Dry spots are most often seen behind the horse’s shoulder in the wither area. This is from the stirrup bars and the tree points of the saddle. The dry spots can be an indicator of a saddle sitting without movement or air flow in this area and can be a positive. If your horse is moving freely, showing no signs of discomfort, the hairs aren’t roughed in the dry areas, and they are even on both sides, it is usually no cause for concern and is showing you the saddles pressure is correct. This should always be checked by a certified saddle fitter to be confirmed. A thermographer can prove this even further. Even though the spots are dry, the same amount of heat should be shown across the panels of the saddle.

Dry spots can also occur from not enough contact at all. Horses with deep wither pockets will get dry spots from the saddle not making enough correct contact along the horse’s top line. This can also happen from a horse that hollows out his back or moves in an incorrect balance. The hollowed horse will cause the saddle to bridge and create pressure points in the front and back of the saddle.

Dry spots that are from too much pressure are the real issues and can been a sign of tissue damage occurring. Tree points that are causing too much pressure can lead to incorrect movement and cause muscle and tissue damage. This can also occur from a rider leaning to far forward in the saddle and tipping the tree off balance. A good sign that you have “the bad” type of dry spot is roughed hair. This can indicate too much friction and irritate the skin. Another more severe indication of a problem is blistering skin, sores, and white spots. This is a sign the saddle is pinching the horse and should be dealt with sooner than later.

Asymmetrical dry spots can also be a sign of a problem. Most riders and horses have some degree of asymmetry but when the spots are different on each side, it can be a sign of an off balance saddle. Twisted or broken tree points or lumps in a wool flocked saddle can also create dry spots. If you turn your saddle over and feel the panels, they should be smooth and even.

The placement of your saddle can be the simplest culprit for dry spots. A saddle that is sitting too far forward or back will not disperse pressure evenly, and can cause the saddle to slide and pinch. The horse’s scapula shape and degree of motion should be taken into consideration with the placement of the saddle.

In conclusion, dry spots can be a sign of an issue, but can also be a good thing. They can be caused from many different scenarios. Something as simple as saddle placement or rider position can change the balance of the saddle and therefore, the dry spots. Dry spots should always be checked to ensure they are not a sign of an issue that can quickly lead to soundness issues and more.

Chelsea started her training as a saddle fitter with a 3 year apprenticeship fitting and working on saddles in both the US and in England. She has also gone through the N2 Certified Saddle Fitters program and is a Certified N2 Saddlery Fitter.

Graham Newell’s, N2 Fitter and Founder, adds these notes about dry spots in Saddle pads:
It should be remembered that there can be many reasons for dry spots aside from saddle fit. Among those include but not limited to:
– Who is riding the horse (as trainer will ride the horse differently from the owner)
– Shoeing and feet issues
– Back and neck issue
– Hocks and stifle issues
– Ulcers and gastric issue

All of the above can and will make the horse move differently and in turn will affect how the saddle fits and in turn sweat patterns.

Whilst a saddle check and adjustment, if needed, may take care of uneven sweat patterns, it should be remembered that there can be many causes for them and one should be open to things not directly linked to saddle fit causing uneven sweat patterns.