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Saddle Bridging


With close-contact fleece-lined saddles, sometimes they "bridge". This happens when the saddle is hitting the front of the horse, and the back, but not the center. In other words, the horse has more "sway" than the saddle; or put another way, the saddle is more straight than the topline of the horse.


Adding Wedges

A good solution is to place "center wedges" that fill in this gap. By lifting up the center, there will be a transfer of pressure from either ends of the saddle. The load on the wither area is lightened, as is the load over the back. The dry spots will thus go away, or at least become non-injurious. Center wedges are built with high density felt, and come in thicknesses of l/4" , 1/2" and 3/4". Pressure alone generally keeps them in place, but they can also be "tacked" with superglue.

Step One: Turn over the saddle, revealing the underside. With your fingertips lift up the fleece lining, and insert the first shim, moving it around so it goes in evenly. Place the shim as far forward as is possible
Push the wedge evenly, so there are no "kinks" that might cause a bump.
The first wedge, shown here on the left ( under the hand with the watch) is now correctly in place. Sheer pressure will hold it there, but it can also be "tacked" on either end with a little superglue. Repeat all three steps with the second wedge. And please note: all horses are at least a little "crooked". If one side is EXTREMELY lower than the other, causing the saddle to slide off on that side, a thicker wedge can be used to build up the low side, and thus balance the saddle, on that particular horse. You can identify the low side by standing the horse on level ground, with all legs together, and you standing behind and looking down the dorsal stripe, down the center of the back. The low side is obvious. The technique of placing center wedges can be used on just about ANY fleece-lined saddle. Cost: $15 a pair  

Understanding Wedges

 Vicky, looking at the picture you sent you need a 1" wedge. This saddle is WAY down in the front on your Paso .You have three options here:

l/ Buy a 1" high density wool felt wedge, and place this under the front of the saddle, so it is lifted. The lift wedge is skived off down both sides, and skived back gradually to zero at 13 inches. can lift the saddle to the max by using all the wedge, or you can lift it less by pulling it more forward under the saddle. Cost $15

2/ Buy a WEDGE  BLANKET. This is a Navajo blanket, with this 1" wedge built in. Makes the whole thing more stable. Cost is $175, Check the website to see what appeals, regarding color.

3/ You ship the saddle back to us and we pull it apart and actually line the tree with the wedge. Cost $150.


 You do shipping. One other thing, and I know you will not want to hear this, but let me give you the benefit of my life of fitting ALL kind of horses, now somewhere over 80,000. I have probably fit a thousand Pasos, and other gaited Spanish-style horses. The saddle should be placed more forward than you have it in the picture you sent ---PROVIDING IT IS AT THE RIGHT ANGLE. The way this saddle is now, it is falling down in the front and digging in right there. However, when it is lifted, there is a weight transfer to the BACK of the saddle , thus exerting very little pressure on the wither and the scapula. Contrary to what you think, the scapula on this horse moves about 2.5 inches. NOT SIX INCHES  as many Paso owners seem to think. Measure it yourself, if you do not believe me. Place you finger on the end of the scapula, have somebody pull the leg forward, and measure the movement. At full extension of the leg, the scapula will have moved back 2.5 inches. But remember your horse never, ever extends that far, so for all practical purposes the extension is probably just 2", or less. This movement is even less relevant when there is little saddle pressure in that area. Hope this helps.

Saddle too Long

Frieda has a short-backed horse and is worried that her MUSTER MASTER is too long.
This is a frequently asked question.

Frieda, G'Day! I am attaching a picture of a 16" seat Muster Master tree. As you can , the length of this tree is 20". ( a typical Western tree in this size is about 2" longer; a typical English tree is 2" shorter) For each inch the seat goes up in size, regardless of type of saddle, add another inch to the tree. There is actually no way to make a good long distance saddle with a shorter tree. You could use an English tree that would be shorter, but it has no fans at the back to offer the horse relief there from a seated rider. Over distance with a rider seated in an English saddle the back DIGS in over the kidney area. Does not worry the kidneys, despite popular belief, but it certainly does sore the back muscles on either side of the spine. English saddles were never designed for distance. They were designed for high performance over short periods. Security was never factored into design. (The idea for hundreds of years has been, if you do it right, good; if you don't, you fall. That's what you get for not doing it "right"!) The heavier the rider, and the longer the distance, the greater potential for sore backs with an English saddle; especially, if the rider "sits like a sack of potatoes". This problem is very, very common with dressage horses, that are working only short periods in a carefully ploughed and surfaced arena. Despite the "cushy" environment, MOST of them get sore backs, particularly with riders who do not use their knees to LATERALIZE pressure along the length of the tree. Riding "heavy" is a common style with dressage. They say it encourages "impulsion" and "forward movement". And do doubt it does. The same seat helps Tennessee Walking horses, but all the saddles WE sell those horses have the "fans" that extend past and under the seat, so the weight there is spread out over a larger area, thus dramatically lowering pounds per square inch. Taken to extremes in shortness of tree you can go to a jockey saddle that, in my seat size, is just 18" long. But when I use my jockey saddle on a steeplechase the horse next day has a sore back, over the kidneys, and I have been in the saddle less than 30 minutes. And I actually never SIT in the saddle. But I do weigh 180 lbs. The measurement of the length of overall LEATHER in a Muster Master , or most Australian saddles, is certainly longer than the length of the tree, but it is not relevant, because the leather is not what is bearing on the horse. It is the TREE that is bearing on the horse. Leather bends. Leather is there more for style, than function. You can actually ride a horse with just a tree. I do it all the time when I am developing saddles. I have ridden a 16" Muster Master tree (my size) for three hours in a test, when I was developing this saddle. Killed my backside, but did not bother the horse. I know this is very, very hard to understand, but I will explain why length of saddle is not important. What IS important is fit of saddle. If the leather at the end of the saddle is digging into the back of the horse, and rubbing off hair back there (very rare, I might add, in a saddle that fits) then the saddle is BRIDGING. The solution is to simply LIFT the underside of the saddle, in the back quarter of the tree, with , say, a l/2" high-density felt wedge. This wedge can be inserted by hand, very easily, between the fleece and the tree, lining up the wedge with the edge of the fleece. This will lift the saddle off the rear area of the back. I know this is difficult to understand. Most saddle makers, particularly Western saddle makers, do not understand it either. The most common cause of a saddle rubbing off hair at the back, is BRIDGING, meaning the front and the back of the saddle is hitting the horse, but the center is not. Again, a felt wedge fills in this bridge. If a tree is straighter than is the back of the horse, it does not matter HOW SHORT you make the tree, it will still bridge. Put a 10" straight rule on the back of a horse with an average dip, and it will bridge! I have seen hair rubbed off with a saddle that fits , and does not bridge, because a bad pad was acting like sandpaper, particular with horses that have a lot of lateral action when they step out. So, check the "bridge", estimate the gap there between the back of the horse and underside of the saddle, and I will send suitable shims. Also, check the pad being used. Hope this helps,
Colin Dangaard.
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