October 2014

  Such a beautiful time of the year, I hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful riding time.   Fancy and I are enjoying some nice short quiet rides, just the 3 of us. Easy hates the cooler temperatures and is still hoping we someday move him to Florida.

  It is time again for our annual free saddle fitting lecture.   

Terry checking the fit of Hogan's new saddle

This year we are splitting the event into 2 days, Saturday October 25, 2014 and Friday November 28, 2014.  Everyone is welcome to come to one or the other or both.

  Please help us to spread the word about how proper saddle fit effects our horse's behavior, performance and ultimately the health of horse and rider by forwarding this email to your horse loving friends.  The more people we reach the more horses we can help.  I cannot do it all myself. 
  On Oct. 25 we will start at 9 am with a 1 hour power point focusing on horse anatomy and how it relates to the saddle fit. On Nov. 28 we will start at  9 am with a review of the saddle support area and how the saddle effects the rider's position and balance.

  Starting at approximately 10 am both days, we will demonstrate how the saddle fit evaluation process works and the effects of the saddle fit.  We are looking for a couple of new horse's that we have not evaluated before to use for the demonstrations each day.  

FMI contact Terry@FitRightSaddleSolutions.com    There is no cost for these events, just bring a friend and couple chairs.    

  Although I do think a treeless saddle could be better for a horse than a saddle with a tree that doesn't fit properly my usual response to
 "What do you think about treeless saddles?" is to explain what the purpose of the saddle tree is.

1. The saddle tree is designed to protect the horse's back.  
2. The saddle tree is designed to support the rider's back.
3. The saddle tree is designed to distribute the rider's weight.
  The tree is designed to bridge over the thoracic vertebrae and supraspinous ligaments (shaded in blue) from the top of the rib heads to the rib heads on the other side.  The rider’s weight is carried on the longissimus muscle over top of the rib heads.  

  The hollow area down the middle or the channel of the saddle keeps  the rider’s weight away from the spinal processes, ligaments and nerves that trigger responses such as hollowing the back, dragging toes, lack of engagement, irregular rhythym, short stiff strides and bucking.   The channel also needs to be wide enough to allow the horse to bend and still keep the rider’s weight off the ligaments and nerves.  

  Where is the rider’s weight if there is no tree?

  Without a tree the weight of the rider is concentrated all in one place directly on the supraspinous ligament and the spinal processes under the rider‘s seat and thighs.  

  A good fitting balanced seat on top of the tree will allow the rider to have her center over the horse‘s center. With proper back support, the rider will be able to utilize the natural curves and shock absorbers in her back, keeping her own back comfortable and healthy.  Stirrup placement, shape and size of the seat  also greatly influence the rider’s balance and comfort.   

If all rider’s were exactly the same shape
and all horse’s back were exactly the same shape
then one properly fitting saddle tree would provide
the correct protection for all.

  Some treeless saddles are very comfy like bedroom slippers.  Why do we wear shoes anyway?  The slippers are so much more comfortable.  A treeless saddle may feel better than a saddle with a tree that doesn't fit. However, a properly fitted saddle tree is needed to prevent back muscles from becoming sore and possibly long term permanent damage to horse and rider.    

  Some of the treeless saddles now offer rigid panels or pads to make the bridge over the vertebrae and ligaments.  These treeless saddle manufacturers have recognized the need for protection however, now they also must follow the same rules as a saddle with a tree.    

  • Balance-Center of seat should be parallel to the floor
  • Tree Width-Tree should be wide enough to allow the saddle to sit level
  • Shoulder Angle-Panels should match the angle and allow free movement of the shoulder;  be wide enough not to interfere with Cranial Nerve 11 or the spinal thoracic nerves.
  • Wither Clearance-Adequate clearance on top and both sides of withers, usually 3-4 fingers
  • Billet Alignment-Billets should hang perpendicular in the girth area behind the elbow
  • Saddle Length-Weight bearing surface cannot go past last rib. Shoulder and loin area should not carry any weight. A saddle that extends beyond this area can put painful pressure over the kidneys and transverse processes, and cause a horse to become lame.
  • Panel Contact-Panels should contact the horse’s back evenly from front to back.
  • Straightness-Looking from behind the saddle should sit in the middle of the horse's back and not fail from one side or the other
  • Gullet Width-Wide enough not to interfere with vertebral spinal processes and spinal ligaments.

Note: This information comes from doctors, veterinarians and universities.   My references are Dr. Joanna Robson, DVM. Dr. Joyce Harmann, DVM. Dr. James Warson, MD. Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD. 

  In my own experience riding in a treeless saddle I found it to be very comfortable and my horse did seem to move more freely.  At that time, he did not have a saddle with a tree that fit him properly.  The down side was I had trouble posting and I had to make the girth super tight to keep it from rolling.  My horse has a nice wither and has never required a super tight girth before that or since.   That is Easy & I in our treeless saddle in the picture on top.

  I just read a report the other day that said “Do not over tighten the cinch.
The tighter your cinch the more pressure you create before you even sit
in the saddle.  The front cinch should be about as tight as your belt.”

  During saddle fit evaluations, the horses have always moved better with the treed saddle.   One treeless saddle was actually bridging which I would not have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself.   A bridging saddle is one that has contact in the front (usually right on the shoulder) and the back (usually back past the last rib) but not in the middle (under the rider’s thigh) where it really should be.

  Peanut, a 14 year old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding had a treeless saddle the first time I met him. This saddle had a special pad instead of a tree.  My first thought when Sara, his owner saddled him was “this saddle is going to slip right off the right side.”   Peanut’s left shoulder is larger then his right so any saddle that is totally even will want to slip off to the right.  With all the padding, I was sure of it.  

  Other things I noted on the static fit portion of the evaluation was the saddle was too long, the horizontal panel was hollow in the middle, the billet was too far back and there was not enough wither clearance.

  Observing Peanut being ridden in the ring, I noted that he slips in and out of his running walk going to the right, stiff in hind end joints, drags toes, does not like to bend right, canters left but barely canters to the right. 

  I fitted Peanut with a Specialized Eurolight Endurance Saddle and Sara went riding again.  In the ring, there was a noticeable difference right away in the running walk especially to the right.  He wasn’t stiff in the hind end anymore.  His tail was swinging.  The joints did not appear to be stiff anymore and he started to bob his head right away.  He was not breaking out of his gait and tripping like he was before.   His rhythm was cleaner and he cantered all the way around the ring on the right lead.  

  Outside the ring, Sara said that he felt happier and easier to keep straight with less guiding.  This is what Sara said after a few weeks of riding in her new saddle.

Hi Terry,  

It looks like the Specialized is working so far. Even my instructor had to comment on the difference in his gaiting.  By the way, I am actually excited to ride now whereas before it was something I felt obligated to do as a horse owner. I am also not as terrible rider as I thought once I freed Peanut's hind end.   I raised the stirrups a hole and rode for an hour and a half today and did great. It was also the best trail ride we ever had. :) 

Out of the ring he seemed happier, more accommodating, and more relaxed. When asked for speed, he was more willing. I didn't have to ride every stride and I could actually look around and enjoy the view. 

What I have noticed since might interest you as well! 

Under saddle he would breathe heavily after the smallest exertion, and sometimes just after a while or ordinary riding. When I rode yesterday, I did more work at speed on trails than I have in years, and while I could feel that he was getting fatigued, he never started blowing. It took me until after the ride to realize this, so I confirmed it with the person I rode with (who knows Peanut well and knows how he breathes hard at the slightest thing), and she realized that, yes, he didn't do that at all. 

TWHs are known for their gaiting, but as I told you at the fitting he was always eager to offer a canter instead of a gait. I have heard of one time and have been aboard twice when he gave a very fast running walk - the kind that I had only read about. During yesterday's ride, I was able to ask for it at will, keeping him out of the canter. This was an entirely new thing, and he was able to keep it up and at a beautiful 4-beat. 

  I also believe that his canter is now faster when I want it to be. I had always considered him the slowest horse in the world, whose canter would match Gene's extended trot. I was out riding with a Friesian, whose trot also matched Peanut's canter. I was in front, Peanut was cantering fast, and the Friesian was behind us. Afterwards, I was surprised to learn that the Friesian was cantering as well, and not passing us let alone gaining on us. 

 I'm so happy and falling back in love with my horse.

Thanks again!

  I adjusted Peanut’s saddle to allow for his larger left shoulder with a wide channel to avoid putting pressure on the nerves on the side of his withers and the spinal ligament.  I emphasize the wider channels to all my clients because my horse dragged his toes for years and nothing the vet, my wonderful farrier or I did could make it stop until I learned about the spinal ligament system.  

  The dust pattern of the saddle that first day riding with no special saddle pad showed even contact all the way from behind the shoulder to the last rib (the end of Peanut‘s saddle support area).  The dust pattern of the treeless saddle showed the saddle was bridging even with the rider’s weight in the saddle.  I would not have believed it if I did not see it myself.  

  As always, thank you for reading our e-newsletter, for all the referrals and testimonials.  I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to help the horses.