Mattes Half Pad - Shimming it for a saddle that bridges

Hi all. Short version: Have a question about using a shimmable Mattes half pad for a temporary solution in a saddle that bridges.

Backstory: I ride a super sensitive older OTTB mare. She has high withers and some asymmetry between her L/R shoulders. Also is NOT an easy keeper and it’s an uphill battle build up her topline. I ride her in a Voltaire Adelaide but I’m not thrilled with how it fits both of us. She’s always been girthy but in the last six weeks or so it’s been worse and she’s had some new pissyness under saddle that’s not like her. The vet looked at the saddle on her last week and while she’s not a saddle fitter, she confirmed the saddle was bridging and in her chiro work noted the mare’s withers were sore.

In about a month, I’m having a saddle fitter evaluate everything (weather pending), including test riding other saddles. However, I am trying so hard to do what I can to keep her happy and comfortable for now. The chiro work seemed to help a lot. My friend has a shimmable Pro-Lite pad that I’ve used a couple times now with the thin shims in the middle, but I couldn’t tell much difference in her comfort—but I’m wondering if part of that is her withers might still be sore?

Anyway, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mattes pads, due to their wide gullet channel and cushioning properties of wool and high-quality sheepskin. I got ready to pull the trigger on this pad last week but realized that it only had four pockets and not six—so what do you do if you want to pad the middle of this pad to help with bridging? Do you rip out that middle seam separating the front/back pockets so you can stuff in that center shim? Or do you cut new shims that only fit half of the front/back pockets?

Or maybe I should just stick with the Pro-Lite or go with a different six-pocket pad? Mattes had just been my first choice due to the wide gullet channel, wool and sheepskin.

You can rip the seam, yes… although then your shims can shift around.

However, given that the horse is already sore from this saddle, I would stick to doing non-ridden work until you can have the saddle fitter out. You don’t want her to be sore when you’re trying out other saddles.


They have a variety of pads like this.

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I guess some of what makes it difficult to discern what’s happening is she will have really beautiful work throughout our rides-- although there are definite moments where she’s more likely to have tension (canter transitions being the biggest one). She has also started rooting hard at the bit at times. She’s felt way better after chiro, but if she needs a break from the saddle, I’m not opposed to that.

If you want to fix bridging you need a 6 pocket shim, I know that both leMieux and Total Saddle Fit make them with sheepskin. First get the saddle flocking tweaked. If the flocking isn’t enough to fix bridging ideally you need a different tree. But if horse is getting a sway back then you may need shims because no tree is curved enough. 6 pocket Shims in this case on an older horse work very well.

If a horse gets sore from a saddle it can take quite a long time to resolve and may be sore in other saddles that fit well. Imagine trying on new shoes when you have bruised your feet walking all over town sight seeing for 12 hours a day for 3 days in a row.