Western saddle/pad help for a horse with very pronounced shoulders?

I have a 4yo that is still growing and filling out. He has outgrown my RS Saddle with 7’ gullet and it seems to be pinching his shoulders and after I get off, you can’t get your hand under the front of the saddle at all. No wonder he’s been grumpy lately! I tried on several other saddles at the barn and they were all tight in the shoulders. RS does have the same saddle in a 7.5" gullet but I’m unsure if that will be enough. I can’t afford a $3,000 saddle and there are no tack stores in my state so I feel rather lost as to what to try next!

How thick is the pad you are using? I like thickness in a pad, but feel some of the felt types are too thick. Can you try using a thinner pad, see if he is not sore after being ridden? I still have the very old, fuzzy western pads for my western riding. Koolback was a very nice one, and I think they are still in business. Toklat still makes fuzzy pads last I knew, perhaps you could contact them to purchase a 2-layer pad. I was looking at theirs for a 3-layer pad, but you probably don’t want one that thick.

There is also a semi-local woman who could make a pad for you, whose name I could give you, should you not find a commercially made pad. Uses good, thick fleece makes what you want, but her main business is fleece dog beds! Ha ha I found her selling beds at a dog show. She said she would be glad to make up saddle pads for me.

I know fleece is “not in” now. However they have always been my go-to pads for washability, keeping my horses from getting sore in all kinds of work, western or english. I don’t rope, but we do put on a lot of mileage at times. No sore horse backs, no rubs.

My pad is a Toklat Matrix. It has a 1/2” foam core and fleece on the bottom. Even with just the saddle on my horse’s back my trainer wasn’t pleased with the way it fit on his shoulders.

Honestly, without pictures it’s hard to make suggestions.

If it’s tight, I doubt any pad is going to help. Unless you are using a 1" pad and maybe try 1/2"? Otherwise, it sounds like you need a saddle with more flare in the front. My guys aren’t especially wide, but the only thing that fits them are the Crates saddles, as they tend to have a lot more flare to fit those shoulders.

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Pictures would be helpful. Of your horse, with your bare saddle (no pad, not cinched) on him.

Don’t get hung up on the gullet measurement. That’s only one aspect of saddle fit. You also have to consider (for example) and flare of the bars and the rock of the bars, especially when it comes to how it sits at/near the shoulder.

And… are you absolutely sure that it is indeed too small (too tight) and not that it is actually TOO WIDE and therefore sitting downhill and creating a pressure point? Those are two completely different scenarios and people actually get them confused.

What other specific saddles in the barn did you try?

What type of riding do you do? Reining? Barrel racing? Ranch horse?
Just wondering what type of saddle you need.


You might look for a saddle with a tree that flares out at the shoulders.

Yes, sorry I didn’t make that clear. I will definitely not be using this saddle anymore but even with a new one because he has those dips behind his shoulders I wonder if he would still need a pad that could fill that in until he develops more muscle.

Any recommendations? There are no tack stores in my state so I’m floundering just looking online.

In my experience I found reining saddles to have more flair at the front. One of my horses has big shoulders and I currently ride in either a Crates Ladies Reiner or a Cashel Trail Saddle. You might check out Horse Saddle Shop website, they have great customer service and saddle fit guides on their website.

You might do better with creating your own thread about saddle fit.
Post pictures of your horse without a saddle, and then also of your current saddle (no pad and do not cinch it up).
Again, it’s impossible to make suggestions without seeing anything at all.

I’m also assuming this is the same horse in your other thread that doesn’t want to move forward?
Saddle fit could be a very real component of the problem.

I just went through this with my 4 year old QH. I tried a 7.5 gullet and it did not look right on him. It looked wide enough but it didn’t fit right anywhere else. Thankfully it fit my mare so I kept it.

Instead of going the route of just buying and returning saddles in hopes of getting something ( I am rural no tack shops near me) I had an area fitter out to do the tracings as per the circle y website.

I sent those off to Horse Saddle Shop and was shocked at the saddle they recommended but I bought it and it fits wonderfully. I would never have thought to try this saddle for my guy.

What kind of riding or style of saddle are you looking for?