Monday, July 27, 2009

If You Blog It, It Will Come ...

Well, this will teach me to start blogging about the importance of safety and keeping your tack in good repair. Ma always used to say, "Don't call trouble - it will find you on its own."

This saddle landed on my bench today. It had come in to be sold on consignment, but Edie noticed some rather distinct wrinkles on the seat:

While wrinkles like this can be caused by a rider who uses a lot of seat, by the tree being strained a little too loosely, or just by a weak spot in the leather, they can also show up when the tree is compromised. When Edie flexed it, the wrinkles REALLY stood out:

This saddle is a Passier - and their wood ("Baum") trees are noted for being outstandingly durable. They use bamboo to reinforce the tree, which makes them nicely flexible and amazingly resilient - I've seen these trees survive some pretty serious trauma, including being landed and rolled on. But in addition to the wrinkles, the saddle made a rather ominous creak when it was flexed ... which led us to think the tree might be compromised.

In order to check the tree, you have to drop the panels and peel back the gullet cover. First step is to pop the stitching at the pommel:

Next, you take your backing awl and pull the stitching out (or you can cut the stitches if you're familiar with the stitch pattern):

(And I do use two hands to do all this work ... but I need one hand to take the photos!)
Here's the saddle with the pommel dropped:

Next, you cut the stitching on the cantle:

And again, use your backing awl to pull the stitches (same caveat applies here re: cutting the stitches):

With the cantle dropped:

This saddle has point billets that run through the thigh block, so you need to pull the tree points out of the pockets and slide the billets out of the blocks:

Now you have the gullet cover exposed:

And you can start pulling staples:

A note here to anyone who wants to learn saddlery work: ALWAYS ACCOUNT FOR YOUR SHARPS!! Losing a staple or a tack somewhere in the saddle is a big no-no, since it will invariably migrate to the horse's back at some point and cause a huge to-do ... not to mention the potential for a serious injury and a law suit.
Here's the rear of the cover opened. The cantle was fine, as were the rear of the spring bars. You can see the serial number, date of manufacture, and some other info (I don't speak German, but maybe it's the name of the person who made or inspected the saddle?). The Passier logo is also there, though hard to see in the photo.

The head plate is intact (not surprising - Herm Sprenger makes those head plates, and I've yet to see one break). You can also see what Passier calls the "stretch joint" (looks like stitches in leather, which is just exactly what it is), which allows the saddle to be widened or narrowed to a greater degree than most trees.

But when I checked under the girth webbing, I found the culprit:

The spring bar had cracked by the rivet hole. We're checking with the owner to see what she'd like to do. This sort of thing is pretty easily replaced by someone who's good at tree work, so the saddle (which is 13 years old according to the stamp) can be repaired and have a lot more years of use.


Mel said...


Billy said...

Great detective work! I have always wanted to saddlery and this post is one more piece of inspiration:)

M8rix187 said...

Wow! How did that happen? Material flaw? overtightened girth?

autumnblaze said...

To be honest I love working with my hands... I loooove reading your blog! I have not decided what to go back to school for but man... this is so interesting to me!!

saddlefitter said...

Glad you people find this interesting! This is one of the things that make my work so interesting.

Richard, not sure what caused the break - would have been anything you mentioned, or repeated mounting from the ground, the saddle being dropped, something being dropped on the saddle, metal fatigue (the saddle's 13 years old) ... There was no obvious cause. That area is definitely weakened by the rivet going through it, and if a tree is going to be compromised, rivets / rivet holes are pretty common areas.

autumnblaze said...

Question - How difficult/easy is it to have D rings added to a saddle (in my case a hunt seat/CC saddle). What do you usually charge? (I realize that's largely dependent on how many you would add etc.)

I contacted a local saddle fitter guy and he hasn't responded (though I'm pretty impatient) yet. He didn't have prices for such a thing on his website but I read somewhere about people putting D rings onto dressage saddles etc. for endurance use etc.

saddlefitter said...

Adding dees isn't a big deal - you just need to drop the rear of the panels to get to the tree, which is where they attach. I charge $65for dees on one side, and $85 for both.

Aeron Mack said...

Hi Saddlefitter,
I have just bought an almost-new Prestige Eventer, and am thinking it's a smidge narrow for my horse. I have heard that the tree can be widened (plastic is heated and re-shaped??).... my question is: does this compromise the integrity of the tree/saddle?

saddlefitter said...

Hi Aeron -

When done properly, adjusting the width of the tree *should not* affect the integrity. Make sure that the saddler who's doing it has experience with adjusting this type of tree, and it's usually a very good idea to have it done by one of Prestige's approved saddlers so your warranty stays intact.

Keep in mind that adjusting the tree width will address only that issue - if there are problems with tree shape or panel configuration, widening the tree won't change the issue.

Unknown said...

Cool! Found you because I was wondering just how flexible the "very flexible" PS Baum tree in my older Passier dressage saddle should be. It is so much more flexy than my jumping saddle, yet it seems to give in the right places and not creak or wrinkle up the leather. Any thoughts?

saddlefitter said...

Rebecca, without actually dropping the panels and inspecting the tree, it's impossible to tell definitively if the tree's sound or not. If there are no clicks, grinds or other ominous noises, and if the flex is symmetrical, that's good, but again, I've seen broken trees that seemed sound until I actually examined them. If there's any doubt, please have it checked.