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Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

Introduction to Saddle Fitting
Good Saddle Fit from the Start
Trees, Panels, and Motion
Saddle Fitting and Panel Design
Saddle Trees
More About Saddle Trees
Custom Saddle Fit.  What Does it Mean?

More About Saddle Trees

Intro

Fitting a saddle to your horse is like solving a puzzle in three dimensions, with movement thrown in for a bit of extra challenge. The conventional rules of saddle fitting can help spotlight problems with fit, but their practical use in identifying solutions is quite limited. Understanding what good fit means requires a bit more understanding of the design technology of saddles.

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees   Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees   Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees                                                            

 

 Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees   Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees   Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

Takeaway:  As in solving every other type of puzzle, the crux of the matter is pattern recognition.

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The Horse's Bearing Structure

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees   Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

Takeaway:  It is vital to understand the shape of the tree inside the saddle and how closely it matches the bearing structure of your horse.  There are wood spring trees in many different shapes available in British-made saddles.  Ask probing questions about the shape and fit considerations of the tree in any saddle you intend to buy.

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The Saddle's Bearing Structure

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

 

Takeaway:  The tree is the bearing structure of the saddle.  For optimal weight distribution, the whole shape must be suitable for the shape of the horse.

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Tree Shape and Profile

Profile, essentially the curvature of the tree, is an important aspect of a tree's overall shape.  Here again, it is important to match the shape and profile of the tree inside the saddle to the shape and back profile of the horse the saddle is intended for.

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees     Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

Whether an adjustable or adaptable tree can be altered in all dimensions to fit the vast array of shapes that horses come in invites prudent skepticism, as would claims that a shoe can be build on an adaptable last to suit every size and shape of foot.  

It may prove more realistic, and ultimately more satisfactory, to choose a conventional saddle built on a tree that is a suitable shape for your horse's body type.

 

Takeaway:  There are no guarantees of anything with horses, but as with our own shoes, the better the saddle fits the horse from the outset the better the chances that it will be able to tolerate some physical changes in the horse over time.

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Understanding the Geometry of Trees and the Physics of Motion is Crucial in Solving the Puzzle of Saddle Fit

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

 

Takeaway:  A mismatch in angles at the neck of the tree can create a great deal of excessive pressure under the rails and bars. This could create a fulcrum and lever effect, causing the saddle to rock or pivot at the neck of the tree. The stricture is often most severe when the horse engages the abdominal muscles that allow him to work “through” over the back. In effect, the horse self-punishes when trying to use his back correctly.

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Trees are Geometrically Complex

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

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More About the Importance of Tree Shape

Problems often arise when a high-profile, sport horse tree with a narrow twist is used on a broad-backed horse. The distance between the points may technically be wide enough, but if the fore arch of the saddle is too steep, and the neck of the tree is too vertical and narrow for the breadth of the back, the saddle will not conform to the horse’s shape along its entire length. It may not sit in correct balance, and therefore cannot distribute the rider’s weight evenly.

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

The saddle on this broad-backed horse hints that there may be trade-offs inherent in trees that are marketed as adjustable or “adaptable” to any horse. This saddle, which was custom-made for this horse, is sitting cantle-low, but stuffing up the rear panels, inserting a rear riser to level the balance, or manufacturing the saddle with a deeper rear gusset may not be an optimal solution. Often the issue lies in a mismatch in shapes that lie well below the surface and are not readily visible.

The root problem may be that the tree, while sufficiently wide between the points, is too steep and high in the fore arch for a broader, flatter back. In this case, the tree may perch on narrow, vertical edges at the waist of the tree (see note) rather than conforming to the horse’s body in both width and shape.

Note:  Unlike laminated wood-spring trees, synthetic trees do not have rails on the left and right with a vacant area in between. Most synthetic trees are injection molded, which means that they are produced in one solid piece that sits atop the back.

 

Takeaway:  Some riders have a strong preference for a saddle with particular rider features, often related to the shape or width of the twist. If a rider is certain that she requires a particular type of saddle for her comfort or security, she should carefully and honestly assess whether the horse she rides is a suitable physical match for this type of saddle.Never forget that horses were not intended by nature to carry saddles and riders, so even custom-made saddles run up against limits in design technology. It is vital to understand this in order to make the right choice of saddle for both of you.

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Different Shape Horses have Different Needs

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

 

Takeaway:  It is time to dispense with the discredited notion that a well-fitting saddle should never need a corrective pad. For some horses, an anti-concussive pad (generally made from the type of material that is used to cushion running shoes) can help protect the horse’s back, just as human runners with high arches benefit from a shock-absorbent orthotic to provide structural support and cushioning for their feet. This high-withered Thoroughbred event horse deserves more than a few ounces of wool or an inch of hard foam to absorb the impact of a rider whose kinetic weight will drive the tree down into the trapezius muscles above the level of the rib cage.

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At the Other End of the Shape Spectrum

Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees              Saddle Fitting for Smarties | More About Saddle Trees

 

Takeaway:  If you have a horse like this, you may spare yourself and your horse a world of hurt by seeking out a saddle that is built on an H&C type tree or another tree of similar shape that is purpose-built for the broad-backed horse. A number saddles are purpose-built on trees well-suited to wide, flat backs. These are not like conventional “sport horse” tree shapes that come in extra wide widths. Sport horse trees are made from molds of a different shape and they rarely serve broad backed horses well, even if they are offered in extra-wide widths.

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Fooling Mother Nature

 

Takeaway:  The baseline for proper saddle fit should always be the fit that works best for the horse. Almost without exception, a rider with the right attitude will readily adapt and learn to love a good saddle that fits the horse well. If you’re accustomed to saddles designed around rider feel, your brain may need time to help your body adapt to a “new normal” feel in the saddle. Be patient; your neurons will develop new patterns of body memory. In the meantime, you can enjoy the psychic benefits of knowing you have done your best as a steward of your horse’s welfare. This is what it means to be a true horseman.

 

Introduction to Saddle Fitting
Good Saddle Fit from the Start
Trees, Panels, and Motion
Saddle Fitting and Panel Design
Saddle Trees
More About Saddle Trees
Custom Saddle Fit.  What Does it Mean?