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Wither Relief Pads?

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  • Wither Relief Pads?

    My horse has shark fin withers, and takes a narrow gullet in my dressage saddle. I think the saddle is hitting his withers when riding, and I have been advised to look into purchasing some sort of wither relief saddle pad..

    I have been doing some research and I have come across the Mattes and Fleeceworks pads (augh, but so $$$)... anyone have any experience with these pads? Are they worth the money? Any input or other option ideas would be much appreciated !

  • #2
    I have a few shark-fin withered horses. This Gel-Eze pad is amazing: http://www.doversaddlery.com/product...&ids=416573368

    The picture on the site does not do it justice. I use it right on the backs of the horses, under the pad. I use it on 2 or 3 horses every day and have for 2 years. I'm just about due to get another one. Well worth the money!
    "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."


    • #3
      Originally posted by Haltatx17 View Post
      My horse has shark fin withers, and takes a narrow gullet in my dressage saddle. I think the saddle is hitting his withers when riding, and I have been advised to look into purchasing some sort of wither relief saddle pad..
      I must say, this whole thing bothers me, forgive me

      I'm sure they must be out there, but I have never seen, not personally, not in pictures, not anywhere, a horse who fits in a narrow tree saddle. I HAVE seen a great many horses who are in trees too narrow, including a narrow tree, in order to keep the pommel from hitting the withers, and that is the very wrong thing to do.

      Can you post some pictures? A side shot of the saddle on, girthed, no pad, showing the whole saddle, shoulder, and barrel of the horse, and the same but from a 3/4 front view, would be very helpful.

      I know you didn't ask about the fit, but...
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • #4
        I was thinking the same thing JB . Also, there is a big difference between a gullet being narrow and the tree being narrow. I suspect you meant tree.
        Shop online at


        • #5
          Yep, I just assumed "tree", but yeah, nothing changes in my thoughts
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


          • #6
            A lot of incorrect blame does get placed on high withers! Dinky has quite a set and still wears a medium wide albion.., when NOT in hard work. Definately a mistake to fit the withers.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


            • #7
              ET, you've seen Catnip. She puts Dinky's withers to shame, I think. She fits a *wide* Vega Jump!

              The shoulders MUST be the things that are fit first. THEN you find a pommel cut - high, cutback, whatever - that allows wither clearance
              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


              • #8
                My mare is the same way. I tried my dressage trainers mattes pad and liked it, but by far she preferred the therapeutic pad by Beval. Its AP, but it fits under a dressage saddle fine, also I use it bare with a pad on top of it since it offers more relief that way.


                • #9
                  OP, here's the reality: to go from "hitting the withers" to having "an inch or more of clearance over the entire spine" would require a pretty ridiculously fat, huge pad that is very likely to create pressure points on your horse's back. You'd be better off addressing the saddle fit.

                  If you absolutely insist on trying to fix it with padding, the only pad I can think of that's fat enough is the big thick Beval wool half pads. Or perhaps a Poly Pad saddle pad plus a sheepskin half pad (and those need not be expensive to be high quality. You can pick up an Engel half pad for $70ish and they're lovely.)
                  Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                  • #10

                    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks for all the advice.

                      Horseymama, I may give that gel pad a try.

                      JB- Thanks for the feedback. I will try to take some pictures and upload them up here. I guess "hitting the withers" was maybe the wrong term to say? I had the chiropractor come out and she thought (although, of course, she is not specialized in saddle fitting) that the pommel of my saddle could be restricting for the horse, as his withers are high. I have owned horses before, and none of have taken a narrow tree. I have the Isabelle Bates saddle with the interchangeable gullets. I am wondering if I should change to the medium gullet and just use some extra padding... I have only owned the horse (he's a Thoroughbred) for five months, and when I bought him he was skinny and had no muscle, and I know the previous owner used a narrow tree on him. For those of you that have high withered horses, what tree sizes do you use? I know every horse shape is different, but I am wondering what you do to keep the saddle up to leave clearance for the withers- do you use extra padding? (I apologize for being beginner with the saddle fittings... ) Now that he is being worked consistently, he has built muscle and now I am thinking that I need to do something about my saddle. I know that I can't use a narrow tree just so it gives the withers clearance, it needs to fit all around By no means am I trying to ride him in an unfitting saddle.. I know that can lead to horrible consequences and pain for him.

                      I will try to take some pictures tomorrow and put them on this thread. I sincerely appreciate everyone's advice.


                      • #12
                        I have to agree with JB on this one. My horse has MT Witherest and uses my medium tree well with a correction pad as he changes with the seasons. The tree size is one thing but so is shape. Is the tree "U" shaped or "A" shaped. The panels can also make a great deal of difference too. We use a Passier Grand Gilbert, it came with him and doesn't fit me too well but it has a cut back which helps tremendously with his withers.
                        Imagine wearing a tight shoe and putting a thick sock on and placing the shoe over it. Would that be comfortable? Placing a thick sheepskin would do the same. Saddle fit is the important thing here. They come in all sizes and shapes and there is not one answer except learn how it should fit and judge for yourself. Trumbull Mountain has a good tutorial on doing tracings to help with saddle fit. I would look at it and see what you've got..
                        Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
                        Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
                        "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Haltatx17 View Post
                          For those of you that have high withered horses, what tree sizes do you use?
                          It's not about the withers It's about the shoulders.

                          As I mentioned in my last post, my high-withered TB mare takes, for reference (not a saddle I own, but did try it on her) a *wide* tree Vega Jump, and that wide is not a skimpy wide. Her dressage saddle is a #4 County Warmblood. That's about equivalent to a 34cm Prestige.

                          Here's a confo pic of her

                          The reason the Vega worked on her is because of how the pommel is cut. It's a great saddle for a wide-shouldered, high-withered horse.

                          In regards to your question about hitting the withers if the saddle is wider - that's why it's more than just about pommel height or tree width

                          First you fit the shoulders. HAVE to fit those.

                          Then, of course, you have to make sure the shape everywhere else is right - the lateral shape of the panels, as they sit on either side of the back, and the front-back shape.

                          Trees can be more A-frame in shape, flatter, and inbetween, when viewed looking down the length of them (meaning, the lateral shape)

                          Looking at them from the side, meaning the front-back shape, they can be quite curvy or quite flat, and all the way in between.

                          THEN comes the withers IME it's much easier to find a Dressage saddle for these shark finned guys, since more dressage saddles than close contact saddles have a higher pommel. For some horses, it's just a matter of the pommel being "cathedral" enough in height. For others it's a matter of that pommel being set back a little, or having a bit of a cutback to them.

                          All of those things are independent fit features that have to make their way into 1 saddle.
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                          • #14
                            This is why I'm not a fan of interchangeable gullets. It's one shape fits all and the points are very long. I have a Passier with a medium tree and a cutback that fits my big withered boys, as well as a KN Symphony in medium narrow without the cutback. The KN is actually wider than the Passier, but the points are longer, so it changes the fit. My horses each have their preferences, which continue to surprise me. Me and the local ER are fortunate in that my guys are quite comfortable letting me know when they don't like the saddle fit.
                            "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


                            • #15
                              But it's not "one shape fits all" any more than choosing between a 32, 34, 36cm Prestige is "one shape" fits all.

                              If by that you mean "look, this saddle will take your horse from the narrow gullet all the way to the XW gullet without any problems!" then I agree, that is not, never will be the case.

                              You can only widen the front so much before you throw off the rest of the tree. Yes you may very well have it fit through several gullet changes, but then at some point it's going to change the shape of the whole thing and it won't fit.

                              There's nothing wrong with the interchangeable gullets, as long as you don't have the expectation of thinking it will get you through 2, maybe 3 gullet changes. And even then, at least IME, the widest gullet causes enough of an overall change that it's less likely you can have that as your 3rd, or even 2nd gullet change and still have the whole saddle fit. But if you go from MN to M to MW, you may well be quite alright.
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                              • #16
                                Ya, I have to agree... with dressage saddles, they should be sat back out of the way of the shoulder. I have a very high withered Thoroughbred, she uses a medium Schleese Jes with air panels which I really love! I can adjust it as needed, its sits nicely on her.

                                Good tips to saddle fit by: http://www.schleese.com/9PointCheckList

                                As for wither relief and comfort... I like ecogold pads Pricey but WELL worth the money! And they have one with a very slim wither relief piece. www.ecogold.ca
                                "My ideal horse is the horse that I fall in love with again every morning when I see his face hanging over the stable door, looking for breakfast. " - Jim Wofford