Saddle Suggestions for High Withers

I’m looking for a saddle for my new horse who is proving to be a very difficult fit. He has very high withers but no “dips” under or behind them. His shoulders are somewhat narrow but he uses them so well he ends up pushing the saddle back to the point where in my current one, because it’s too small for my leg, it affects my balance and position. We put on but did not ride in an Antares and a Butet, and have ridden him in an Arc de Triomphe, Voltaire, and Hermes. They all sit very low on his withers and the Voltaire also seemed to pinch his shoulders. We tried them each without padding, with a fleece wither relief pad, a cotton Mattes pad with front risers (two in each side), and a sheepskin Fleeceworks with memory foam inserts (full length, one on each side). The Hermes was almost the saddle for me and him both - It’s an old, 17", medium-tree (which does run slightly narrow) Steinkraus. Before riding, with the Mattes pad, it seemed to fit very well, but as the ride went on and the saddle settled, I went from being able to fit 4 fingers between his withers and the pommel to only my thumb. He seemed significantly more willing to go forward in the Hermes than any of the others, but I am still concerned with the fact that it gets so low. The saddle fit me very well and I loved the feel of it - I prefer saddles like that which have small or no blocks (my leg doesn’t fit in them right), but obviously fitting the horse is the priority in this search!
We have discussed the idea of a wool flocked saddle, but that narrows the search even more. We have also discussed finding a saddle that mostly fits, having the foam panels removed, and flocking it with wool to get a more accurate fit in that aspect, but there is the risk of it still not fitting. I have also looked into other padding options, particularly an Ogilvy or another memory foam pad with a more shaped spine than my Fleeceworks, but know that padding doesn’t actually fix the problem. We aren’t in a rush because he is still fairly out of shape but I also don’t want to continue riding him in saddles that aren’t quite the right shape for him in the first place.
So overall, my questions are: Does anyone here have experience with removing foam panels and replacing them with wool flocking? Does anyone have suggestions for saddle brands or models that might be a good fit? And finally, is there any other padding you would suggest for added wither clearance in the meantime?
Thanks in advance.

My friend rides her high withered TB/Clyde mare in an ancient Stubben Siegfried.

High withers often make people think a narrow tree is needed to gain adequate wither clearance, while more often a more generous width and some panel modifications are the better answer. A K/Skidrow type panel and a full front gusset are two panel options that often help with a “roofy” wither, and many of the wool-flocked saddles made in the UK (Albion, Black Country, Loxley/Bliss, Frank Baines, etc.) are available with these options for the same price (or close to the same price) as an off-the-rack saddle.

Wool flocking is often a better choice than foam for a big wither, but please don’t get a foam-flocked saddle and try to have it converted to wool. Foam has far greater cushion for its mass than wool, and that’s why foam panels are often thinner; most foam panels don’t have enough room in them for sufficient wool to cushion the horse’s back from the tree. This means that the panels will probably have to be stuffed to distortion, and that will wreck the fit.

I’d strongly recommend working with a knowledgeable fitter to determine your horse’s needs, and trying different saddles to see what suits you both. If you don’t have a fitter in your area, you can always work with a place like Equestrian Imports or Panther Run Saddlery - both have fitters with a lot of experience and success with long-distance work via templates and photos.

You didn’t mention your budget, which will help readers refine suggestions.

I have a high-withered WB and had zero success with antares, butet, tad coffin, or hermes. A prestige wasn’t horrible on him, but I didn’t like it. I ended up getting a PJ. It has plenty of wither clearance and hardly slips back at all (I do use a non-slip as well). The quality is decent and it’s pretty budget friendly compared to the super high-end saddles on the market. My boy is a moose and needs a wider tree, so that did limit my options to a point. A lot of the wider trees seem built for the roly-poly no-wither sorts. I agree though, don’t go too narrow thinking the wither room means the saddle fits.

I have a high withered, big shouldered horse too. His back quickly gets very flat and wide, and his saddle slides back to where he is unrideable that way. Ditto what the others said on not thinking you need a narrow tree. He is very happy in his Tad Coffin, which is fairly wide.

I also found an old Skito pad and some bridge type inserts. This means that the inserts do not go over his withers and shoulders, but rather fill in behind them. They are in two pieces and the Skito pad has pockets for the inserts and keeps them in place.

I wish someone would sell a baby pad with pockets for inserts. I am also experimenting with a foam Roma wither relief pad that I modified with scissors and cut away everything that pads the shoulders. I need to see if it will stay in place over a baby pad though.

My horse has a moderate wither, large, laid-back shoulders and a relatively substantial spine. I just picked up an Albion Legend jump saddle in a medium wide tree, dropped panel and a cutback pommel, and this is probably the first jump saddle I’ve found that doesn’t impinge her shoulder. I love love the balance of the saddle and I’ve ridden her in a Childrec and a Devocoux. Definitely recommend Albion.

With a high, long withered horse, you want something with a wide, roomy gullet. Albion and County have the best wide gullet designs that I have seen.

I have 4 high/sharkfin-withered horses who are big, wide horses to boot. 3 of them go in narrow tree Counties (I have both an Innovation, which is my favorite, and a Stabilizer - and it’s worth pointing out that a N County seems to be equivalent to a M+ in many other brands) and my no-stirrups mare just got moved from her N Stabilizer to a wide tree Stubben Eidelweiss because I got tired of taking my stirrups on and off of the County. The W Stubben fits exactly the same as the N County Stabilizer on this horse, and has a nice wide gullet.

At the end of the day I am a die hard County fan. I decided to try a CWD at a horseshow last year for my young jumper, and I liked how it sat on his tall withers too. But I couldn’t get past the fact that the saddle felt horrible to me and the saddle fitter said that I would have to order a different flap and seat and would just have to take her word that it would work. Um, no thanks! And then I liked the County Sensation I tried the same afternoon more…as did the horse.

I also have a couple of Courbettes (Stylists maybe?) that do okay (at best) with pads, a couple of Clinton Northrups (which work beautifully on all of the horses and are my backup saddles, but are old old old and not made anymore), a Devoucoux Biarritz that has only ever fit my small pony and my “pony” shaped horses (think round sausage horses with a “scoop” back), and a couple of other old and discontinued saddle brands. One of my helpers had an Antares that seemed to fit the horse I let her ride, but ended up making her extremely back sore (my guess is that the narrow channel bothered her after years in a well-fitted County), and my other helper from a couple of years back had a newer Devoucoux that didn’t work on the tall-wither horses, but did work on a couple of other horses I had at the time (as opposed to my older Biarritz that only fits “round” horses). For the most part I stay away from Devoucoux and Antares for my high-withered horses after those experiences (and similar comments from friends), but can say that the fact that those individual saddles didn’t fit only means that those individual saddles didn’t fit my particular horses.

County says the Sensation is for high withered horses. Call County and get the name of the rep for your area. See if the Sensation works or maybe the Innovation. You can customize to remove blocks, have the blocks put on with velcro or smaller blocks - totally up to you.

I have found that high withered horses fit well in Countys

I feel there is less adjustability with the foam saddles. Many of the wool flocked saddle can be made with options suitable for high withers. It is important to allow the wither to have some room so that the horse isn’t impeded when trying to bend. If you go too narrow in attempt to clear the wither, it often is pinched and the rider tipped back. That also makes it hard to find balance. A saddle that has a deeper front panel such as a k, trapezius, skid row, etc, will give support and balance. Wither gussets or full front gussets also can be helpful if needed.
The issue that you can run into when converting a foam saddle to wool is that the panels don’t offer enough room for the wool to allow sufficient padding.

It seems that you have a preference for the French-style foam panels, or perhaps that’s what fits your horse’s back shape aside from the wither issue. If so, consider the Prestige saddles. Most of the horses I’ve ridden in mine have significant withers and clearance has never been an issue.

Another random consideration depending on your experience with saddle fitting - people who say that EVERY saddle is sitting too low on the wither are sometimes placing the saddles too far forward. This is probably not a factor for you if you’ve been working with pro fitters.

I have not ridden in a Voltaire, but I spoke to the rep at the Royal and it sounded like they have a lot of options for customizing.
Sport has high withers and a large shoulder for a TB and the Antares fits him well.

I will be the 100th person to say County. I have one with skid rows and it fits the horses with more withers quite well. And they are wool flocked so you can have it re flocked to fit your guy if you find a used one. Call your county rep and see what they have for you to try.

I had the same problem with the Voltaire - it pinched my horse’s shoulders. Something about the tree points maybe? didn’t work for him.

Another high withered (and big shouldered) horse (or two) here. County with skid row panels.

Thank you for all the suggestions! We are having a saddle fitter come out with a few wool flocked saddles to try.

I ahe a high withered tb that I just spoke to a saddle fitter about. He had told me to try a Prestige Roma as it accomadates the either and the flat back behind. I rode my girl in stubben but the problem ended up being that now that her toluene has come up so far the (sometimes extreme) deep seat in Stubbens causes us to be dumped forward. I haven’t gotten the prestige yet but I have also tried multiple saddles on my mare and am at the end of my rope!! :frowning:

I have the same problem. My trainer is trying to talk me into an Antares but my boy needs a medium wide tree. I don’t think they have that, or do they?

I have the same problem with the wither clearance for my TB. I just tried Antares it fit the closest but was a little tight in the shoulder for my liking. He has massive shoulders with a narrow/high wither. Not the easiest horse to fit. I tried the english saddles County, Hasitlow, and Black Country. I did not like any of them and not a single demo fit my horse. I was most disappointed by County, after hearing such great things about them, I thought the leather was not that great and the fit was just okay. If they had a demo that fit that would be one thing but they didn’t. I was not paying for a saddle that I did not know would fit my horse. They put saddle pads underneath so I could get the idea of how it would fit. Just not impressed at all. The french saddles that I have tried fit him better, just a tiny bit tight in the shoulder.