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Bar risers or not - pros and cons?

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I build all-leather groundseats, and with every saddle I ask myself again, "Bar risers or not?"

Without them, there is danger of scoring the rawhide when cutting stirrup slots, and the seat is closer to the horse's spine/saddle pad, but the rider is that much closer to the horse and it's easier to make use of the seat curvature built into the tree by a good treemaker.

With them, it can be more difficult to make the seat shape I want, and the rider is just that much higher off the horse.

 

Thoughts?

 

Julia McCormack

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Scored rawhide is a large cause of broken tree bars IMHO so a + for bar risers and that business about closeness is a myth, as far as I'm concerned; much better to have balance and comfort brought by a well shaped seat, so what if it is 1/16 or even 1/8 higher up in the air, if the insides of the thighs are as close to the tree as the bar risers allow and everything else is in balance.

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I agree with Oltoot on the scored rawhide.  I've seen many older saddles (and some not so old) where the rawhide had been scored and later split open to expose the wood underneath, resulting in breakage or rotted wood from moisture getting to it.  I do feel however, that the risers add a little bulk to my seats where I don't want it.  It takes more work and shaping to get back to where  I would be if I didn't put them in.  So, I haven't found the perfect answer.  I do know that the shape of the top of the bars has a big effect on how much work I have to go through to get the seat I want, and there are trees (makers) I won't buy, and won't buy again for this reason.

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I agree with toot also, and would say this as well, you need so much room for your stirrup leathers to pass through your seat (tunnels) whichever way  you build your ground seat.  I really feel a qualified saddle maker can get the seat a customer wants either way a ground seat is built rather it be solid  ground seat or risers.  Scoring rawhide can definately cause broken trees. I have retreed some pretty expensive handmade saddles caused from scored rawhide.  Just my 2 cents worth.

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Thanks to everyone - pretty much the same pros and cons I've been thinking through for years.

On the topic of scored rawhide and broken trees - how exactly did the trees break? scored rawhide will allow moisture in, if there's a lot of moisture right there at the scored rawhide; screw holes and nail holes would also allow moisture in and break the rawhide integrity (although not in a straight line which can pull apart as it dries again), but how exactly would scored rawhide cause a tree to break? Or did the tree break and the rawhide failed to hold the tree together? I have only seen (and repaired) saddles with broken trees that were factory saddles with a thin veneer of fiberglass, and those few were a result of catastrophic wrecks that broke the trees.

So I am curious about what you've seen.

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If you score the rawhide and it is in a straight line, in time and not that long, that rawhide will split on the score line.  Once it splits, there is no strength to hold the tree and it does not take much to break that tree.  Usually where the stirrup slots are on tree is the weaker part of the tree anyway. I have seen quite a few of good trees broke there that had not had the rawhide scored.  On the nails and screw thing  most of the nails in a properly constructed saddle are small and don't damage the rawhide unless you put in a LOT of them.  A lot , but not all high end makers  predrill their screw holes to make a cleaner hole and not have as much tendency to start splitting the wood of the tree. BS or not, I do not know.  I do it as it makes it easier to put screws in the Trees I use, which are fiberglassed and they are TOUGH.  I don't figure it can hurt and I build for some cowboys that use them pretty hard.

Edited by Ken Nelson

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Exactly what Ken Nelson said.  The scored rawhide won't CAUSE the break, but it will allow it to break, since the rawhide is what gives the tree it's strength.   Also, the break in the rawhide can allow enough moisture into the wood to cause it to rot. . . I have seen that also.  If you've ever seen a tree in the "wood" without any covering applied, you know how narrow and thin the bars are behind the stirrup slots, especially with the cutters and barrel racer trees.  In all honesty, I see more trees broken in the gullet, and the part of the bar where the rigging is screwed in, than broken straight across the bars.  But it can and does happen, and why take the chance when you put sooo many hours and $$ into a handmade saddle.

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