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Anyone have experience fitting a saddle to a swayback?

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  • Anyone have experience fitting a saddle to a swayback?

    Seeking wisdom. I have a two-year-old TB filly who I adopted last year as she was not destined to go to the yearling sale... she's well put together and a lovely, lovely mover, but her back conformation is ... well, odd. I don't know if she officially qualifies as a swayback or if she just has an unusually prominent shoulder-blade and wither, but her back drops away significantly behind the wither. (Was hoping I'd see some alteration in this as she matured over the winter, but swaybacked she is apparently going to stay!)

    Now, I did research swayback before I agreed to take her on, and I'm confident it won't represent an unsoundness. It doesn't predispose her to being a wobbler, predict that she will have back soreness issues more than any 'ordinary' shark-finned horse (and I've had a few of those), or otherwise mean she can't have an athletic future. It does, however, mean she's going to be tricky to fit a saddle to.

    She's ready to be introduced to saddle and bridle and learn to longe. Has anyone had a horse with this sort of conformation? Looking for some suggestions re: saddle fitting, filling in the dip with the right combo of pads, etc. What has worked for you?

    I figure at the very worst, if we can't work out this saddle-fitting thing, I can send her off for driving lessons, but she's such a little athlete that I would love to event her. C'est possible?

  • #2
    I think modern pessoas tend to be more curved front to back than the average saddle. I know a gen x xch worked well for my Arab who was rather down in his back, when he was muscled up. It bridges now that he had the winter off and lost his topline. They probably won't work for a true swayback. Although the saddles with the AMS panels would work better than those with Bayflex panels. And if you can live with a dressage saddle, I have an Anky Euro XCH (AMS panels) that fits the Arab I mentioned above beautifully even without his muscles.

    Do you have pictures to show how badly the horse's back is swayed? It would help bring in recommendations. You might also want to invest in a good shimmable saddle pad until your horse builds up some muscle. Skito does custom work based on pictures of the horse and saddle, and are very nice to work with. They have experience with swayback type horses.

    Comment


    • #3
      someone posted a saddle pad to help with this issue...
      it was on a saddle bridging thread.

      this isn't it but this is a product that would work.
      google bridge pad, or search COTH. You might find it.

      http://www.tucker-saddles.com/bridge-pad.html
      http://kaboomeventing.com/
      http://kaboomeventing.blogspot.com/
      Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Yup, this is her:

        http://ridexc.wordpress.com/trixie/ (Use the password "swayback".)

        (Sorry about the colour -- they're just quick cameraphone shots. She's actually chestnut.)

        I'll have a look at the Skito pads -- thanks!

        Comment


        • #5
          You can also look at any of the places that carry saddlebred tack. Years of breeding for the high neck carriage created horses with sway backs and there are tons of correction pads to make saddles fit them. Heck, there's even a part in many under saddle classes where you have to take the saddle off the horse so the judge can look at his back!
          http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            I suspect you'll need to invest in a custom saddle
            I'd just leave her to grow up another year at least before starting any saddle work ...

            Another COTHer had a saddle done by Patrick Saddlery (other companies passed on the opportunity) - I'd link the thread but the Search function is still locked in the past.

            Comment


            • #7
              Years ago I part-leased an amazing jumper that had a major swayback. He came with his own custom Keiffer along with a special pad because of the severity of the sway. My friend who was paying the other half of his lease did not fit in his saddle, so we used her saddle with a sway back pad and he performed just as well in that as his own saddle, so I would say custom is not absolutely necessary. I was paranoid about back pain, but he was one of the soundest horses I have ever had.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I have a fantastic custom saddler (www.paramountsaddlery.ca -- shout-out to Christian!) who I suspect will be game to make something for her should that become necessary, but I'd like to play around with some pads first to see if any of my existing saddles can be made to work on her. My old Prelim horse (now sadly departed) had major camel withers and the custom dressage saddle I had made for him, is currently sitting unused b/c none of my other critters is remotely his shape ... the filly is sorta similar, so I might get lucky there, but won't be surprised if I don't.

                I'm not in a rush to get her started, btw ... just would like to get her wearing some tack and longeing quietly this summer, maybe some ground-driving.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I just spent forever typing out this long response and then it was eaten by internet goblins. Arrggg!

                  Ok, the short version. I have a horse with a swayback. Here he is: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y20...psff7132e1.jpg

                  But under saddle, no one notices: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y20...psb66905cf.jpg

                  We have a Black Country Eden dressage saddle with upswept panels, an Amerigo CC jump saddle, a Prolite Triple Pocket Shim pad, and anatomic girths. The BC I did buy new, while the Amerigo was used.

                  My horse has lived his whole life this way, always sound, never caused an issue other than saddle fit and winter blanket fit. He's 8 now.

                  You are going to probably want front wither gussets or some type of trapezius/drop panel, if not now, eventually. BC, Hastilow, and County are good places for those. Most people look at a swayback - even some fitters - and immediately think to put a riser in the back/middle, but that's not always the best option. You're going to want an upswept panel. Anything with big gussetted panels is going to poke her in the loin. You're also going to want to try for wool panels.

                  Be prepared for her back to change a LOT. I'd also consider waiting til she's at least 3 before backing her. Lunge her properly in side reins beforehand to build her back. Or drive her. She's going to change from growth, and then she's going to change again from muscling when she is ridden. My horse used a totally different setup at age 3, than at age 6 when I bought my saddles. I got him at 5, but I've known him since he was a weanling.

                  Just about any high end saddle company can get you a curvy tree with the panel configuration you'd need. Assuming you don't want to spend a fortune on a first saddle, I'll make a few suggestions: Stubben, the higher end HDR's, Vega, Jaguar, older versions of Pessoa and County, Prestige, maybe Courbette and Passier, Frank Baines Reflex, Dominus. Most of those can be found used under $1000.

                  Use a shim pad, such as the Prolite I have, the shimmable Thinline trifecta, or the Mattes correction pad. You can pull the stitching out of the Mattes to use a bridge shim, while the other two are set up for them already. Obviously a saddle fitter would be a good call. I did it wrong and bought my saddles before having a fitter out, luckily I did my homework and he didn't have to do much adjusting.

                  I don't want to write a novel again, so if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I recently started a blog about him, though it's not public just yet, to share the things I've discovered have worked for him. It's definitely been a battle sometimes! Good luck with her.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    http://www.smartpakequine.com/cashel...dge-2500p.aspx

                    And you can trim it with scissors for a proper fit.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      We've had several (mostly prospective racehorses) to break-- they've all worn the regular old half-tree exercise saddle with a lollipop type riser pad, and been fine-- that might be a good compromise to start out with. Only one was as severe as yours, and he went on to be a nice hunting horse but did get sore if he was ridden in anything else or if he was ridden by anyone who weighed more than ~150 pounds. I am not sure how hard they worked on getting a saddle custom-fitted though.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Click image for larger version

Name:	Cutie Louie - sm.jpg
Views:	1
Size:	17.8 KB
ID:	9136063 Louie is built wither high back low. Both of my Passier saddles were adjusted by a professional who moved the wool around inside for a better fit.
                        Libby

                        There is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness". - Dave Barry

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I use County saddles for my horse

                          Both of my horse's saddles are County with wool flocking and the panels are more "banana" shaped than straight. The County saddle fitter helped me find the models that were best for my sway back horse, then adjusted the flocking accordingly. I added a Thinline sheepskin half pad with shims and the system works very well. Here is a picture of my horse:

                          http://s844.photobucket.com/user/clm..._0522.jpg.html

                          His conformation has not caused any soundness issues, I am happy to say.
                          ___________________________________________
                          "Another member of the Barefoot Eventers Clique"

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks, everyone, for your input! I've decided to start with the simplest pad I could find that provided some thicker padding in the middle -- the Cashel. Had to order it in, so no feedback just yet. If the Cashel doesn't suit, then I now have a whole list of other pads I can try by ascending price. And if none of those work, it's on to the custom saddle plan ...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              You might also talk to Ogilvy about making a specialized pad for her - certainly less $$ than a custom saddle at this stage
                              (link is to their facebook page)

                              I've seen some very good deals on barely used Ogilvy pads - if you think a non-custom might suit.
                              Do be cautious about trimming pads such as the Cashel or Thinline etc - non-beveled edges can create significant pressure points.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If your horse does continue to maintain a sway back you may wind up needing a saddle with more panel support in front and an upswept panel. We have fit at least a couple of horses with this type of set up. A correction pad with a bridge insert can also be advantageous.
                                Jay McGarry
                                sms trained saddle fitter
                                www.trumbullmtn.com
                                800-442-9672

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Quick update: tried the dressage saddle mentioned previously (the one custom-built for my old Prelim horse with the shark withers) and it's actually not a bad fit at the pommel and cantle. Sits fairly level, though this was without a girth so I'm just eyeballing at this point. And of course, it bridges -- badly -- in the middle. But if I can find the right system of pads to fill in that hollow, it might just be a prospect.

                                  I suspect a jumping saddle will be a bigger challenge by far.

                                  Comment

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