The shoulder movement thing is baloney. You can't tell me that jumpers don't need to use their shoulders fully, and jumping saddles sit far forward.
you are supposed to have a break or flex in the saddle flap in jumping saddles so when the horse pushes his shoulders back it does not pinch. If it pinches he will still jump though but he will probably hate you lol. Now as far as gaited horses go the top of the scapula is the main issue especially with ANY kind of western tree be cause the trees are very large and unforgiving. Also gaited trees and arabian saddles/trees are similar because both kinds of horses have a dainty and refined build and frame the bars usually need to be steep in one area or another and flared,shaved, or contoured around the shoulders another thing is the gullet sometimes these horses need a narrow gullet. But it depends some horses are more barreled shaped and less refined. With steep bars and narrow gullet it would very likely make a more barreled horse soar and restrict movement.
"Yes, gaited saddles are different because many gaited horses do have the need of more shoulder freedom. If they didn't then there wouldn't be any such thing as a gaited saddle."
Well, not really.
The idea that a gaited horse moving in a straight line needs more shoulder room than a working cow or cutting horse or an eventing horse doing four foot jumps does not compute for me. Any horse engaging in an athletic discipline and doing lateral movements or jumping needs adequate shoulder room. IMO there is no evidence that the gaited horse needs more than the working cow horse or the sport horse.
I fully agree with you on bits. The "bitting culture" within the gaited horse community in many places is almost medieval in the extreme power considered routine. It is absolutely true that the power of any bit lies primarily in the hands of the rider. It is also absolutely true that you can do much more damage with a lever than without one. Combining the long shank with the thin, wire mouthpiece is something I'd not wish upon on Death's Pale Horse.
Much of the "gaited horse world" is very insular in its practices. It recoils at the idea that what granddaddy did was not only cruel but often ineffective. This is independent of the very specific questions that arise in a specific breed (such as the discussions of the Big Lick practices).
My mare is centered to slightly diagonal in gait. Our stallion is very diagonal in gait. Our senior brood mare (who we put down at 31 years of age this last fall) was quite lateral. I have two saddles that work well with my current mare (a Stubben Scout and an M1902 British Yeomanry saddle). I've used the Stubben on all of our horses currently under saddle. Both were designed for a "sport horse conformation." Both work quite well with my Marchadors no matter the gait style. We participate in the National Cavalry Competition, foxhunt, trail ride, and do some mounted shooting on them. No "shoulder movement issues" have ever arisen.
I remain convinced that the "gaited horse saddle" is a "marketing effort" not an "operational type." Until I see evidence to the contrary I'll likely continue in my belief.
my walking horse does fine in english because the materiel breaks away from the shoulder and gives and I know if fits him because it does not slip and I don't have to tighten the girth so much. However I put a standard western on him with steeper bars and smaller gullet and cruised around and when I got off I noticed the saddle had slipped back significantly. These gaited horse saddles offer the right bars and gullets but you will still have to shop around to see if you need the bars straight or a little bit swayed. Ultimately the saddle should be narrowest around the 12 vertabre that's where you are supposed to sit and that is the strongest part of the back is also where the horse disperses weight evenly. Think of it like you have a spear or ball and when you pour water on top of it in the very center the water naturally moves evenly and smoothly down the entire surface of the ball and comes to the point of your fingers at the bottom. The 12 vertebrea also acts like the keystone in an arch its shaped in a way where it can withstand loads of pressure without wear and tear and it causes the weight to bear down towards the base of the foot of the arch not only does it distribute it is also load bearing and can support something like a bridge. That's how they built the colousem in rome. They stacked arches on top of one another via the key stone its like having the mcdonalds arches then putting antother arch on top of those in the middle so the feet stand on the keystones of the bottom arches therefore distributing weight to the ground and having a structure or horse that last a very long time.
Re: the walking horse bit. Yes, a form of medieval torture. I was brainwashed into using it. Now my horse goes behind the bit to avoid it. Wish I could go back and do differently. Now all I can do is try to soften him to a less severe bit.
With saddle fit, whatever is comfortable and fits your horse and you. Others have written plenty of good advice.
Bits - When it comes to gaited horses again, what works. What I have found is that curb bits help on gaited horses so don't be scared to try different ones. Those who go on about curb bits not being useful on gaited probably havn't ridden gated horses much. I ride my QH cutting/cowhorse horse out on the ranch on a loooooose rein, even at a flat gallop. I mostly use leg cues for direction. I also ride my TWH on the farm on a loose rein, at the canter or dog walk, and neck rein, and use leg cues the same on them. BUT if I want to gait well, I take up contact (on a curb bit) and hold my horse in frame to get the best flat walk, run walk or rack that that horse can do. Perhaps due to conformation imperfections they really need help with self carriage, ie they don't have it. The position of the back influences the quality and rhythm and steadiness of the gait. Particularly walking horses which have so many gears and so many gait options at any one moment some work must be done to put them just into one. The curb helps you communicate that, yes, I do want this amount of back flexion so you stay in a runningwalk both up and down hill when the horse would naturally become more rounded and trot uphill and hollow and rack or pace downhill. So I gait around with contact and need to constantly adjust to get a good gait and drop the reins and canter off or slow to a dog walk on a cutting horse type rein.
My TWH also does reining and is very responsive and neck reins - but I still need contact on a curb bit to get good gait and not a dogs breakfast.
I can see exactly why at a fast rack and particularly a speed rack contact is probably almost always essential. The same reason an overcheck rein up the front of the face, between the ears, to the saddle is used on harness racing horses, for them to lean on. Unlike classical dressage the horses back is flexed the other way at a speed rack with the nose forward and the back dorsiflexed (or is it ventroflexed?) or at least level back.
I can see exactly what the guys riding racking horses are on about when they talk about curb bits.
I am not trying to condone the 10" or 12" shank gag with a twisted wire mouthpiece . There must be something else going on, like uncomfortable on big pads or some other distracting stimulus to need that kind of hardware used that way on a horse (and I am all for spade bits used in the way they were invented to be used).