Posted: 7th April 2021 | Back to news feed

Former Society of Master Saddlers’ President, Kay Hastilow provides advice on the benefits of a half pad and shims.

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Question

‘Could a half pad and shims be a good long- term solution for my four-year old’s quickly changing shape? Is there anything to be aware of when using them.’

Answer

Some half pads with shims can be an excellent short- term solution for a horse which changes shape, but in your situation, with a nice four-year-old to bring on I would be inclined to look instead for a  for a well- designed adjustable saddle, fitted by an SMS qualified saddle fitter rather than relying on pads. Many horses will keep changing shape for several years and that’s a long time to be using such a pad to try and achieve a good fit. Better to have regular visits from your saddle fitter who will be delighted to monitor and adjust the fit as necessary through the horse’s development. Also, whilst the pad can adjust the fit if the saddle is a bit wide it can’t do anything if the saddle becomes too narrow for the horse. Choosing a saddle that is too wide to start with and blocking it up with shims may appear to work but the pressures involved won’t be so easily distributed and there is a high risk that the saddle will be less stable, both in movement side to side and front to back.

If you decide to use a pad (and these are a very useful piece of kit to have in your tack room anyway) choose carefully. Look at any research work done on the pad and check on the methods used in the testing. Any claims made about any products should be verified as being based on solid and verifiable research.  

Make sure that the pad does not have any filling through the centre seam – there should be a good 4 to 6cm space between the two sides to allow room for the spine. If the filling / fleece or whatever continues over the spine this will exert pressure here and compromise the horse’s comfort and ability to move.

For more information visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact The Society of Master Saddlers on 01449 711642.    

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