I really like the saddle but the saddle is bridging. Can I still use the saddle? Yes, saddle bridging is a common problem that can be easily solved with proper saddle padding. If you are certain that you’ve both picked and positioned the saddle correctly, the horse’s back may be what is causing the problem.
The purpose of this article is to explain different types of saddle bridging and to provide simple solutions. Without any ado, let’s get straight into the matter:
What is saddle bridging?
Bridging refers to an issue when the saddle does not make contact with one of the key points on the horse’s back. A “bridge” is formed between the spots that the saddle does make contact with, hence the name.
3 Types and Solutions
There are two common types of saddle bridging commonly referred to as Swayback and Hollows; the third type features is a combination of the aforementioned two, requiring a special pad that can address both issues.
The “sway back” is a condition that can affect both humans and animals. Otherwise known as Lordosis, this condition is characterized by a spine that curves abnormally far inward. In horses, swayback appears with similar symptoms.
As a result, the center of the horse’s back receives even less support, which is where swayback bridging typically occurs - the saddle does not make contact with this spot, which negatively impacts both the rider and the horse.
Hollows can appear on either end of a horse’s back. The causes of this issue may be many, including the lack of flesh, weak musculature, overly pronounced withers, or various spine-related problems.
Hollows cause discomfort to both the horse and the rider. Sitting on exposed bones is hurting the horse while the saddle will constantly slip unless a pad with shim pockets is used to fill the gaps.
Swayback & Hollows
Although this combination of saddle bridging types is not too common, many old and weak horses, as well as ones with severe spine-related problems experience it.
The swayback bridging creates a gap on the center of the back while hollows will further destabilize the saddle on the sides. Without a pad that could fill all of these gaps, keeping the saddle stable can be extremely hard.
How to use a Bridge Pad
Bridge pads are horseriding accessories engineered to fill any voids in saddles equipped to swayback horses.
Typically, bridge pads feature multiple layers of soft foam and impact-absorbing gel and because they are light, they rarely, if ever, cause discomfort to the horse. The main idea behind using a bridge pad is to place it as accurately as possible on the problematic area.
Bridge pads should be placed in conjunction with regular saddle pads on top of the most pronounced gaps, and they come in various shapes.
How to use a Pad with Several Shim Pockets
Pads with multiple shim pockets are different from standard bridge pads in that the rider can add or remove foam bars, as well as freely position them inside the pad.
This type of pad is aesthetically similar to regular bridge pads. While it can be used to counter swayback issues, its main purpose is to fill multiple gaps in different locations with ease.
Use your hand to feel out the gaps on the horse’s back. Open up the shim pockets and add as many foam blocks as you deem necessary (you can always add more or remove them later).
Ensure that the horse’s back is even after the pad is placed by running your finger across the horse’s back; remove any shims from points where you can feel as if your hand is about to be stuck. Add shims to points where your hand can freely pass through.