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One Saddle Fits All?

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  • Jeremy beale saddles
  • Good enough saddle

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  • 1 Post By kitten_Val
  • 3 Post By unclearthur
  • 1 Post By Skyseternalangel
  • 2 Post By bsms
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    06-18-2012, 12:45 PM
  #1
Showing
One Saddle Fits All?

I want to share the article I received via e-mail from Trumbull Mountain Tack Store (please, read here One Saddle Fits All? - The Saddle Fitters Blog ).

************************************************** ***

We truly do live in the “Information Age.” You can type pretty much anything into your favorite Internet search engine, and within seconds, you’ll probably get thousands of results. But if you’ve ever spent much time looking for information this way, you’ll know that some information is accurate, some information is a bit less accurate, and some “information” is outright propaganda … and it can be difficult to determine which is which.

One area in which a lot of “information” exists is the realm of changeable gullet and adjustable tree saddles. As you know if you’ve read my “More Than Width” series of articles, tree width is only one part of the “holy trinity” of saddle fitting – a very important part, yes, but by no means the only part. However, if you look into changeable gullet and adjustable tree saddles, you’d think that being able to change the width of your saddle tree was the be-all and end-all. Here’s a sample of the info available from some of the saddle companies that offer that option:
“This system is completely user friendly and allows the rider to adjust the saddle to fit almost any type of horse …”
“… Change your saddle’s fit to suit your horse’s changing shape …”
“The rider can modify the width of the tree using any of our adjustable gullet plates … The tree can perfectly adapt itself to the withers and back of any horse.”
“… Allows a single saddle to custom fit all your horses …”
“The adjustable gullet plate allows the saddle to be changed … to allow for growth in your horse.”


Before I go any further, let me very clearly state that I’m not denigrating these saddles in any way – we sell them here at the shop, and if they’re used properly, they can be a wonderful option. But in the interest of full disclosure, let’s looks at the facts.


First, this is what changing the gullet or adjusting the tree of a saddle WILL do.
  • It will change the width at the front of the saddle, in the pommel/tree point area.
  • It will make the channel between the panels slightly wider in the front one-quarter to one-third of the length.
Here are a couple photos of an older Laser adjustable tree saddle. Keep in mind that this is an older saddle, and in its heyday it might have gone wider or narrower … but I didn’t want to force the issue! In this first photo, the tree is as wide as I could make it go:

When the saddle is at its widest, the width between the front panels/tree points is almost 8”.
Now here’s the Laser as narrow as I could make it go:

At this setting, the width between the panels/tree points is about 6”. The approximate 2” difference translates to roughly two and a half tree widths (the average difference between widths in UK-made saddles being about 3/4” or 2 cm.) – say, a narrow to an x-wide.
On a changeable gullet saddle, the measurements won’t be exactly the same, the principle holds. The front gets wider, but not much else changes.


Now, let’s take a look at what changing the gullet or adjusting the tree will NOT do:
  • It will not change the type of the tree (regular to hoop or Freedom head, for example) or the breadth across the top of the pommel arch.
  • It will not change the overall front-to-back curve or “rocker” of the tree.
  • It will not change the placement of the panels.
  • It will not change the panel configuration.
  • It will not change the width of the channel in the rear 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the saddle.
This means that if the tree shape/type and panel configuration are basically correct and width is the only thing that needs to be addressed, then being able to alter the width will probably make the saddle fit. But if those two pieces of the puzzle aren’t right, you can switch out plates or adjust the tree until the cows come home, and the saddle still won’t fit … no matter what the ad copy may say.


While these saddles aren’t the magic bullet that a lot of people would like you to believe, they ARE a great choice in certain circumstances. If you have a horse that goes in and out of condition regularly, being able to change the tree width can save you a lot of fiddling with shims and correction pads. (In fact, the originator of the adjustable tree, Maj. Jeremy Beale, designed the saddle to accommodate the changes in condition that his event horses went through in the course of a year.) Other helpful options are the “conformation specific” models that Kent & Masters and Thorowgood make – the Standard, the Broadback/Cob, and the High-Wither. Each model has fitting options in panel and tree that are geared toward its “target” conformation, so you can better accommodate what your horse will need in terms of tree shape and panel configuration as well as width. Additionally, these saddles have wool-flocked panels, so a knowledgeable fitter can make adjustments in the flocking to help further customize the fit.


Will these saddles fit every horse and cure every saddle fitting problem under the sun? No. But then, that’s true of ANY saddle, no matter how expensive or popular. These offer a degree of flexibility and an eye toward more than just width that can make them a very valid choice for some pretty challenging backs.
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    06-19-2012, 06:41 AM
  #2
Yearling
How true. Manufacturers and retailers do talk an awful lot of b...rubbish, sometimes.

Reminds me of those customers who say 'I used to have a saddle that fitted everything' to which I usually reply 'It's a shame you don't still have it, then.' ;)
     
    06-19-2012, 06:43 AM
  #3
Showing
Yeah I stay away from "one size fits all" across the board. For horses.. no. And for people.. no.

One size does not fit all!!

Good article :)
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    06-19-2012, 09:57 AM
  #4
Trained
I both agree and disagree with the article. For perfect saddle fit, it is correct. For 'good enough' saddle fit...hmmm....

Most folks around here are recreational riders who may get in a half hour ride during the week, and then a 2 hour trail ride on a week-end. My horses are ridden more than that, but they still fall in the 'good enough fit' category. I don't jump or rope or spend 12 hours on them.

It is like shoes for me. I'm very particular about my running shoes, but my regular 'loaf around the house' sneakers are whatever is cheap. The wrong running shoe causes me problems, but loafing around the house? Cheap works for that!

I have 2 Bates: an AP & a close contact. I ought to sell the AP. The curve (rock, I believe) of the saddles are different, and the AP will never fit any of my 3 horses very well. It is a flatter panel front-rear. The close contact has just the right amount of curve (for my horses). By changing the gullet, I can get a saddle that fits any of my 3 horses enough to make them act happy & give me even sweat marks. That includes my 13 hand no wither mustang and my 15.2-3 high wither Arabian mare.

I will say that I find changing gullets a huge pain in the rear, so I set it for whatever horse and leave it for a year or so...

I ride an Aussie-style saddle about 90% of the time now. I'd love interchangeable gullets with it, but I think only Bates does that, and I'm too cheap or poor to spend $2000+ on another saddle.

I'm a fan of interchangeable gullets, but they are NOT, as the article makes clear, a cure-all.
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    06-19-2012, 10:10 AM
  #5
Started
I have to agree with the above poster. I too have Bates saddles, and have had good success with them with the CAIR panels. I found that if I moved up in levels of riding, eventually the more technical we got, the less the bates worked for some of my specific horses' needs, and I started to need a more detailed fit per horse. However, for YEARS (10+) the bates with the CAIR (i have older saddles - not the new made in vietnam bates) has worked well enough to fit my horses reasonably and comfortably without causing any major issues.

Will it fit as well as a Voltaire or some other custom saddle? No, absolutely not. However will it fit better than an HDR or some other slightly lower-end/less expensive saddle? Sure. And for my budget, number of horses I own and ride, and my needs, the bates worked for me for many years. Actually I have so many that i'm selling my AP and my Isabell and hanging on to the Wintec (for trails) and the cc.
     
    06-19-2012, 10:23 AM
  #6
Ink
Weanling
Interesting. I think Collegiate is changing their adjustable gullet saddles so that you can adjust the panels as well. Or at least that's what the people at 123 tack told me when I called them about the saddle I had ordered and still hadn't shipped almost a month later. It worked out well for me since I needed to cancel the order due to some unexpected bills popping up. I kinda wish I'd gotten to check it out though.
     
    06-19-2012, 10:26 AM
  #7
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
I both agree and disagree with the article. For perfect saddle fit, it is correct. For 'good enough' saddle fit...hmmm....

Most folks around here are recreational riders who may get in a half hour ride during the week, and then a 2 hour trail ride on a week-end. My horses are ridden more than that, but they still fall in the 'good enough fit' category. I don't jump or rope or spend 12 hours on them.

It is like shoes for me. I'm very particular about my running shoes, but my regular 'loaf around the house' sneakers are whatever is cheap. The wrong running shoe causes me problems, but loafing around the house? Cheap works for that!

I have 2 Bates: an AP & a close contact. I ought to sell the AP. The curve (rock, I believe) of the saddles are different, and the AP will never fit any of my 3 horses very well. It is a flatter panel front-rear. The close contact has just the right amount of curve (for my horses). By changing the gullet, I can get a saddle that fits any of my 3 horses enough to make them act happy & give me even sweat marks. That includes my 13 hand no wither mustang and my 15.2-3 high wither Arabian mare.

I will say that I find changing gullets a huge pain in the rear, so I set it for whatever horse and leave it for a year or so...

I ride an Aussie-style saddle about 90% of the time now. I'd love interchangeable gullets with it, but I think only Bates does that, and I'm too cheap or poor to spend $2000+ on another saddle.

I'm a fan of interchangeable gullets, but they are NOT, as the article makes clear, a cure-all.
Subtle difference, bsms - your running shoe is an interface between one organic-dynamic and one inorganic-static surface; your saddle between two organic-dynamics. Whilst you're quite right about 'good enough' fit the problem is where you draw the line, and that's very individual.

Most professionally fitted saddles are only 'good enough'; because horses (and riders) change from month to month they can only really be guaranteed to fit on the day, and of course 'guaranteed' only means a stationary horse.

There's no real answer - I wish there was. An eminent (ex British Team) vet once said in a lecture the best one could hope for when fitting a saddle was 'to minimise interference with the horse.'

Good enough, eh?
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