Dusty Johnson

Saddle Fit: An Enduring Western Myth

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Saddle Fit: An Enduring Western Myth

A popular topic among both leatherworkers and horse owners today is saddle fitting. Perfectly fitting a saddle to an individual animal is one of those things in life that sounds good in theory but in the real world simply does not work and in highly impractical. There are too many variables, both short term and long term, which are constantly changing.

The “saddle fitting†advice should come from those who have spent years studying the art and craft of saddlemaking and who have a better than average knowledge of riding styles and equine anatomy. This background is essential to understand what can and cannot be done within the parameters of saddle building. Our goal should be to find a saddle that will fit as closely as possible, under changing conditions, and that will compliment the back of the horse when used in these conditions. The variables are; the Horse, the Rider and the Saddle itself. Another consideration that fits into this picture is Economics.

The Fit is a determination of how the first three variables interact and compliment or oppose each other. It has been stated that “the saddle is both the central and the stabilizing force wedged between two very flexible and changing objectsâ€Â. To consider the saddle as having primary control over fit versus the ever changing rider is simply absurd. This is well understood by most experienced saddle makers and why most of them do not conduct saddle fitting clinics. Many equine clinics are conducted by those with varied equine skills, but are untrained and unskilled in saddle construction. They seem to have a miracle product or system using everything from old fashioned coat hangers to new age plastics and aluminum “fitting gauges†to create the perfect saddle fitting utopia. These “snake oil salesmen†are only looking to increase their income and prestige by making reasonable sounding claims that cannot be demonstrated as possible in the real world. The true student of proper saddle fit must consider the riding style, riding conditions and the condition of the animal (the primary cause of saddle problems today). The economics of the situation must also be evaluated. Most of us do not have unlimited money to purchase an individually fitted saddle for every horse we own or may purchase in the future.

There is no such thing as perfectly fitting a saddle to a horse !! Allow me to illustrate ... Did you buy your own shoes because they fit perfectly ... or because “they didn’t hurt� Yet by buying the standard shoes available our feet are generally trouble free. Fit and comfort are two different variables, but related. Do the shoes you wore at 21 feel just as good at 45? Not for most folks! We must realize that fit is a judgment based on many ever changing variables. When analyzing saddles and horses we must remember it is an inexact art form for which no one has all the answers. The horseman who rides with skill, has quality tack, keeps his horse in good physical condition and monitors these three essential elements will rarely have a saddle problem.

If the saddle could be made to fit a specific horse perfectly, for his entire lifespan, shouldn’t that saddle be sold with the horse when we find a new steed to replace him? What should we do with the saddle when the horse dies? Perhaps take it behind the barn and shoot it! Studies show that 60 percent of horse buyers sell their animal within the first year. A good number of the 40 percent who keep the animal through the first year will sell within the next 2 years. Rarely will they sell the saddle with the animal. The useful life of a quality saddle is many times longer than the useful life of any individual equine. Fitting a saddle to one animal would be limiting the usefulness of an expensive product.

A saddle is noting more than a backpack for an animal. How many of us (even very serious hikers) have a specially fitted backpack? We go to the nearest sporting goods store and purchase a pack that suits our needs, has an appearance that pleases us and affords the comfort and flexibility we desire. Our horses deserve the same consideration ad courtesy. Many people have several animals but only 2 or 3 saddles. Common sense dictates that we have a saddle that will fit the majority of our animals. I often have clients tell me “My trainer says saddle made to fit my horse preciselyâ€Â. My response is to ask “How many saddles does your trainer have and how many horses does he ride?†Most trainers have 3 to 5 saddles and ride 20 or more horses in a season. Are they concerned with “exact fit†or animal comfort?

Why then is saddle fitting such a large topic and why do we have so many problems? Simply because we do not want our horses developing sores which is uncomfortable for them and limits our riding time. Let us examine the most common cause of saddle sores.

Most sores are caused by the rider not the saddle! Some time ago I attended a seminar that discussed saddle fitting. The speaker had an electronic pad that measured the pressure points under the saddle and displayed a colorful “map†of these points on a computer screen. Three different riders rode one horse with the same saddle and pressure points were measured. Pressure varied all over the animal’s back depending on riding style. This animal then would require three different saddles .... ridiculous! Many horsemen ride without proper balance, too high on the cantle, off to one side and generally uncollected. These riding faults cause problems which are transmitted through the saddle which are not the fault of the saddle at all. Many riders make the mistake of riding the saddle and not the animal!

A good custom saddle is made with emphasis on fitting the rider more than the horse. This is done to eliminate rider movement in he saddle, thereby eliminating pressure points on the horse a much as possible.

The animal’s condition must also be carefully monitored by the rider. The majority of problems with saddles are caused by people who do not properly condition their animal. Without proper training and conditioning we go out and put in a 20 or 30 mile ride. Or worse we go on a week long hunting or packing trip in less than ideal weather conditions. Animas must be conditioned and built up to this type of riding. During this conditioning process their muscles develop and their skin toughens much as we develop calluses for hard work.

I had a gentleman say “I am a serious rider and put in 30 miles at a time. I use many saddles and they all sore up my horse. What do you suggest?†I asked him if he was riding 10 miles at a time at least 3 days per week as conditioning for himself and the horse. His reply was “Well, no, I have many obligations and just do not have that kind of time. However, I do ride 30 miles every three or four weeks as time permits.†His problem has nothing to do with the saddle! The problem is a lack of conditioning. Human nature is such that rather than face our own limitations we find some other factor to blame. Good riding is a process of monitoring ourselves, our animal and our equipment and making adjustments if needed. Many ignore these things until they unsaddle and then exclaim “Oh, my, look what this saddle did†never realizing or admitting that their lack of observation and adjustment is the true cause of the problem.

An animal’s body is constantly shifting both in condition and in conformation. A saddle which is very comfortable for a horse at 3 years of age will set differently when he is 7, 12, 15. Will the suit we had tailored to our trim frame at 24 fit the same when we are 48? Why should we expect a horse and saddle to be different? Our animal’s body shape changes from season to season as they gain and lose weight and even during the course of a day’s ride. Notice how your saddle sets differently after a 20 mile ride, even on a well conditioned horse. This is one reason why that rig that looked perfect at the clinic or tack shop suddenly doesn’t seem to be doing such a great job. This type of “saddle fitting†only tells us that the saddle will not harm the animal where it is place while he is standing still! The important position is where it crawls to when in motion. Saddle position may vary a great del during a single ride to the action of the back muscles and the terrain being traversed.

Another reason for saddle sores is that most riders don’t understand the advantages and necessity of a quality saddle. The recent interest in “saddle fitting science†recently is in direct proportion to the number of new owners who are beginning to acquire basic riding skills and are doing so in poorly constructed, entry level saddles. This combination gives many a very negative experience which is then focused on the saddle. Although the individual saddle is not the primary factor affecting fit it is the catalyst molding man and animal as a unit and must be created with quality materials Saddles under $1600 are the low end of the market. They are generally mass produced of middle or low quality materials and are intended for entry level and light usage riders. The top end of the mass produced market is generally much more ornate with abundant silver decorations but not necessarily better constructed. Remember, “a garbage truck with a Charles Russell painting on the side still smells like garbageâ€Â.

Saddles in the middle price and above range are usually built by craftsmen who have spent their lives studying saddles and saddle construction. Artists who, themselves, are usually pretty good horsemen and who have studied many others horseback. Cowboy’s in the old west, realizing the importance of a quality saddle, allotted two to four months pay for their saddle (far less for their horse). In today’s dollars this would be $5000 to $8000. A quality saddle showed their commitment to their profession and a level of concern for their mount, an example many today could benefit from. This, and their animal’s better of conditioning, is why they didn’t have today’s level of problems. Today’s average new owner does not budget in the cost of real quality equipment and the horse is the one to suffer the consequences. If sore develop on a long ride in an entry level saddle it is because the saddle is not being used as intended. Serious riding requires a serious saddle.

Often owners come to my saddle shop and inquire into the cost of a nice custom rig for their very special, favorite horse. When I tell them they often exclaim, “Oh, I couldn’t spend that much on just a saddleâ€Â. Then they go back to the parking lot and get into their $45,000 pickup pulling a $15,000 trailer (both of which are depreciating in value daily!). The saddle would be more make for a more comfortable riding experience for them and their horse and would be useful (an hold its value) for the next 40 years.

A common cause of saddle problems is the result of the blankets or pads. Dirt, sweat and debris collect on the blanket and for a hard crust. This rubs on the back of an animal and can cause sever discomfort and soreness. Cleaning blankets and pads frequently will pay big dividends. Use only the amount of pad required. Too much padding requires cinching too tightly and may cause cinch sores. Also, placing the blanket properly is important. A twisted blanket can cause a great deal of pressure in areas under the saddle. Many riders then blame this on the saddle rather than acknowledging their error.

Another problem is often the size of the cinch. The purpose of the cinch is to anchor the saddle to the horse as comfortably as possible. The cinch should not interfere with the horse’s action. . The width should vary according to the position of the rigging plates as follows;

full position  17 strand cinch

7/8 position  19 strand cinch

3/4 position  21 strand cinch

Using a cinch that is wider than necessary in any position would extend too far forward and the foreleg of the horse would be constantly rubbing on it, which would result in chafing and sores in that area.

Super-wide cinches have become popular in recent years. Wide cinches have their place when roping heavy cattle and should not be pulled very tight, except while roping. They have no place on the pleasure or trail horse. Most riders think that this wide cinch is more humane and doesn’t cut into “Old Paintâ€Â, but the truth is that the wider cinch must be pulled tighter to hold the saddle as well and this tightness creates a corset effect across the horse’s chest. Restricted breathing is not a desirable trait! It is much better to have the right size cinch and not have to tighten it so much!

At each end of the cinch is the ring. This is used to run the latigos through when tying to the saddle. There are three styles of rings: round ring, ring with-buckle-tongue, and ring with-crossbar. The round ring is found on the cheapest of cinches and can only be used by tying the latigo. The round ring with-buckle-tongue is an improvement because it eliminates the bulk of a cinch knot, however, when the tongue is attached at the bottom of the ring it is also considered cheap. This arrangement can become ineffective if the pressures on the ring should make it oval. When the ring becomes oval the tongue goes through the ring and doesn’t work to lock the latigo in place. I see many riders using this type of ring with a knot and allowing the tongue to hang loose. This is a potential hazard to man and horse!

The best cinch ring is the ring with-crossbar. The crossbar prevents the ring from being pulled into an oval and the tongue is much shorter and less hazardous. The ideal ring with-crossbar is made with a flat profile (more surface area distributes pressure wider), a flat top surface (prevents unnecessary distortion of the latigo) and a small tab on the inside bottom prevents the cords from bunching to either side of the ring. This ideal ring is made of stainless steel. The materials in a cinch are very important. In bygone days the cinches were made of horsehair. The best were from mane hair and the poor grades were from tail hair. These were very durable and seemed to work quite well, but didn’t do much to absorb moisture. Other old time cinches were made of canvas or burlap. Horses get sores because of heat and moisture! The ideal cinch promotes transference of sweat away from the body and allows evaporation to cool and dry the heated area.

The best material to transfer water is cotton, but cotton looses much of its strength when wet. The next best is . Mohair is a blend of Angora Goat hair and Wool. It transfers water (sweat) rapidly AND becomes stronger with the addition of moisture. Mohair is also the best cinch material because it cleans easily and is best washed with mild soap (Ivory, dish soap, etc.) and water. [be sure to rinse out all soap before putting back on the horse] Mohair cinches are expensive, but not excessively so and will last a very long time. Many cinches are made of 100% nylon, or synthetic, cord. While these are strong they will not absorb or transfer moisture and will create a certain amount of heat.

When a problem occurs it is common today to point the finger at one variable such as the saddle or the pad and place blame there. This is way too simplistic an approach. Usually the problem is a combination of the variable we have been discussing. If we change one of these variables the problem may be temporarily eliminated but it should be monitored for some time to determine if that was the only problem. Often not!

Changing conditions mean we cannot expect the saddlemaker to take responsibility for choosing our saddle and placing it on our horse any more than we would expect the auto dealer to choose our truck and drive it for us. Anyone who places a saddle on an animal and states that it perfectly fits or does not fit is claiming they have the ability to see into the future. Changing conditions will always be present and, as horsemen, we must be aware of these conditions and react accordingly.

Owning a horse is, indeed, a lifestyle. It is a series of continual lessons and mistakes. People are so worried they are going to do something wrong that they forget how much fun it was at the beginning. Let’s step back and take a look at our horses, our equipment and ourselves and relax. Most of the “saddle fitting†problems will work themselves out with a little applied logic. A good saddle should last the rest of your life. Choose it carefully and enjoy the ride!

Happy Trails,

Dusty Johnson

Pleasant Valley Saddle Shop and School

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Welcome aboard, Dusty! Well-reasoned, terrific post! :clapping:

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Dusty,

Thanks for the posting. I would like to get a little more specific on just the fitting aspects of some of what you said. I think most of us agree that we don't have the luxury of fitting a specific saddle to a specific horse at a specific point in his life. I think David used the term "microfitting" in another thread. We have to fit the average of what that rider is going to ride mostly. The occasional customer does have the oddball horse that will need the tree that won't work for many others. No different than orthopedic shoes for the specific customer who needs them. There are obviously a lot of variables in fitting saddles to a horse, and , agreeing with you, we are probably dealing with a less informed population of horsepeople than 50 to 80 years ago. Horses are now a leisure hobby, and not a means of business for a lot of folks. We can probably thank the dude ranch era, John Wayne, and horse shows for that.

To disagree or at least play the devil's advocate here, I can't quite buy your shoe example at face value. When I buy shoes off the rack, I buy by my size and try them on. I have three pairs of boots I ride in, and they are all three diffferent sizes or widths. No surprise there, since they are made by three different makers, probably on three different lasts. I try them on to test drive them. When Joe Average goes into the tackshop, calls NRS, Valley Vet, Stateline, or whoever they have the choice of gullets and QH or semi QH bars. Usually the person helping them is no more knowledgable of what these mean than the customer is. These saddles may all come with the same bar pattern from the same tree maker. The horse can't say that he needs a little more room in the gullet, and little flatter pad in front, or more/less rocker, let's try on another size or tree maker. Just like shoes, when we buy a backpack we try it on. If it rubs or hits us wrong we can say something, we aren't going to buy that one - no matter how many pockets or flaps it has. Or in the case of a saddle, how cool the tooling or silver is. I agree that conditioning is a part. The unfit horse can't go all day in a saddle that does fit. However I would also say - the most fit horse won't go all day in a saddle that doesn't fit either, without some kind of problem. The first problem is out of our hands, the second is in our lap.

This whole fitting and tree selection thing is complex and like I said earlier - full of variables. We won't and probably shouldn't ever reach a consensus that will fit every maker, but the discussion should be helpful. I would encourage you to respond with your fitting thoughts on saddle tree bars, patterns, and spreads, on the topic "saddle tree - bars and bottoms". My hope is that with enough experiences and responses here, we can go through each part of the saddle and fitting it - to at least minimize the variables we as makers can control. Thanks,

Bruce Johnson

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Bruce, Dusty, David,

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures. If we are all to learn something most of us need to see what you are talking about. Most of what I do in this area is making pads for existing saddles and of course whatever horse the owner has at the time. I have never seen a perfect fit english or western even with new and fairly expensive saddles although some came close, I probably wouldn't know perfect fit if I saw it. With english you see very few custom saddles.

When you said that working cowboys were using at most one or two saddles, that needs to be tempered by the fact that the horses that they had to select from were all of a general type. More so for military mounts. Today, there are as many configurations of horse as one can imagine available to the buyer/rider. There are also as many configurations of rider buying those horses. Working cowboys were generally not over 150lbs (Dan Blocker from "Bonanza" excepted) and most probably under 6ft. Today, I can show you kids who can double that and adults who are bigger. Being 6'1" and 275lbs I am considerate of the horse and am very cognizant of saddle fit. With the proper saddle, a horse can function with a considerable load; with a bad fit the horse at least will take a beating and at worst may become uncontrolable. With an 87lb teen or pre-teen up, you can get away with a lot, but proper fit will make a difference in performance.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that mitigation is more important than the original fit because the horse/rider will change dramatically over the life of the saddle. Here in the East, boarding horses, darned little knowlege of them (even by "trainers"), what's in vogue (breed) and low frequency of exercise is more the norm than for horses that actually work for a living (Amish excluded although that is another story). We should know that you can't fix a bad saddle (construction) or bad design (fit), but the non-saddlemaker is quite often called upon to do just that (you do leatherwork or harnesswork? please fix my saddle). You do what you can for the horse, there is not much you can do for owners.

Art

Dusty,

Thanks for the posting. I would like to get a little more specific on just the fitting aspects of some of what you said. I think most of us agree that we don't have the luxury of fitting a specific saddle to a specific horse at a specific point in his life. I think David used the term "microfitting" in another thread. We have to fit the average of what that rider is going to ride mostly. The occasional customer does have the oddball horse that will need the tree that won't work for many others. No different than orthopedic shoes for the specific customer who needs them. There are obviously a lot of variables in fitting saddles to a horse, and , agreeing with you, we are probably dealing with a less informed population of horsepeople than 50 to 80 years ago. Horses are now a leisure hobby, and not a means of business for a lot of folks. We can probably thank the dude ranch era, John Wayne, and horse shows for that.

To disagree or at least play the devil's advocate here, I can't quite buy your shoe example at face value. When I buy shoes off the rack, I buy by my size and try them on. I have three pairs of boots I ride in, and they are all three diffferent sizes or widths. No surprise there, since they are made by three different makers, probably on three different lasts. I try them on to test drive them. When Joe Average goes into the tackshop, calls NRS, Valley Vet, Stateline, or whoever they have the choice of gullets and QH or semi QH bars. Usually the person helping them is no more knowledgable of what these mean than the customer is. These saddles may all come with the same bar pattern from the same tree maker. The horse can't say that he needs a little more room in the gullet, and little flatter pad in front, or more/less rocker, let's try on another size or tree maker. Just like shoes, when we buy a backpack we try it on. If it rubs or hits us wrong we can say something, we aren't going to buy that one - no matter how many pockets or flaps it has. Or in the case of a saddle, how cool the tooling or silver is. I agree that conditioning is a part. The unfit horse can't go all day in a saddle that does fit. However I would also say - the most fit horse won't go all day in a saddle that doesn't fit either, without some kind of problem. The first problem is out of our hands, the second is in our lap.

This whole fitting and tree selection thing is complex and like I said earlier - full of variables. We won't and probably shouldn't ever reach a consensus that will fit every maker, but the discussion should be helpful. I would encourage you to respond with your fitting thoughts on saddle tree bars, patterns, and spreads, on the topic "saddle tree - bars and bottoms". My hope is that with enough experiences and responses here, we can go through each part of the saddle and fitting it - to at least minimize the variables we as makers can control. Thanks,

Bruce Johnson

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Come on! You folks are trying way too hard to make it a science instead of a "natural choice". Not even an art! Saddle fitting is a farce! What is important is that the saddle NOT HURT THE HORSE. The responsibility is still on the rider and his ability to chose a comfortable saddle for himself and his horse AND his riding ability! I shod horses for over 35 years and saw many good animals go lame due to bad riding habits. The same applies to back sores and saddles. Quite blaming the saddle and take a look at condition, riding ability and age of the animal. Quit trying to prove something that cannot be shown with any kind of consistent test criteria. I emphasize LOGIC and OBSERVATION to my students. We eliminate the BS of trying to show how smart we are and just try to work out what the rider needs for MOST of his horses. Maybe you folks are much smarter than I am (probably a good number of you are!) but I am drawing on over 50 years of saddlemaking and horseshoeing with ##$%$# few sore animals. Lighten up and don't take yourself so seriously. We are all impressed with your knowledge ... but have not seen anything new yet!

Happy Trails,

Dusty

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Dusty,

Thanks for the reply. I guess maybe we are addressing two different topics here. What I am addressing is not the rider picking out a saddle of the rack or just making a blank order with us. We have already established that the rider is a big factor, and many are just not informed what they even need to be buying. I also maintain that it is important not to hurt the horse. I am pretty sure that is something we ARE 100% agreed on across the board.

My only intention in this is to approach this from the saddle maker's point. Not a saddle to build for stock, but one for the customer who comes in, and tells me he wants ME to build HIM a saddle. The first thing we need to do is decide on a tree. That is all I am talking about. I am not ignorant that horses change not only from year to year, but month to month with conditioning and feed. I know that a tree can fit several horses of similar size and build. That is not the point either. The question is going to be whose tree do I order, and then what do I tell tree maker X to make.

I have built on several makers's trees. Right now I have a Hadlock&Fox, Bowden, some Timberlines, three of the later Hercules, a Superior, and just finished up a Sonny Felkins. Every one of them has little or big differences in the bar patterns and geometry. They just are not all going to fit all horses the same. That is what I am getting at. How do we decide who's patterns will fit the customer's horses? The one who is paying us a premium price to make something that is better on the topside, and I maintain, should be better on the bottom side if need be than off the rack model. His horses may very well fit the "standard" for our chosen tree maker. Great, we are done with that part. As you know, there are really no standards from one tree maker to the next. If they don't fit the chosen standard, and we didn't at least check, we have done him no more of a service than the telephone operator at Smith Brothers or the guy at the feedstore.

If we set a standard tree up on their back, and it bridges, it rocks, it stands up, it sits downhill, It has contact only in the center of the front pads on the bottom, it has no room for flare (the back points or front points dig in), that is what I am talking about. Things we can, and to my mind need to do, to ensure as good a fit as we can. I am not talking about making sure every square inch of the bottom bar is in contact. I am talking about making sure that in the least this horse is not getting pinched somewhere just standing. I also want to know that when he does his job, whether it is a 8 second calf roping run, 2-1/2 minutes of cutting, or day-working (shipping, doctoring in the field, or branding), that my saddle tree is not going to be in his way.

I think picking the proper tree is going to have to be based on a few things. First is our experience with whose trees have what bar patterns and bottom geometry. The second is to match that up as well as we can to the customer's horse(s). The second is the challenge for me. If it doesn't fit, what measurements do I need to tell my treemaker to make it work? The only thing most off the rack customers have is gullet width on the same shape of bars, I want to go beyond that.

Just as an aside, I am not a saddle fitter, I am just a guy who makes some saddles. I have a background in horses and fairly good understanding of their anatomy. I have done several different things and events with my horses, and feel pretty comfortable talkng the events and special needs of my customers and friends. I have no agenda here other than to learn.

Bruce Johnson

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Bruce,

I understand what you are saying but I believe you are trying to complicate things for yourself and your clients. There are no good answers to those questions and IF you make a saddle to those standards it will only be excellent for ONE HORSE for a short time. I have ridden a FA Meanea saddle (circa 1902) for 45 years and have not had one sore animal. (I think the horse it was made to fit is dead !) I have built saddles for the best part of 50 years and hope my saddles are used for another 50. Get a good treemaker and stay with him. Be true to your saddle building principles and beliefs. I am not casting stones here but I truly believe all this talk about "fitting" confuses the public and makes saddlemaking harder for the makers everywhere. Prior to my retirement I built over 40 saddles a year. No one ever brought one back and no one ever complained about sore backs. I made an excellent living by being honest with my clients and providing them with a good product ... not by pandering to current fads and uninformed demands. Those clients were sent down the road so I could get my work done. All I am trying to tell you and the saddlemaking fraternity is .... Keep it Simple. We don't fit saddles better than they did 80 years ago and we are not going to.

Happy Trails,

Dusty

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Welp, sure as heck confused me now. There is llot in each of these posts I completely agree with and some leaves me shaking my head and other points making me just say HUH' Now mind you im not a saddle maker and have no interest in doing it myself but as a customer and a person whose job it is to ride everyday, on varied makes and molds of horses I have my own views and vested interest in saddle makers opinions.

Personally I couldn’t give a rats butt in hell in how easy it is on the saddle maker to make what I want or what their other customers want. For the money one lays down on a custom saddle a customer wants what he wants, within reason, them being if you know something wont do for said horse.

Dusty perhaps am wrong but are you saying it’s completely out of the saddle maker’s hands and worse responsibility to care about fit?

If this is true, why bother with custom at all, I have a courtz that fits me well, fits most horses well with mircofitting of padding ect, I can and do rope everything from calves to bulls with it, use it for the backcountry hunting I guide and due to MY fit of padding which IS my responsibility and my responsibility of horsemanship, conditioning ECT. I have also seen some circle Y saddles and other non custom saddles do same thing without soring a critter and here is where I think it matters, so long as I use them horses that fit em.

I ride ALOT of different horses on a 1 month basis, 3 month basis and 6 month basis that are not my own and tend to need several different saddles due to their structure, conditioning ect and it would be a impossible luxury to have a perfect fit SADDLE for every horse. It is also impossible to be brought horses in perfect condition or moved that out collected right away, 2 things that very few that are brought to me ever are so I get as close as I can and then adjust with padding ect ect. That being said, if Im reading your post right its not your responsibility or care to even get me that close and if that’s the case just any old saddle will do so long is it fits ME. So as a customer why go with custom? Fancy stamping and silver is is the whole sceme of things nothing I could care less about.

That being said do not believe there is a saddle that will perfectly fit every horsebut there could be, I also do not believe fitting is a myth maybe to you it’s a myth not to me. I have no expectations or desire for a one off that will fit one horse, I need to fit many, well built with some thinking put into a saddle and tree IS what I require and wont substitute for less which to means giving thought into fit, a saddle maker does his part, I can micro fit it to a variety as needed after that and that’s exactly why it isn’t a myth. If im confused buy your post its becuase i am , feel free to clarify if so

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Well Romey, You are the end user and you are right about being able to get what you want within reason.

I think we will all agree that there are variables in all horses and these variables can be grouped into catagories. The same applies to saddle trees. So in my humble opinion " Saddle Fit" is the art of recognizing these variables and matching the catagories together.

I also think that with the reckless breeding that has surfaced in recent years that there are horses that no longer have the ability to properly carry a saddle. That can be another discussion at another time.

Getting back to the original proposal from Bruce about bars. I think this is a very worthwhile discussion that needs to be approached with an open mind because it can be educational for all of us.

I have preferences of different bars from different makers depending on the end use of the saddle and of course the conformation of the horse. I have to take into account the position of the rigging for the end use as well as how it relates to the type of bar. I have my favorite that I like to use for the way I use my horses and my horses work for their living just like me. So in short, I like to make my parteners life as easy to bare as my own.

I probably build more Wade saddles with the modified Northwestern (Ray Holes) style bar and that appears to work on the horses very well outside of the arena. Inside the arena or with hard ropeing ranch horses,I will go to another bar type (Arizona) depending on the event.

Of course I am talking about Qtr.type stock horses and not gaited or occasional use horses that I approach a little differently.

This is only talking about bar type and not actual measurements of the trees.

Bruce kicked off this discussion with a realistic question or statement so lets get'r done in a civilized manner.

Kind Regards

Blake

Hey Johanna We need a Spill Chukker

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You are missing the point completely. You talk about "fitting" and then go on about repadding to meet your needs. Why a custom saddle? Because (in most cases) they are built with more care and are stronger than production rigs. The saddlemaker (if he is good) insures that trees are straight, riggings are even and customers needs are met. Production saddles sometimes meet these criteria, but not always.

Face it, all the talk about "custom fit" to the horse just scares the devil out of the average horse owner and drives him away from custom saddles and maybe even the industry in general. The manner that the rider handles himself while aboard is the most important variable in this whole scene. Educate yourself and your customer and you will improve your business and the industry. Care and concern for the customer and the horse is important ... proving you are some kind of "expert" only satisfies your ego.

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If we are to be professionals and command professional prices then we must offer a level of expertise beyond that of the average horse owner. I am not currently doing custom saddles I will customize them to a degree but I will only do a custom tree if I feel the horse is of a back type I will see again and again. For instance I just did a tree for a Gypsy Varner and there is no way they could have found what they needed elsewhere. My business is built on proper fit. The majority of my customers have gone through 5 to 10 saddles before they come to me. The come to me because I can help them get the result they want which is comfort for both them and thier horse. They come ot me because I can show and explain to them why things are doing what they are doing.

Dusty, You said that there are three variables the horse the Human and the saddle. Here is the beginning of your fuzzy thuoght process. Those are not vairables they are catagories of vairables. Under the horse you really only have two vairables rib cage shape and orientation. Both of these are just part of the conformation of the horse. Ribcage shape can change to a small degree relative to the angles that the ribs come off the spine because there is a joint there but there is not a lot of flexibility there so it is minnimul factor in the equation. However there are different angles on differnt ribcage shapes and that is why twist shoud not be left out of the tree equation. The top line is the most variable because of the up and down undulations and because of it's relationship to the horses ring of muscles. Bottom line is anything that effects the horses ring of muscles will effect saddle fit. The most fundamental element to consider here is straightness. A horse is straight when when it's sternum is in the center of it's two front legs. They do not have a collar bone like we do so this is a critical element of horsemanship. If they are not straight they can not collect if they are straight they will collect.The concept of straightness combned with a fundamental knowledge of how the ring of muscles works gives the saddle maker the ability to assess if the horse is in a physical state that a tree should be fit to it. Suddenly it is not so overwelming. Orientation is found by looking at the horses base of neck relative to the point of hip. The saddles oreintation should be directly opposite the horses. Not so hard.

Now lets take the human catagory. Like the horse they must be straight and using their ring muscles. Then we have to throw in hieght and wieght but these things are easily taken care of with seat size and fender leangth. Lastly we have the most important varable in the human which is the philosophical mind set.

There has been batle between two major philosophies since the beginning of horsemanship. The two philosophies are Jineta and Brida. Jineta is what we would call a balanced seat today. Part of this mind set is that the horse is a partner and the equipment is designed for communication. Brida is the seat that evolved from Joiusting. Legs forward butt plastered against the saddle. Jineta saddles evolved into western saddles

and Brida saddles evolved into English saddles. However today the philosophies are very mixed together and you will find both seats in english and western. In western saddlery we used to call Brida saddles parade saddles and Jineta saddles work saddles. Here Dusty lies one of your greatest confusions you ar putting brida seats in work saddles so it is no wonder you are drawing the conclusions you are drawing. If you become deliberate in your seat shapes your perspective will quickly change. Your concepts on the cincching will also alter greatly. If you choose Brida over Jineta then you are right saddle fit is not part of your reality. But for those of use who choose Jineta it is. I accept this as an age old battle and respect your right to pursue your Brida reality. I however, stand firmly in the world of Jineta.

Lastly we have the a variables in the saddle . These are all defined by the shapes created by the variable in the horse and human. First the tree the bars have twist rock and flair and they are combined by

the front and back arches to create the saddles orientation. Then we have seat size which will be dictated by the humans shape and thier riding philosphy. The fender shape and leangth will be dictated by the same.

So it really isn't an impossible situation when you have the right paradigems to work from. You have preconditions to saddle fit. The horse must be straight and properly using it's ring of muscles and like wise with the human or there will be problems. The saddle must accomadate the varaibles in both. There are a limited number of ribcage shapes in horses which becomes very apparent when you learn to see just the rib cage and don't let the rest of the horses conformation confuse you.

The electronic pads could be good tool but I agree that they get miss used. In fact I made public statements to that effect at many expos so was I challenged by one of the companies to demonstrate during one of thier demos. I went first and had to say what the readind would be. Now I couldn't tell the pounds per inch but I didn't miss a hot spot then I took it one step further and and showed how to make it even which the folks with pad had no clue how to do. So in those few minutes I demonstrated to several hundred people that I had the knowledge that could actually help them and thier horse.

One of my mentors ,Dan Crates, alwasy said " The second you start believeing your own publicity your in trouble."

David Genadek

I'm with Blake on the spell check, although it usually pops up a message that says "We Have No Clue What Your Trying to Spell" Does anyone else get that message

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When I use spell check in Microsoft word it says " your kidding right? I dont have that kinda time."

Edited by Romey

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What's wrong with the spell check, guys? I'm not seeing any problems, so I need to know if something isn't working right on your end. Send me a PM so we don't clutter this interesting thread.

Johanna

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Then the real question is how do we use spell check? Where is it? Hey we are a bunch of leather heads. :smashcomp::smashcomp: David Genadek

What's wrong with the spell check, guys? I'm not seeing any problems, so I need to know if something isn't working right on your end. Send me a PM so we don't clutter this interesting thread. Johanna

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David,

Wow! Gosh! Gee willikers, am I impressed! Apparently (according to you) I have wasted half a century of saddlemaking and deluded hundreds of working cowboys, saddle students and dedicated pleasure riders. I must also be leading many others astray with over 80,000 books and videos that I have sold, eh?

I didn’t say anything to insult anyone on this forum but you have to start out with insults , i.e. “fuzzy though processâ€Â. Did anyone ever point out that you can learn more by courtesy than by confrontation? This last posting of yours harks back to what I said before about egos. Discussion with people who are only trying to impress is a waste of time.

Enjoy your mental masturbation. This ignorant old saddlemaker is done wasting time with egomaniacs.

Adios.

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"Wow! Gosh! Gee willikers, am I impressed! Apparently (according to you) I have wasted half a century of saddlemaking and deluded hundreds of working cowboys, saddle students and dedicated pleasure riders. I must also be leading many others astray with over 80,000 books and videos that I have sold, eh?"

Thatd be my guess

"I didn’t say anything to insult anyone on this forum but you have to start out with insults , i.e. “fuzzy though processâ€Â.

Uh yea you did

"I must also be leading many others astray with over 80,000 books and videos that I have sold, eh?"

To quote you "Discussion with people who are only trying to impress is a waste of time."

Personally Your the only one trying to tell the rest of the world we are wrong and who knows perhaps everyone but you is wrong, Ill accept that if its, try and kindly ask you to teach me but I damn well know you wouldnt be talking down to me to do nor should you to anyone else on this or any forum.

Everyone here is good people with a crap load of points of views and we try to bounce ideas of leather making and various crafts off each other. Your the only one i ever seen tell someone they were wrong. Talking down to folks isnt a very good way of teaching. As for impressing of years, I showed your post to a 82 year old saddlemaker friend who started in 1945 and he laughed at your "years" and your views of fitting" He had a bunch to say but ill digress

Sir, nothing here got personal until you made it personal. If I in anyway offened you, or anyone else on this forum in previous posts I stongly apologize. If anyone feels I need removed do to speaking my mind, well so be it.

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Well OK, that will be one vote for bars and bar patterns apparently don't matter much. For those still with us, the thread about bars and bottoms is still available for viewpoints and discussion. :whatdoyouthink:

Bruce Johnson

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i'm with rose...david, romey, and dusty...be civil or don't post...it's ok to have a discussion or disagreement...but keep it on task...we'll chalk the current "digressions" up to a heated debate...but if you continue down the path you're going on...then "we" will have to take action...please check your tone and continue in a civil manner

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Everyone here is good people with a crap load of points of views and we try to bounce ideas of leather making and various crafts off each other. Talking down to folks isnt a very good way of teaching.

Romey made a very good point- and I hope we can all get on with discussing the subject rather than ridiculing each other. I don't know much about horses and saddles, but many of you do. Please, guys, teach me and all the others here, what you know, and why you chose to do things the way you do. Everyone in this thread has valuable experience to share, so please quit fighting and start explaining, so that newbies like me can understand, and everyone else can learn a thing or two. I don't expect anyone to agree, but we're not helping any horses if we all throw our suckers in the sand and stomp off of the playground.

:begging::thankyou:

Johanna

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To try to compile what has been said here:

1.) The reason we even talk about saddle fit is that we are all concerned that we don't hurt the horse because we ride him, and that we want our equipment to avoid getting in his way to let him do his job the best he can.

2.) The things that have been mentioned that can affect the fit positively or negatively are:

The rider - how they sit, their size and weight

The padding - dirty, wrinkled, amount

The horse - his condition, his age, the way he uses his body (collection, straightness, etc.), a build that cannot properly carry a saddle

The saddle - ground seat construction and orientation, rigging position and straightness

The cinch - size, materials

The tree - bar types, sizes, orientation, etc. (The bar factors are being looked at on the Bars and Bottoms thread.)

Playing the diplomat, I would agree that everyone is right in these things. They all play a part in "not hurting the horse". To this list, I would also add:

Cinching way too tightly for way too long.

Sitting for long periods on a horse without allowing him to move, which can happen at ropings, clinics, etc. This can have the same effect on his back that sitting on a hard wooden bench for hours without being allowed to wiggle a bit has on your butt.

Accessories such as breast collars or cruppers used incorrectly to hold the saddle in a position for which it was not intended.

My question for everyone would be: What other factors or influences of these factors have other people seen to cause problems with saddle fit?

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My question for everyone would be: What other factors or influences of these factors have other people seen to cause problems with saddle fit?

It may have been brought up before but bad, ok perhaps not completely bad but sometimes poorly thought out breeding practices and for sure lower quality horsemanship skills and or knowledge I beleive is a contributing factor but thats getting a bit off topic.

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I think that I would add how the horse is trimmed or shod.

Blake

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Thanks for adding to the list.

Romey, You are not off topic. I think that was a lot of Dusty's point in his first post: the rider and the way the horse is ridden plays a big role in how the pressure on the horse's back is distributed, which is what saddle fit is all about anyway.

Blake, Could you please expand more on how the trimming or shoeing affects saddle fit?

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