Dust Patterns

A quick post about dust patterns and why we need them/use them…

Whenever we do a saddle fitting it is extremely important (if possible) to have the horse ridden before and after the fitting to see how the saddle fits and to get a dust/sweat pattern.  OR if you are sending your saddle in for a long distance fitting to get this pattern and then take pictures of it to send to your fitter before the fitting.

So what is it and why do we need it?

Sparky – 22 Year Old WB Gelding

A dust pattern is the dirt or sweat that naturally comes up when a horse is ridden without a saddle pad.  It creates an outline so that the fitter can assess the straightness of a saddle and also if the saddle is sliding up on the shoulder.  In this post I am going to show you a before and after dust pattern dressing straightness for a gelding, Sparky, I worked on this week.

The first image that I am showing you is the dust pattern after the initial ride on the horse.  I have it as just the unedited dust pattern and then also where I edited it to make it easier to assess.  You will see in my marked copy of the photo that the saddle is clearly slipping to the left of the horse and pushing on the right side of his spine.

Untitled 3

This shows us that we need to adjust to get this saddle to sit straight on Sparky’s back so it doesn’t impinge his right shoulder, left loin and his spine.  I have already talked about what makes our horses crooked and why we adjust for this so I won’t go into more detail on that now.  If you are curious please click here to read that post.  But if the saddle continues fall this direction we will see soreness on both sides of his back, tripping with the left hind, and short striding right shoulder.  This happens because the saddle irritates the spine, depresses the left loin and pulls against the right side of the wither blocking the shoulder.

Dust Pattern 1

As you can see in these before and after photos after riding the dust pattern is straight over the back.  The horse went much more even and free after adjustment.  Especially because Sparky is an older horse (22 years old) it is important to keep his back really healthy so he can stay strong and sound as long as possible.

I hope this post helps to show one of the tools we use as saddle fitters.  It is also a great tool for you to use as the rider if you are concerned about your saddle’s straightness.  Do two circles of walk, trot and canter each direction without a saddle pad and then take the saddle off and look at the pattern.  You may be surprised what you see!



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4 Responses

  1. Tin

    Did you fix this just with changes to the flocking or did you make changes to the tree also? Did you change the big side with less flocking or increase the fill on the lower side? Or?

    Great article. Thank you for the information.
    Best wishes,

    • KristenV


      For this horse the tree and the flocking were adjusted because this particular saddle was capable of having both done.

      When adjusting flocking for asymmetry it can be a bit counterintuitive. What we actually end up doing is putting more flocking behind the larger shoulder to allow more space between the tree and the larger shoulder. We then flock the opposite back panel. So for this horse it was flocking behind his right shoulder and under the left back panel. This is tricky to do because you never want to leave a lump or a bulge that will cause dry spots and pressure points under the saddle.

      For the tree the tree angle was also widened on the right side to accommodate for that larger shoulder on that side.

      Great question!



  2. Ross Fithen


  3. Jeromy Zupancic

    Good write-up. I definitely appreciate this site. Keep writing!