About sheepskin half pads and correction pads (shims)
Many horse owners have heard the common myth that a made to measure saddle should fit the horse without the need for anything other than a simple cotton saddlecloth - however this is not always the case!
A well designed real Sheepskin Half Pad or Shim Correction pad is a valuable tool that is recommended for many instances where horses are not perfectly muscled, show skeletal or muscle asymmetry, show muscle atrophy from previous poorly fitting saddles - or for young horses that are still developing and changing shape.
Let's look at some situations where sheepskin or shim pads can help:
1) Horses with a prominent spine raised above the level of the back muscles.
This issue can be a result of breed conformation, muscle wastage or atrophy in older horses, or in young horses still developing back muscle.
Certain breeds of horses such as thoroughbreds have more A-Frame or ‘tent shaped’ back profiles.
In these cases, using a spine free sheepskin reproduces the ideal round shape of the horse's back line, giving comfort and freedom of movement to the horse.
Young horses or horses with muscle wastage who are still developing stronger back muscles may also show a raised spine profile. The sheepskin pad protects the vertebrae, stopping the panels from making direct pressure on the spinal processes, especially when the horse is on a circle.
This allows the horse, with correct training, the ability to comfortably use his back and develop better musculature over time.
2) Horses with big or asymmetrical shoulders.
Many scientific studies have shown the importance of correcting the fit of saddles for horses with asymmetric shoulders. When a horse has one larger, higher or more forward shoulder, the saddle cannot sit straight on the horse in movement and causes the saddle to twist or slip to one side more than another.
The rider finds it difficult to sit straight, the horse cannot travel straight and it creates uneven pressure under the panel, with pain and discomfort for the horse AND the rider!
A correctly fitted Shim Correction Pad can be an excellent tool for lifting the saddle clear of the asymmetric or big shoulders, increasing shoulder freedom and allowing equal pressure on the saddle panel when the shoulder is in rotation. It protects the delicate cartilage of the shoulders and allows the saddle and rider to sit straighter.
3) On young horses who are still growing
Young horses can change shape and back balance for the first 4 – 5 years of their ridden life!
Sheepskins and correction pads with shims are useful to balance the saddle from front to back through these growth and muscle changes, without facing the risk of having the saddle badly fitted and needing constant changing every few months.
This is especially important when one saddle is used on several horses. This situation often generates points of pressure on one or more of the horses, creating pain, discomfort and reducing performance.
A professional saddle fitter can help with designing a sheepskin or shim pad to ensure the saddle remains in balance for each horse.
Please always remember that the use of a sheepskin or a correction pad has to be recommended by a professional saddle fitter, after a proper horse evaluation, and that the saddle tree size will need to be one size larger, otherwise the saddle will be too tight for the horse.
View our half pads with shims.