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Cashel Soft Saddle -- Review

By: Galadriel Billington

11:05AM Apr 14, 2005

Cashel soft saddle The problem with most bareback pads is that the girth is narrow and quite forward on the pad. When you tighten the girth, it drags on the wither--even on some pretty wide, mutton-withered horses, it'll drag on the wither. Since there's no tree or other stabilizing factors, the girth has to be pretty tight to keep it in place; that makes a serious pressure point across the horse's wither, dragging directly on the tips of the vertebrae.

The Cashel has somewhat the same issue; it is, however, thick foam. I cut a bit out of the foam at the wither. Actually I cut all the way down the spine, but removed most from the wither area. This allowed for a little less drag all down the spine, and much less drag at the wither.

I also modified the girth placement so that it is more like centerfire rigging. It doesn't drag directly on the wither now, and the cut out area leaves some room for the withers. Instead of a single narrow band that goes across the wither area, the girth now attached to a band crossing the saddle at the front AND an band crossing the saddle at the back.

In the process of modifying the rigging, I also added a couple of billets that I had sitting around, and now my Cashel SS uses a dressage girth.

Cashel soft saddle Another problem with typical bareback pads is that the "stirrups" are attached to the girth. The girth is usually too far forward; the stirrups, attached at the girth, are much too far forward. A stirrup which is too far forward offbalances the rider, and makes the rider sit in an insecure position--but the stirrups on a bareback pad give the illusion of security, making them that much worse.

In addition, by placing more weight along the same band as the girth, the stirrups create more of a drag on the wither.

The Cashel Soft Saddle has moved the stirrup attachment back, and so avoids both the extra drag on the wither, and the insecurity of placing the feet too far forward. I still don't recommend relying on the stirrups too heavily; I only use mine because I have a back problem and difficulty mounting.

I like my Cashel Soft Saddle. It's versatile and I have a number of uses for it. I use it for briefly working with horses for whom I might not have a properly fitting saddle; on lesson/training visits, if the owner does not have a saddle that fits, I can swing my Cashel SS up there and use it for light work or brief rides. It can also be used to demonstrate the difference in a horse who has been ridden in a poorly fitting saddle. Without the pressure points, the horse may be much more cooperative under saddle. Even if I don't have a treed saddle that will fit, the Cashel SS will not have the same pinching pressure points as a badly fitting tree.

I've also been using it for initial saddle training for my Morgan. I don't have a saddle which fits her. It would be foolish to use a saddle which fits badly for her first experiences with saddles. It would get her saddle training off on entirely the wrong foot, to use something that hurts her for those initial experiences. The Cashel SS does not pinch or dig into her back, and so it is quite useful for getting her used to carrying something strapped to her back, and for learning to deal with a rider mounting/dismounting.

For further discussion of the alterations made to my Cashel Soft Saddle, see the Cashel Soft Saddle entry in the Working Log.
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2005 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.