Sunday, November 30, 2008

Going Into Detail

As promised in my last entry, I'm going to go into more detail on the Heavy Seven, and the other issues that come into play.

First, tree width. Yes, the tree has to be the correct width; the points should lie parallel to the horse's back (as illustrated in the previous post). But in some cases, the tree can be the correct width and still not fit properly, because many other things come into play: tree shape, gullet shape, length of tree points and panel configuration all contribute to how well - or how poorly - a saddle fits. For example, let's say that you have a lean, high-withered Tb like this fellow here:

Here he is in a saddle with the correct tree width, but with the wrong panel configuration (too shallow):

As you can see, the saddle's sitting pommel-high; it will put the rider too far back in the seat and concentrate pressure on the rear half of the saddle rather than distributing weight evenly over the surface of the panels. And though you can't really tell it from the photo, there was also insufficient clearance over the wither, and the rider's weight would have caused the saddle to sit directly on the withers. (NOTE: This is one reason that so many horses with this conformation are labelled as "narrow", because without panel modifications, most saddles with the correct tree width will sit on the wither; hence the need to go to a narrower tree for clearance. This just causes more atrophy in the back and makes the horse even harder to fit properly.)

So what would have to be done to the saddle? The panel would obviouosly need to be thicker in the rear, but it would also need to be modified in front; in this case, a wither gusset:

and a dropped or trapezius panel:

The combination of these two panel options will "fill in the dips" below those big withers and lift the saddle up off the wither. The photo below roughly shows - in green - where the weight bearing surface will be on a "standard" panel; the red lines show the weight bearing area of a saddle with a trapezius panel and wither gusset:

UP NEXT: Channel width and panel contact. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

can you give some examples of dressage saddles with a trapezius panel and wither gusset? i have a beefy mare with wide shoulders, high withers, and the same dip shown in your demonstration TB model. where to even begin? thanks!!

saddlefitter said...

I'm going to cover those options in a future post, but in the meantime, you can see photos of those (and other) fitting options on Trumbull Mtn. Tack's web site: And thanks for reading!

Kyle said...

I was wondering where do you order your flocking materials from, and where did you get your tools from?

saddlefitter said...

My tools come from a variety of sources, Kyle: my US suppliers are Windmill Saddlery Supply, Weaver Leather, Zack White Leather and CS Osbourne; I also get tools from Abbey Saddlery and David May in the UK. I used to get my wool from Windmill, but lately I've either gotten it from Saddler's Bench in the UK, Black Country Saddlery or Flutterby Farm in PA. My synthetic flock comes from Passier.