I hear this sort of thing way more frequently than I'd like. Tree width is the very first thing most people think about when they talk about saddle fitting, yet many people don't understand that it's only one part of the fitting picture. Yes, the correct tree width is important, but tree type, tree shape, panel configuration and billet configuration are equally important, and all but the last have an effect on width. But people always start with, "My horse needs a medium/wide/narrow/extra-wide tree ..."
So let's break this down. First, whether a tree is given a designation like medium or wide, or whether it's given a centimeter measurement, the measurement is taken pre-construction, on the bare tree. If the tree is measured in centimeters, the measurement is taken between the ends of the tree point. If it's a UK-made saddle, it's given its width designation based on the angle of the pommel arch, as follows:
- Narrow: 75°-84.9°
- Medium: 85° - 94.9°
- Wide: 95° - 104.9°
- Extra-wide: 105° and up
Reason one: Tree type. If a saddle is a wide standard tree, it's not going to fit the same as a wide hoop tree, since the hoop tree has the extra breadth across the top of the pommel arch.
Reason two: Head height. A medium width high-head saddle may work beautifully for a higher-withered horse, but will probably perch on a horse with a lower wither.
Reason three: Tree point length. Long tree points fit less generously than short tree points. In the graphic below, the ends of the "tree points" are the same width apart, but note how much more room there is with a shorter point.
Reason four: Panel configuration. A wither or full front gusset will reduce a saddle's width. A K or trapezius-type panel, which can be a lifesaver on a horse with divots behind the withers or real "steeple" withers, can make a saddle perch on a propane-tank back. Where the panels are sewn into the pommel arch makes a difference, too; that's why Passier's Freedom panels (which are sewn in lower in the pommel arch than their standard panels) are a good choice for a horse with a lower, muttony wither. (I rode the Great Red Menace in a Passier GG for years; she wasn't quite a hoop tree candidate but was broader than a regular tree would easily accommodate, and this "compromise"- especially in conjunction with the shorter tree points on the Passier - worked well until she got older and widened into a real hoop tree horse.) Horses with bigger withers often need the panels to be tied in higher in the pommel arch (but not so high that they press on the lateral aspect of the spine).
Reason five: What's in the panels. Foam panels are thinner than wool panels because they have better cushion; an inch of foam offers much more cushion than an inch of wool. Foam panels offer a closer "feel" but don't usually offer much in the way of panel modifications (though some saddle companies, like Beval, are starting to pay more attention in this area). I don't think they're usually a good choice for a horse with a big wither, since the panels are often too minimal to support the saddle in proper balance on a horse with that conformation. These panels can work well on the table-backs, though; Andy Foster's Lauriche saddles are all foam-paneled, and I've seen many of them work beautifully for the propane-tank builds.
Wool panels, on the other hand, are bulkier, and the amount of flocking in the panels can make a pretty substantial difference in the way a saddle fits. A saddle that's been heavily flocked in the front will not fit as generously in width as a saddle that's been more lightly flocked ...but as we learned in the previous blog post, you can't go to the other extreme, either. There must be enough wool in the panels to cushion the horse's back from the tree, but not so much that the panels are distorted into leather-covered sausages.
So the next time you're saddle shopping, remember that correct tree width is vital, but that these variables will make it almost impossible to say with any assurance, "My horse needs a ______ tree."
isn't it also about the general width of the horses back? i once bought a horse who had always been ridden in narrow or narrow/medium and thank goodness she was a generous mare... anyway, when i was sorting it out, the fitter also looked hard at her back furhter back - her overall back was wide as well. IMHO too many people look at the wither as if that's the be all and end all wihtout looking further back
Claire, tree width is determined by the area 3 fingers' width behind the rear edge of the scapulae. If the horse is wide behind but somewhat narrower in front (as with some of the more modern Warmbloods with the bigger wither and broad, well-sprung rib cage), the tree has to be designed to accommodate that. Of course, panel design must be suitable as well. Very true that it's the overall back profile you have to fit!
mm, but sometimes the wither develops atrophy that is deceptive to those who don't recognise it as such! (which was part of the issue with that old mare of mine....and it was subtle with her, not the sharks fin variety!)
True. A good fitter will be able to spot atrophy, and fit accordingly so the muscles can grow.
Which saddles do you consider have a hoop tree? Somehow i get the idea a lot of manufactures are a bit mysterious about the shape of there saddletrees. And sadly after having 3 saddlefitters over, there wasn't one who brought or a had a bare saddletree.
Anon, pretty much any of the UK-made saddles can be had on a hoop tree, though not all shops and fitters may have them on hand. Duett saddles, which are made in Argentina, are also built on a hoop-type tree. One of the reasons many fitters don't have bare trees is the cost. At somewhere around $300 each, they're kind of spendy. Also, remember that panel configuration makes a tremendous amount of difference in fit; for example, a dippy-backed horse can be fit with a fairly flat tree if the panel configuration is correct. So often, putting the bare tree on the horse is only telling part of the story.
I cant find a Duett dealer in the Netherlands sadly. I found one Barnsby dealer that dealer just put a Stubben xw on my horse and said it fits and that was the only saddle he could offer me. He wouldn't even talk about Passier, Barnsby or Albion. Another fitter came yesterday tried several Passier saddles in a 27,5. They were bridging a bit without girthing but not to bad. Sadly we could only find a dressage i was comfortable in and not a jumping wich i would really prefer. She ordered a 29,5 passier for me to try. Also tried a barnsby kanter+ fitted very nice on the horse but not for me and she cant deliver a barnsby jumping saddle. At this moment i'm riding a K&M S, but it is moving al over the place, rocking and side to side no matter wich gullet bar we put in.i would really prefer a jumping saddle with a changeablegullet bar but it seems i'm looking for something impossible.
If you need a hoop tree but want a changeable gullet, look into the WOW saddles. They're entirely modular, and offer plates that are more hoop-shaped than any other (that I'm aware of, anyway). More at http://www.wowsaddles.com/.
I thought about Wow, but they are even 1000 euro more then a Passier. And the Passier is about how far my financial limits will stretch :D
Then Passier might be the best option for you.
Sorry, hit the "publish" button too soon. The Passiers with the Freedom panels and the broader pommel arch might be worth investigating. Also, their trees can be adjusted more radically and more often than a standard spring tree can.
Will do! Do you have a blog about panels? Like dropped and k panels and wich horse they are suitable for?
Anon, there's a selection of blogs on panel modifications at http://saddlefitter.blogspot.com/search?q=panel+modifications and http://saddlefitter.blogspot.com/search?q=panel+modifications.
My friend has a Kent& Masters cob dressage that she is struggling to fit on her low broad withered 5 year old mare. The Prestige anatomical girth solved the sliding forward issue, but she really needs a hoop shape tree. The gullet plates in the K&M, though, are more 'A' shaped. Would it be possible to try and have a hoop shaped gullet made to go in this saddle?
As the tree on the K&M is built to accommodate the "A" shaped gullet, I wouldn't think trying to fit a hoop-shaped plate would be successful. While the K&M Cob model does work well for the broader horses who can be fit with a wide standard "A" shaped tree, they aren't a good choice for the horses who really need a hoop tree.
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