Q and A: My saddle fitter claims that most wooden trees can be adjusted...Really? How adjustable are wooden spring trees?

Q and A: My saddle fitter claims that most wooden trees can be adjusted...Really? How adjustable are wooden spring trees?

Question: My saddle continues to slide forward onto the shoulder. I know you mentioned this in a previous article, but my saddle length is perfect according to my fitter. What else could be going on? Answer: If you have ever had to stop in the middle of your ride to reset your saddle because it has moved forward onto your horse’s shoulders, this may be caused by improper billet alignment. Unless the billets on your saddle are positioned correctly, your saddle will not stay in its proper place on your horse’s back. No matter how many times you stop and reset the saddle, or what kind of saddle pad you use, or what shape girth you use, your saddle will continue to slide forward...

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Saddle Fit and Short-Backed Horses

Saddle Fit and Short-Backed Horses

Saddle length is an issue I have been noticing more and more in the past few years, as breeding seems to have really concentrated on making somewhat more ‘compact’ (i.e., ‘shorter’) horses. This is especially prevalent in the ‘baroque’ style horse – the Lusitanos, the PRE, the Andalusian. So – other than the obvious visual “shortbackedness” of a horse, ask yourself... Does your horse have a “4-beat” canter? Does your horse have tense back muscles which impair movement? If you answered “yes” to either of the above questions, you may be faced with a saddle length issue because of the length of your horse’s back and his saddle support area. The first is more of a visually obvious result; the second more of a ‘feeling’.

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Q and A: My saddle continues to slide forward onto the shoulder...

Q and A: My saddle continues to slide forward onto the shoulder...

Question: My saddle continues to slide forward onto the shoulder. I know you mentioned this in a previous article, but my saddle length is perfect according to my fitter. What else could be going on? Answer: If you have ever had to stop in the middle of your ride to reset your saddle because it has moved forward onto your horse’s shoulders, this may be caused by improper billet alignment. Unless the billets on your saddle are positioned correctly, your saddle will not stay in its proper place on your horse’s back. No matter how many times you stop and reset the saddle, or what kind of saddle pad you use, or what shape girth you use, your saddle will continue to slide forward...

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Bad Horse – Consider ‘Bad Behaviour’ from a Poorly Fitting Saddle

Bad Horse – Consider ‘Bad Behaviour’ from a Poorly Fitting Saddle

There have been many recent articles in all sorts of publications discussing “how to slow down the rushing horse”; “how to ride the stumble out of your horse”; “how to make your horse go forward”; how to, how to, how to. Many of these negative and unwanted horse ‘behaviors’ may actually be due to something as simple as a poorly fitting saddle. This can cause an instinctive reaction by impacting reflex points, rather than the horse consciously ‘acting out’. These articles point to the fact that many of these indicators are a result of rider error, and attempt to address corrections by either offering solutions to change rider behavior (or training methods), or – more drastically – calling in a vet to administer pharmaceuticals to address specific issues...

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Is Rehabilitation Required? Many physical or behavioural issues can be avoided if we simply pay attention...

Is Rehabilitation Required? Many physical or behavioural issues can be avoided if we simply pay attention...

Recently, I was called out by the owner of a horse who said she was having difficulties with him under saddle. I was supposed to perform one of my 80-point diagnostic evaluations on site, and determine the possible cause for some of his issues. I was shocked when the groom brought out a beautiful, but somehow incredibly sad-looking horse. I have rarely encountered such a picture of absolute dejection. With some probing, I learned that the owner rode her horse maybe twice a month. It was the trainer who rode for the most part – with his own saddle, used for pretty much every horse he trained. This saddle was clearly too narrow in the gullet channel, and was constantly pressing on the horse’s spinal vertebral processes and causing nerve damage. The saddle was also much too long for this horse’s saddle support area, and lay on his back about 1½” behind the 18th thoracic vertebra. As I watched the groom ride, the saddle began sliding forward on the shoulder during the walk – which at best affected the horse’s freedom of movement, and at worst could cause chipping at the cartilaginous cap...

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Saddle Fit and Design for the Short Rider

Saddle Fit and Design for the Short Rider

Synopsis: Shorter people need specific design changes made in saddle design and fit to accommodate their body types. As obvious as it may seem, just shortening the flap will not create a better fit of the saddle for a shorter rider. When the knee roll or the leg support of the saddle hits the knee, it can turn the leg out from the horse, and it will be difficult to keep the lower and upper inner leg against the horse. A saddle with a narrower twist is usually the first step in ensuring fit for a shorter rider. The twist is very often misunderstood. Twist is an arbitrary designation; what is crucial is the area on the saddle it refers to, which must be considered when fitting a saddle. People often think it is in the crotch area, however, the twist is actually that part of the saddle that is felt between rider’s upper, inner thighs. A wide twist under a short rider results in more room away from the leg and the rider will sit as if on a barrel, unable to get her leg on the horse. Women are usually much better off with a narrow twist regardless of their height because of the way their pelvises are shaped.

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Fitting the Saddle to the Rider

Fitting the Saddle to the Rider

When you are in the market to purchase a saddle, you want to ensure that the saddle you are investing in will not only fit your horse, but will also fit you. If you have ridden in more than one saddle in your riding career, you probably noticed that there were subtle or major differences in each saddle. When you spend your dollars, you want a saddle that you and your horse will enjoy for years to come.

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Why Do I Still Have Difficulty Maintaining Position on the Saddle if it Fits My Horse So Well?

Why Do I Still Have Difficulty Maintaining Position on the Saddle if it Fits My Horse So Well?

Question: I have heard that there are now adjustable treeless saddles available on the market that are totally able to accommodate my horse’s shape. Why do I still have difficulty maintaining my position on the saddle if it fits my horse so well? Answer: There will always be fans and naysayers of treeless saddles; in my opinion they are more accurately called ‘bareback pads’ however I do recognize the advances made in the design over the years. Unfortunately, the lack of a tree still means that essentially these saddles simply cannot support the vertical spinal column of the rider while protecting the horse’s spinal column from pressure and rider weight. Essentially, the rider almost doubles his/her weight (it is like riding bareback as far as the horse is concerned!) and this pressure will impact the reflex points of the horse – which results in negative behavior (including resistance, lack of engagement, stumbling, bucking, tripping, etc.)

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Youch! What Your Horse is Trying to Tell You

Youch! What Your Horse is Trying to Tell You

Youch! What Your Horse is Trying to Tell You. Probably at some point in our lives most of us – riders or not – have suffered from backaches, charley horses, sciatica, or even perhaps more drastically – slipped discs, herniated discs, or pinched vertebral nerves. You know how painful any of these symptoms can be, and you know how they can be treated: over-the-counter or stronger drugs and painkillers, massage, chiropractic adjustments or even surgery. But what about your horses? Do they suffer from back pain or injuries that result in symptomatic lameness or other “behavioral manifestations?” Many recent articles seem to prefer to attribute some of these consequential behavioral issues to “stubbornness,” “resistance,” or even simply “bad behavior,” but the solution is often right before our eyes without the need for veterinary or chiropractic care...

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Why Do I Need to Buy An Adjustable Saddle? I Can't Afford a Custom Saddle!

Why Do I Need to Buy An Adjustable Saddle? I Can't Afford a Custom Saddle!

Unfortunately this is sometimes accomplished without really taking horse and rider needs into consideration. Obviously, every horse owner knows that there will be a ton of expenses beyond the initial purchase of the animal – including buying tack that fits. A good quality adjustable saddle (in tree width and tree angle as well as in Panel flocking) is a smart investment. If taken care of properly and maintained/adjusted regularly it should work for the horse over its whole life. The fit should be evaluated and adjustments made to keep pace with changes in your horse’s conformation as it reacts to training, nutrition, and the maturation process. Would you buy an expensive car and never change the oil or buy new tires? Too often we hear “I bought a custom saddle; I expect it to fit forever!” Doesn’t buying a saddle which can be adjusted to accommodate your horse’s changes in conformation make more sense...

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Testimonials

The riding school where I first took lessons had "good" saddles, made by a venerable European manufacturer, so when I noticed my riding was uncomfortable, I assumed a problem with my position. Eventually though, I realized that no position was comfortable, that riding varied from unpleasant to excruciating. Nobody else seemed to have a problem, and my instructor was not a person with whom anyone discussed non-public parts of the body, so I just accepted that riding was painful. Until I rode in a friend's saddle, made by another venerab1e European manufacturer. It was an old saddle, but the moment I sat in it I was like Goldilocks in Baby Bear's chair -it was just right. Painless! Amazing! So I measured, compared, tried other saddles; then my husband made me foam blocks that I placed next to my stirrup bars to widen the saddle waist until I could buy a used saddle-shaped -like-me. If I or my instructor had had Jochen Schleese's important book “Suffering In Silence”, I would have been spared years of pain and frustration. It seems an unfortunate human tendency to take no steps toward a solution unless the ultimate solution is achievable, like the onlooker who wondered why to throw a single starfish in the sea if they couldn’t all be saved.  I can’t afford to buy custom saddles for my school horses, but there are many things I can do, with the information in Mr. Schleese's book, to make my horses and my students more comfortable. Correct diagnosis is vital to solving problems, and its information that you need to make a diagnosis, like the significance of saddle length, gullet width, equine asymmetry, billet placement, cantle angle, and many other features of the interface between rider and horse. Little, inexpensive things like foam blocks can make the difference between painful and painless for both the equines and the humans you are responsible for, if you have the information that comes from Mr. Schleese's experience, we may not be able to do everything, but we should do what we can.

— Katie Aiken, Riding Instructor Magazine Copy Editor Fall 2014

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