Friday, January 13, 2012

Let's Twist Again ...

Twist width is probably one of the most frequent "rider-fit" issues I run into.  As with so many facets of saddle fitting, it's a very subjective thing; Person A's perfect twist may make Person B feel as though they're sitting on the narrow side of a 2"x4", while Person B's perfect twist may make Person A feel as though his/her hips are being torqued out of joint.  I fall firmly into the "narrower twist" camp.  I love my Passier GG, I love the Black Country Eden, and I'll even cop to loving the ride of the old, hard German Stubben dressage saddles (the Tristan in particular).  However, my mare will turn 15 this spring, and has developed a bit of middle-age (read: hoop tree) spread ... No matter how much work I put into her, she'll never be the same shape as she was when she was 7 ...  And given that I'm 50 and will never again return to my pre-childbearing 26-year-old size 8 shape, I don't feel as though I ought to be pointing any fingers.

Anyway, this means Lyric will be moving into a hoop tree, which means that I will be riding a wider twist.  You see, twist width is determined by tree width AND by tree type.  The rails on a spring tree should be at the same angle as the tree point; that means the wider the tree, the flatter the rails and therefore the wider the twist. In the photo below, the tree on the left is an extra wide hoop tree, and the tree on the right is a medium-wide standard tree.  (Ideally, for comparison's sake,  the two types of trees would have been the same width, but I'm working with what's lying around my bench!)



Here's a shot comparing the rail and tree point angles (hoop tree on top, standard on bottom):

As you can see, the angle of the rails and tree points agree on each individual tree, but the angles on the hoop tree are much flatter (and this would still be true if the tree width were the same).

Here's the twist on the standard tree:


And here's the twist on the hoop tree:


It's not a huge difference - roughly an inch - and for some people it wouldn't be an issue.  But for some, their personal conformation would make it very hard to accommodate that extra inch.  Hopefully I'll be in the former camp, but we'll find out come spring ...

11 comments:

Claire said...

hope that works for you - as you say, twist width is so important for rider comfort. but if it doesn't work for you, heather moffett does a hipsaver for precisely such situations (www.enlightenedequitation.com and go to the shop)

Venom said...

I'm a faithful reader and have followed for some time now; your info is always well written and satisfying.

One question though: Do you or any of your readers know of another blog like this one that addresses western saddle & fit as the primary focus?

saddlefitter said...

Claire, I think I'll be fine, but thanks for the heads-up about the hipsaver. We've had a couple of Heather's saddles here in the shop, and I'm quite impressed.

Venom, thanks for the kind words. I don't know of any western fitting blogs, unfortunately, but I do know there's a lot of good information to be found at http://www.horsesaddleshop.com/western-saddle-guide.html. I send all of the "western querying" folks there - very knowledgeable, and nice when you call to ask a question.

Crayonsmom said...

Are there any trees out there that have the "hoop tree angles" but with room for more average withers? My mare isn't necessarily very round, but every time I do her tracings I get at least a 100 degree angle. But any saddle I can find that has that tree point angle has a pommel that's too low/too wide. It's very frustrating! :/

saddlefitter said...

Crayonsmom, most UK saddle companies make very wide standard trees. BETA (British Equestrian Trade Assn.) guidelines state that a wide tree should measure between 95° and 104.9°, and an extra-wide should measure 105° and up. If you'd like to send me a template of your horse's back, I'd be happy to make some recommendations.

Crayonsmom said...

Thanks! I'll take some new tracings of my horse's back when she starts getting back into shape in the spring. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I've just found your blog and have passed it onto a few friends, we're all finding it excellent reading with great info - thanks!
Especially helpful was the blog about checking used saddles for condition, considering my CC Crosby is probably at least 30 years old.

I have a question: My mare was a broodie for 3 years, and although she doesn't have a broodie belly, I do find the top of her abdominal muscles are slightly relaxed. It can almost - but not quite - look like a roach back. Do you have any suggestions specific to this type of background being re-trained for hunter at age 11?

Many thanks for all the wonderful info!
Take care,
Nikki

saddlefitter said...

Hi Nikki -

Thanks for the kind words. Correct ground work can do amazing things to a horse's musculature in a very short time, and I think you're wise to consider ground work as good prep to getting your mare back under saddle.

Given that my background is dressage, I don't have any specific exercises, sorry ... but my trainer has always held (and George Morris supports this)that a proper hunter should be capable of First level dressage work and should travel in a solid Tr. level frame. Given that, I feel pretty confident that longeing in sliding side reins over ground poles (progressing to cavalettis) would be a good place to start. I do have some recommendations on books about ground work at http://saddlefitter.blogspot.com/2009/04/ground-work-and-in-hand-exercises.html. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! That's excellent advice, I appreciate it :)
Nikki

Margaret McNamara said...

hi, I just stumbled upon your blog and i'm beginning to dread the search-for-a-saddle i've been so enthusiastic about! I sent my tracings to Trumbull Mtn and the results are that my horse would work best in a hoop-tree....I am seriously concerned about this because when i have to ride in a wide twist, i am the definition of uncomfortable. i have a client whose horse is in a wide twist saddle and when i ride her i have difficulty closing my leg, i feel as though i'm teetering or perched, and when have to ride in a proper and correct seated position, i almost come away with bruises-- after competitions it hurts to touch the areas affected and it hurts to use my glutes and even walk! its one thing for that to be a clients horse, but i dont know how i will manage this on my own! do you have any suggestions or experience with hoop tree saddles that are not so offensive to a narrow-twist-required rider??

saddlefitter said...

Hoop trees by definition are wider in the twist, unfortunately. I prefer a narrow twist myself, but my mare requires a hoop tree; the compromise that worked for me was to find a dressage saddle with a more forward flap. It's actually a trail saddle, but cut on the same lines as a dressage saddle - just with a flap that allows me to have a little more bend in my leg, which makes the twist ok.

Bilss/Loxley has come out with what they call the Slimtech twist, which keeps the twist more moderate on the wider fit saddles. Haven't had a chance to get my hands on one yet, but will report when I do!