|Supreme Western Products had one a few years ago but I have not checked lately. Diamond Wool Pads has done one for us with an adjustable velcroed wither strap as well as an extra long cutback; which is great because the straighter the shoulder the lower the back and the longer the withers. I am seeing horses whose withers are as long as their backs.
Due to changes in conformations of racing and performance horses, saddles themselves have had to change. Adding to conformation changes, fitness levels will also alter whether the saddle sits level and balanced on the horses' back. "The more fit, the harder to fit." As well, pads should have had to evolve to work to equalize the pressure points on high withers, straight shoulders, and/or low backs, but they have lagged behind the better fitting saddles. Sometimes it may require a specialist to help get the customer the right combination of saddle and pad for their horse. Here at Caldwell Saddle we will work with our customers, giving all the information at our disposal. We offer evaluations of saddle, saddle tree, pad, fit, and usage.
This horse has a back that can be considered 'weird' and hard to properly fit. As a result, he requires a custom saddle pad. He is extremely straight shouldered (about 80°), long withered, and low-backed.
When customizing a pad for this horse, the idea was to “make the back as normal as possible” with the use of either a Black Gold pad (by Diamond Wool), or one that was cut like it. There are instructions on the site that will walk you through modifying your saddle pad, look under the “Tips” section. I designed the Black Gold pad because there were not many pads that worked for a high withered and low-backed horse. This pad is designed to fill in the low back and go around (not over) the withers.
Why should you pad up another inch over withers that are already high? The adjustable wither strap on the Black Gold pad holds the pad in place without a build up of excess padding. From the front edge of the pad to the base of the original cut out is designed to measure 10 inches. I thought this would work for most horses with long withers and low backs, however, the bay in the picture above, “Scar”, has withers that measure 14 inches to the point where the withers and back meet. This long measurement means that he needs a deeper cut out in his pad in order to accommodate his withers.
Why is this important to do? If you have a crappy saddle with straight bars, it would not matter because only the outer edges of the bar will touch the horse and you will be sitting 6 inches above his back. But with the pad laying over the “blade” portion (the ridge between the highest point of his withers to where it joins the back) in a good, close contact saddle, the added thickness of the pad will cause the blade ridge to rub on the underside of the seat. By cutting this area out, it will add another inch of clearance. Any contact your saddle has with any area along the spine is detrimental to your horse. We have done this modification for dozens of horses, so it is not uncommon. The cut out amount is approximately 3 to 4 inches. Another issue with not cutting this area for those that need it is related to the slope of the wither blade. As he runs, the wither blade will hit the underside of the saddle and cause it to slide back, making folks think that it is the saddle that does not properly fit the horse.
These horses have a wither as long as their backs. So we have angled the front edge back to free up the neck adjoining the withers to stop mane rubbing and prevent the pad from being pushed back when the animal raises his neck and head. Also, we have cut the relief slot along the front of the spine to allow the extended blade portion to fit through the hole so the raised bone does not hit the underside of the ground seat and shove the saddle backwards.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODIFYING A PAD
TO HELP YOUR SADDLE FIT A LOW BACKED/HIGH WITHERED OR UNEVEN SHOULDERED HORSE. WE RECOMMEND USING A 100% WOOL FELT PAD WITH A CONTOURED BACK. THIS IS ONLY A GUIDE, YOU MUST MARK THE AREAS ON YOUR PAD SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR HORSE. THE CIRCLES IN PIC 2 SHOW APPROXIMATELY WHERE THE SHOULDER BLADES ON A HORSE BULGE (JUST BELOW THE WITHER). THIS IS THE SAME AREA WHERE YOU MIGHT SEE WHITE HAIRS OR DRY SPOTS. EITHER OF THESE SYMPTOMS ARE SIGNS THAT YOUR SADDLE IS NOT FITTING YOUR HORSE PROPERLY. THE PRESSURE IN THIS AREA NEEDS TO BE REDUCED TO ALLEVIATE OR PREVENT PAIN. THE THREE REMEDIES ARE TO MOVE YOUR SADDLE UP, USE A THINNER OR MODIFIED PAD AS SHOWN BELOW (WHICH ALSO FILLS IN THE BACK TO ALLOW THE SADDLE TO SIT LEVEL), AND/OR GET A SADDLE WITH A WIDER GULLET. (NOTE THAT TRUE GULLET WIDTH CANNOT BE MEASURED WITH THE SADDLE INTACT.) THESE 100% WOOL FELT PADS ARE MADE IN LAYERS SO YOU CAN USE A SHARP KNIFE TO CARVE OUT THE AREAS WHERE THE SADDLE PRESSURE NEEDS REDUCED. A LARGE-TOOTHED PAIR OF CLIPPERS CAN BE USED TO SMOOTH/EVEN OUT THE CUTOUT AREA (BE SURE TO HAVE A LARGE CAN OF "COOL LUBE" AND USE FREQUENTLY SO YOU DON'T BURN UP YOUR CLIPPERS.) UNTIL A QUALITY PAD IS MADE TO BE THINNER OVER A HORSE'S SHOULDERS AND THICKER OVER THE BACK, MOST BARREL/RACE-BRED HORSE OWNERS WILL HAVE TO RESORT TO THIS TECHNIQUE, REGARDLESS OF THE SADDLE USED, TO KEEP THE HORSE SOUND AND THE RIDER MORE BALANCED. WE CARRY AN ECONOMICAL LINE OF THESE PADS IN 3/4" AND 1".
Our newly designed by Caldwell, made by Diamond Wool, custom 1" 30x30 100% wool felt pads with extra cut-out for withers, adjustable wither strap, and more contour in the back.
As you are aware from our previous discussion on straight shoulders and saddle placement, if your pad is too far back on your horse, you will put the saddle too far back. Of course, all pas do not fit all horses; but even when you properly fit the shape of the back, there can be other issues.
One of the primary ones is the pad hitting the neck. If there is too much pressure from the pad being too tightly against the neck, when the animal raises it's head the neck will push the pad and saddle back.
Most western contour pads for flatter backed stock horse types nowadays have a slight mane relief angle cut at the front of the pad. This often is not cut out enough for horses with very straight shoulders. As the straighter the shoulder, the farther forward you will have to bring the pad. Your pad should be 4 inches in front of the top piont of the shoulder to allow the front of the saddle to rest on that point. So the following drawing shows where to alter this needed neck/mane relief. This can be done by yourself, a shoe shop or a saddle company for very little investment.
This will not be necessary on our 10" and 13" cutback pads.We have already allowed neck/mane relief with them because most high withered, low backed horses are so straight in the shoulders those pads have this allowance. But those pads in general do not fit flatter backed horses due to them having too much curve in the top line shape which makes the tail of the pad stick up into the air. This does not hurt the horse, just looks ugly.
Regarding CSI Pads:
C.S.I. Pads have a place but not with well fitting close contact saddles such as Caldwell's™. They work best to spread out incorrect bar pressure due to the stiff center section of their pads. This however, stops well fitting bars from forming a good bond with the horses' back. The best luck for a true fit bar is with a felt pad.