The only saddle pad endorsed by back surgeons, master saddlers and veterinarians.

How Can You Fit A Saddle On A Swaybacked Horse?

Saddle Fitting and ThinLine Shims

Solve bridging issues. ThinLine supports the gap.

If your saddle is bridging – it has little to no contact in the center – your best option will be to use a saddle pad that offers an open shimming system.  While there are many corrective pads on the market, each horse, saddle and saddle pad combination are different, shimming in the right place is the most important starting point.

Shimming to create comfort for the swayback horse is not complicated but riders need to know what is important.

A swayback can cause soreness to a horse’s back because most saddles will “bridge,” putting the rider’s weight only on the front and the back of the saddle, creating abnormal pressure points, especially over the shoulders and loins. On the other hand, poor saddle fit can also contribute to swayback, as the horse will alter its stride and movement, including hollowing its back, and raising its head to avoid pain. 

Top three things to know about saddles that bridge:

  1.  The saddle pad should have an open pocket, allowing you to place the shim exactly where it is needed. Saddle fitting pads with either closed off pockets or bridging shims sewn into a pad can actually cause more damage if the placement of the shim and the thickness of the shim are either in the wrong place or too thick.
  2. The shims should be available in varying thicknesses and should have the ability to be stacked.  If you correct the painful saddle fit your horse should begin creating a healthier top line.  The goal is for you to reduce the number of shims as your horse gets stronger.
  3. Less is more. Start slowly. Use one set of shims, if the saddle is still bridging add a second set of shims and continue slowly.  Over shimming will make the sway worse. 


Bridging Shim Placement.

When learning how to saddle a swayback horse with a corrective pad, it is important you are able to place a bridging shim in exactly the right place to provide even contact along the full panel of the saddle. Saddles will bridge in different areas depending upon your horses’ confirmation and the tree of the saddle.  Once you have shimmed in the center, ride and check to see if you have an even sweat pattern along their top-line.

Sway Back Saddle Fitting Shims.

Materials used to saddle a sway back horse are as important as the corrective pad itself. The materials need to be supportive, they need to provide pressure relief, they should not shift and they should be comfortable for your horse.  By making our shims from the same material as our shock-absorbing saddle pads we can double the comfort for the horse while also creating perfect saddle fit.  In addition to placement, the thickness of the bridging shim needs to be correct if you want your horse to lift their back and create a stronger top-line.  We offer bridging shims in two thicknesses, allowing you to provide your horse with precisely the right amount of build-up.

Is it my horse or my saddle?

It could be either, or both. But don’t worry.  We have spent two decades working with saddle fitters to give you all the options you need for a perfect and comfortable fit.  We have a money-back guarantee so feel free to order shims and return those you do not need.

What is ThinLine?

ThinLine is a thin, supporting, shock-absorbing, nonslip, breathable foam.

Where is the ThinLine?

It is sewn onto the panel of our saddle pads.

Here you can see the ThinLine foam on top of a western cotton liner pad and the images of the shimming options on-top of an english half pad.

endurance round skirt saddle fit pad

How Can You Fit A Saddle On A Swaybacked Horse? Often, simply using a ThinLine pad will correct minor bridging issues.

If you need more, easily fill in hollow areas with ThinLine saddle fit inserts.

Every pad comes with a layer of ThinLine foam.

Simply add ThinLine shims to solve more prominent saddle fitting and confirmation issues.


Quick Chart of Saddle Fit Issues and Solutions.

  • Hollow or Sway  Backs: Add bridging shims.
  • High Withers: Add Front shims to any pad.
  • Rider Balance: Adding a pair of shims to one side can fix balance issues.
  • Balance the saddle: Front or rear Shims, depending on your issue.
  • Slippage: Generally no shims are needed, the ThinLine Pad alone will solve this.
  • Saddle Pad Slippage: Generally your tree is too wide. Add a Full Shim.
  • Equine or Rider Back Soreness: No shims needed, ThinLine protects both.
  • Equine Asymmetry: place both of the pair of shims on the hollow side.
  • Kissing Spine Relief: Add a Full Shim to any ThinLine pad.
  • Treeless Saddle Pad Comfort: Add a Full Shim to any ThinLine Pad.

Shims can be found under each ThinLine Pad in our shop.



Solutions for Saddles which Bridge or Horses with a Sway Back.

Is this a permanent solution? It is not uncommon to see swaybacked horses develop more topline in a ThinLine. Historically, riders eventually remove the bridging shim.  To retain the good muscle on the top line you’ve developed continue using your ThinLine without the shims.  


How Can You Fit A Saddle On A Swaybacked Horse?


Stacking and layering saddle fitting shims.

  • ThinLine pads accept up to three 1/4 inch saddle fit shims in a single location.
  • Layering sets of shims will create an even transition for major saddle fit issues. Shims may also be cut with a pair of scissors for custom work.

custom saddle fit shims inserts

How to order Saddle Fitting Shims.

Select a ThinLine Saddle Pad.  Below each pad, you will find a list of shims to add to your cart.



Saddle fitting with this with shock-absorbing foam provides comfort and protection for horse and rider.   Now you simply need to find the pad that fits the dimensions of your saddle and the style that fits your lifestyle. 

Read on if you need more detailed saddle fitting informatio