the (old) style, the ultra and SLK to fit my beasts and me the best though the Niedersuss is my all time favorite. My beasts consist of 5 welsh cobs, 2 table backed arabs and an old style swedish warmblood who's back is longer but he's a wide boy all the same. Of course my herd can't get together and have the same saddle fit them all which is why I have the 3 dressage saddles (and have tried or been through many more); which the moral of the story is that not all short backed stout beasts are shaped the same. Good luck in your saddle search.

Dec. 16, 2007, 04:16 PM
MHO the saddle has to fit you, so regardless of the saddle's seat length, it is "your seat length", and it varies very little from saddle to saddle. I'm not sure there is one saddle that has a certain seat size but a smaller frame. <?>

Dec. 16, 2007, 06:07 PM
I'm not sure there is one saddle that has a certain seat size but a smaller frame. <?>

There is--Reactor Panel. You can have an 18" seat for the rider (remember, it's length of thigh, not just the actual rider's 'seat') but short panels for a short backed horse. Or a 16" seat and long panels for a long back.

Having a small saddle on a bigger horse can concentrate the pressure too much and be just as much a problem.

Shallower seats can be more 'roomy' therefore able to take a smaller size too.

Dec. 17, 2007, 08:16 AM
I had wanted to trade my older Steuben Siegfried for a new saddle, but I am finding that due to my mare's shorter back that I'll probably stick with what I have. The Steuben (it's quite old) does not have a deep seat but it fits her well. Depending on what your preferencs are maybe that would work.

Dec. 17, 2007, 11:53 AM
To answer some of your questions -

Smidgeon is an ISH, but not particularly rotund. She has great muscle and bone - she is quite strong - but still somewhat narrow. She is ok with a narrow/medium or medium tree (depending on the brand/model) and she is fairly easy to fit in every way except in the length of her back...I wouldn't say it is freakishly short, but it is pretty darn short!

I am currently using a 17" Passier and while the tree and all other aspects of the saddle are rated well by my saddle fitter, the balance is off. This is less than ideal given where the back of the saddle is. The saddle fitter recommends a custom so that we could do shorter panels. I could get my butt into something smaller than a 17" seat, but the length of my leg from hip to knee is long and my knee comes over the edge of a smaller saddle - it is borderline in the 17".

I also have an Albion SLK - that saddle doesn't fit well at all, unfortunately. It is far worse than the Passier. And, to further restrict my chances of success, I have to admit that I am not a fan of treeless or air.

If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them! In the meanwhile, I am going to start looking at some of the saddles that have already been mentioned - there were a few that I hadn't thought of that sound like they are worth a shot...thanks so much!

flamenco horse
Dec. 17, 2007, 01:49 PM
I have a 16hh ISH with a short back and almost no wither to boot. I ride in a Niedersuss Symphony and it fits him fine. I haven't had as much trouble fitting his back as I have fitting his bulging shoulders/low wither issues.

Same here.... ISH, mutton withered, short backed, bulging shoulders, 16.3HH. Like your guy, the biggest problem was fitting a saddle which didn't restrict the shoulders. He also has a very long (horizontal) shoulder which sets pretty far back. Enter saddle fitter from whom I've purchased saddles in the past. She felt my old Stubben Scandica was a decent fit for his body type so she reflocked and reworked it a bit and Voila! I personally dislike to saddle as it's extremely open but for the time being, I'll deal with it for a year or two until he's into more serious work.

It would seem the deeper the seat along with gusseted panels, the least likely it will work for a short, flat-backed horse.

Dec. 18, 2007, 08:42 AM
I struggled for years with my short backed dutch mare. Gusseted panels rested on her loins and also tipped the saddle downhill. There was never a place for the saddle to sit behind her shoulder, yet be off her lumbar area. I also am more comfortable in an 18" seat as I am 5'8", 140 pounds and have a very long thigh. I had my 17 1/2" Wave's seat scooped out at the cantle to give me more room and my thigh fits nicely with appropriate length stirrups (short enough to give me an angle in my ankles, knees, and hips). The saddle's rear panels are curved upward so the saddle does not rest on her lower back. The tree in the front is curved backwards so it does nor interfere with her shoulders. Yes, it was very expensive (not as expensive as buying and taking a beating on all of the other saddles I had for her though...), but she's worth it. If you can find one on ebay and have it modified for you and your horse, it may be worth it. Plus, the tree is adjustable (by a Schleese technician) so it can always be fitted as your horse changes or if you change horses. I can get my fist (and then some) in the gullet the entire length of my saddle. And, the panels are wide so they have a large weight bearing surface side to side. Hope this gives you something to think about. Good luck.

Dec. 20, 2007, 06:27 PM
Another vote for Neidersuss. I had a 15.1 1/4 Dutch warmblood with an impossibly short back. Every saddle I tried was too long.
I imported the KN Hippostar in wide and it worked fine.
It now goes on my 17 hand ISH and works fine on him too.

Dec. 21, 2007, 12:30 AM
It would seem the deeper the seat along with gusseted panels, the least likely it will work for a short, flat-backed horse.

I have to say I think I agree with this observation. The Ancient Passier that His Princeness and the Pea approves of is a full 18.5, but shallow. The curve of the panels is counter-intuitive for a very, very flat back, but it does curve up OFF his loins.

I'm trying now to strike gold again for the youngsters. :dead: Neideruss is on the list, but hard to come by used--rarer than hen's teeth.

Dec. 21, 2007, 07:10 PM
It would seem the deeper the seat along with gusseted panels, the least likely it will work for a short, flat-backed horse.

Dumb side question: what is a "gusseted" panel?

Dec. 21, 2007, 11:06 PM
'gussets' are seams along the bottom outside edge of the panels underneath the back of the seat. They allow the panels to be flatter, rather than curving up to follow the shape of the tree in the back. Also can help increase the bearing area.

Great for some horses, too long/too much pressure for others.

Dec. 23, 2007, 04:19 AM
I have a 15.1hh Andalusian/TB mare who is basically neck and bum - I ride her in a 17" Collegiate saddle - love it.

Dec. 23, 2007, 01:32 PM
Funny that someone else said, 'not an Isabel'.

I have a short backed 14.3 (if she stands on tip toes) Arabian who is well served by the Wintec Isabel. Sadly, I'm not well served by the Isabel but I can't find another saddle that fits her though it's more often due to panels than length,

Dec. 24, 2007, 12:01 PM
I was told by a saddle fitter that my horse (15.3h) has a flat back so needs a gusseted saddle. The Anky XL fit him and so does the Isabell. The Jaguar XKC is not gusseted and causes him pain. I have not bought a different saddle yet, but I'm hoping my Jag will fit my daughters pony, he is 14h, very round with no withers and a short back. Now I wonder if I buy an Isabell if it will fit the pony, the gussets are quite large. I hate saddle fitting/shopping, the more I learn about it the less I actually understand!

Dec. 25, 2007, 06:53 PM
I have WOW saddles which come any size you like, huge selection of panel choices, extremely adjustable. My own two mares have them and are very different in type - the 16hh is a short-coupled 7/8 Tb mare with a wide barrel, the 15.3hh table-top is a Russian Orlov x. The Fell Pony I compete also has one.

This is the saddle concept


The air-flocking does not make the ride bouncy, however the horse does have a lot more freedom in shoulder and back. The increased looseness and freedom has actually made my big-moving TB mare far easier to sit to.

None of the big lass in action but this is the Orlov mare



and the Fell Pony


Dec. 25, 2007, 09:48 PM
I didn't read all of the post so forgive me as I"m clueless as to what has been discussed.

something with upswept/banana swept panels. A saddle with upswept panels will take some pressure off of the lower back.


are the three that really come to mind. If you look at pics of them and then pics of something like an Albion you'll see the difference.