Basic Saddle Fitting: Bridging
Just a reminder, I am not a saddle fitter. Just a tack nerd to who loves to learn and share. Today we are going to break down the term bridging when it comes to saddle fitting.
When we think about a bridge, we usually think about a structure that has two supports at either end then a suspended surface between them.
This is essentially what happens when a saddle bridges on a horse's back. Bridging is when the front and back of the saddle's tree is creating small pressure points as it is the only contact with the horse's back. This is a common issues with swaybacked horses, horses that are built downhill, and when a saddle's tree is too flat for the horse's back.
Bridging can be painful to your horse and will cause the horse to drop and hollow their back and lift their head trying to avoid the pressure points.
To check for bridging, you want to look for even, consistent contact underneath the panel of your saddles. Another way to check this is with a clean saddle pad and get a dirt/dust impression after you ride. This way isn't a for sure yes or no on saddle fit, but just one of the tools that we can use when checking. If you are ever in doubt, I will always recommend to get a certified saddle fitter out to give you hands on help.
"Let’s use the analogy of comparing the saddle pad to a white dress shirt. Whether the dress shirt fits or not (is too small, too tight, by a couple of sizes), the most dirt will still accumulate at the neck, where most of the dust from the outer environment, the ‘pressure’ or touch from the skin to the shirt occur. The least amount of visible dirt will be where the shirt is pressed snugly against the body. With the saddle being the snuggest fit under the tree points and the stirrup bar (same as the dress shirt on the shoulders of a human body) this is where the least amount of dust from the outer environment will accumulate. (Here is where the least amount of friction due to movement between skin/fur and material will occur). Large kidney-shaped (6-8” long) dry spots are acceptable under the stirrup bar, but dry spots found on the saddle-support area with a circumference of approximately one inch actually indicate points of concentrated pressure from lumpy flocking." - https://schleese.com/saddle-fit-dust-patterns-sweat-marks/