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Rod and Denise Nikkel

Dennis Lane Equine Profiling Cards

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Here is a pictorial tutorial of how Dennis Lane's Equine Profiling Cards work. This system is designed to enable anyone to easily determine the shape of the card that fits correctly at four different places on a horse's back. The numbers can then be communicated to anyone else who has the card system - saddle makers, tree makers, etc. Dennis has used the system well in Australia with his trees, and has now made it available to us in North America. A number of people are trying it out. Dennis doesn't do a lot of on a computer, but has worked with us on this post. He is looking for more saddle makers to test out his system and communicate back how it works for them. He appreciates any comments about the system as he is trying to make it as user friendly and globally accurate as possible.

1.) Become familiar with the cards. There are four different shapes (S4, S5, S6, S7) on the S cards and four (D4, D5, D6, D7) on the D cards for each of the A, B and C positions.


There is one extra card that has the A, B, and C position for shape D8, and a D9 shape for the C position.


There are three shapes to determine rock - R9 is the middle, R6 is flatter and R12 has the most curve.


There is a "ruler" on a rock card to help you measure more conveniently.


2.) Stand your horse as squarely as possible on flat ground. Find the lowest spot on your horse's back. This is the B position.


3.) Using a ruler, mark a spot 8" behind this spot. This is the C position.


4.) Feel for the back of the horse's shoulder blade. Mark this spot. This is the A position.


5.) Measure and record how far forward this spot is compared to the low point of the horse's back. (This horse measures 8".)


6.) Take one of the cards for the B position and place it on the horse's back at the B position you have marked. You are trying to find the shape that most closely matches the shape of your horse. Record this. This one obviously doesn't fit.


But this one does.


7.) Do the same for the C position. In all cases you are looking for fit all along the card, but especially where the bars fit on the horse's back. This one still has some clearance in the center, and the ends stick in a bit.


This one fits.


8.) And the A position. This one seems to fit well down below, but the shape is wrong up top.


This one fits.


9.) Next, measure 3" down from the centerline of the horse at position B.


10.) And C.


11.) Place the rock patterns perpendicular to the horse (not vertical compared to the ground) along this line 3" off the centerline. Make sure the center mark on the pattern (marked 14 V) is at the B position. Keep the horse as square as possible with his head in its normal working position. You are trying to find the card that most closely matches the shape of your horse. Record this.

If the card has too much rock compared to the horse, it lifts off the back. Too little and the center doesn't meet, as in this case.


This one fits all along.


12.) Fill out the form sent to you, including the horse's name, age, sex (and number of foals if a mare), breed, what they are used for and any other comments about the horse, along with your results. Send it your tree maker. Dennis also asks that you send him a copy, via e-mail or snail mail, so that he can continue to build his data base and improve his system to fit the North American horses as well.

Dennis is now a member of this board. If anyone is interested in getting a copy of Dennis's system, please PM him. If you have questions about the system, or comments on what you have found in using it, please post them. The more discussion, the more we learn!



















Edited by Denise

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i learned something new,,well new to me,,thank you

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Romey, it IS very straight forward. Dennis has worked with this to make it as easy as possible to use, even by horse owners who know nothing about fitting saddles. They can fit the cards to their horses and give the results to their saddle maker. Once we check out a bunch more horses ourselves, we will know what is more "normal" in North America, so if we get some "odd" numbers given to us, we can recheck them to make sure it was done right. If the owner has a number of similar horses, we can make a tree to fit that average shape or "style" of horse. If they have horses that really vary in size and shape, at least we know that and can tell them that one saddle will not fit all their horses well, and it will be easier for the owner to see why.

The neat thing about this system is that it lets every tree maker decide how make his trees fit the different shapes. The saddle maker would no longer have to worry about whether he ordered the right size for that customer's horses. It is difficult to know how one maker's trees fit compared to another's unless you have a few trees and a bunch of different horses all at the same time. Now, they would just give the information from the cards to the tree maker, who would then know what the shapes of the horses this tree is being made for. The tree maker, on the other hand, can work to fit a quantified shape, and not base their fit on a description like "big, wide Quarter Horses but with good withers", which is often the best we can get now. Even people who ride many different horses often ride a general "type", and that style can be quantified with this system. If they ride many different types of horses, they will know what shape this saddle will fit best and can decide what to do padding wise for ones that are close to that shape, or know that they need to change saddles for some horses. Being able to quantify a shape in some way has so many uses.

We are currently experimenting with how these cards work and how we can use the information from them in building our trees. Some saddle makers are also trying them out so see if the system is useful for them. Dennis is very open to questions, comments, suggestions for improvements, etc. This is something that could be a very useful tool to help the industry and, ultimately, the horses.

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I had a great conversation with Dennis over the phone last evening. We spoke for over an hour about his system and also about saddle fit in general. He is a great guy who presents his ideas very clearly and listens well. I am going to get his cards and start taking some measurements. A real key here is being able to find tree makers who are interested in using the information from the cards to make trees. That will be my next project....to find a tree maker interested in this as well.

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So I'm assuming Rod and Denise that you are using these? It sounds pretty interesting and seems to make alot of sense. Almost all the saddles I've built over the last 3 or 4 years have been for mules which as you know present some different fitting challenges. I'd be interested in seeing how this might work for them. I suppose everything he has done so far would be on horses.

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Yes, we are working with the cards and figuring out how the numbers from the cards fit into our current way of making trees. It is such an easy way to communicate the shape of the animal.

The cards are a compilation of back drawings from horses, but we would sure recommend you get a set and start using them on mules as well. We have not made a pile of mule trees, but we have received positive feedback on the ones we have made. From what we know now, we would expect the cards that go across the back (positions A, B and C) would fit mules in the same way as they fit horses. The correlation between the cards is what defines the twist, so that would work for mules as well. The only place the current system might not work well is with the rock patterns. Mules, as a general rule, are much flatter than horses, so while the flattest rock pattern that Dennis has might fit some mules, generally they would need something flatter. And this is where you would come in.

Dennis's whole aim putting out this system is not to make money from it (he only recoups his costs on the cards) but to help the industry as a whole by developing a better way of communicating shape and size. So he is asking people who use the system to help contribute to filling in any blanks in it, and mules are one of the blanks. If you have access to a number of mules, you could really help develop the system to include mules, and thus benefit all mule owners and saddle makers faced with building for a mule. What Dennis is asking from anyone using his system is the results from the horses they try it on (he has results sheets all made up to just fill in and send back to him). And if you are finding horses or mules that are outside the system in any way, to send him the back drawings from those animals (taken in the same place his system goes). Then the information all goes into his database and gets compiled to help make the system better. In your case, he would use your results along with others to create rock patterns that would fit mules. Would it mean one or two or three more patterns? Depends on what you find when you take the patterns from a pile of mules. That is the fun part - figuring out, in a measurable way - the differences.

Just as an aside, from the results sent back from North America compared to what he has found in Australia, Dennis has already found that North American horses tend (very generalized here) to be larger further back (C position) even if they are the same at the withers (A position). In other words, we need more twist in our trees for the mythical "average" North American Quarter Horse than they do in Australia for their "average" horse. These are the types of things that what we can discover when we have a consistent system. If this system does get widely used, we might be able to learn all sorts of things, including whether there really is a difference in twist in the "average" mule and the "average" horse, and just how much flatter mules can be than horses.

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