If you have been around horses for more than a year it’s a good bet you heard of the term ‘bridging’ when talking about saddle fit. A saddle that bridges is probably the most common saddle fit problem. A saddle that is bridging is making contact in the front and the back of the tree with little or no contact in the middle.
There are a couple of reasons for a bridging saddle. Most riders and even a lot of saddle fitters assume that the tree is too narrow and therefore won’t sit down far enough over the wither for the tree to make contact in the middle of the back. Well, maybe, maybe not.
Sometimes the tree is too narrow. If this is the case there is little a rider can do to fix the problem. The casual rider who only rides a couple of hours at a time and mostly walks might get away with putting thicker padding under the middle of the saddle to fill the void area. While this will lift the saddle up it usually decreases the pressure in the front of the saddle so much that you lose your side to side stability. Not a good situation!
About half of the time that we see a bridging saddle, the tree width is well within the range for the animal but the problem actually is that the space in the middle of the tree just needs to be filled in. This is something we can easily adjust. Once proper contact has been restored to the middle two-thirds of the tree, you’re good to go.
So, don’t jump to a conclusion. If the staring angle of the tree matches the angle on either side of the wither, right behind the shoulder blades, the tree is probably fine. It just needs a little adjustment.