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post #1001 of 3233 Old 04-22-2017, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Hondo View Post
...As far as a lion on a horse's back for killing, Buck also says the same in the documentary about him. Since neither of us have spent a great deal of time watching lion and horse's interactions I supposed it's up to who one decides to believe...

...The picture you posted shows it all too well. Western bars are supposed to have a larger area. Well, they do. But in the picture, how much of that area is touching the horse at the swell??...
1 - Buck was full of it, too. George Adamson's wife wrote "Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds". He spent much of his remaining life teaching tame lions to live and hunt in the wild. He probably watched lions killing game at least 10,000 times more often than Buck or Schleese.






I wouldn't have asked George Adamson for riding lessons, but I sure wouldn't argue with him about how lions hunt...

2 - A saddle tree resting on top of the horse has almost no pressure on it. The slight curve, along with the flaring at the tips, is meant to allow muscles to slide under the tree when the horse is in motion. The bars also have leather underneath them and then (typically) wool felt. You do NOT want a perfectly flat contact because that would cause gouging when the muscles move.

To know how it works in motion, pressure pads give us our best glimpse. However, as the horse and rider move, the pressure does not remain a constant. Any read-out is just a snapshot. But a continuous readout will still show a western saddle distributing weight well, if the saddle fits and is placed right.

When the Army searched for saddles to use, western saddles were ignored. In part, that was because a lot of Army types in the US didn't like cowboys or how they rode. As much as I like some of Gen Harry Chamberlin's writing, he despised cowboys and western riding. But the other factor was cost - the US Army wanted a CHEAP, mass-produced saddle, and western saddles were far more expensive than what the Army eventually adopted.

But I find it hard to get around the evidence of my eyes: Lots of horses are ridden many miles and many years by big, heavy guys in western saddles...successfully. When I switched Mia from an Australian saddle to a western one, she obviously liked it - based on how happily she would do a sitting trot in one. And THAT one was actually a very poor fit.

As a former British Cavalry officer noted:

"Chenevix_Trench_A History of Horsemanship

"Modern European horsemen, brought up to the 'balanced seat', have plenty to say against the old fashioned Western stock-saddle. The rider's weight is placed too far back; the saddle is useless for what foxhunters call 'riding across country', since one cannot jump with it and merely climbing a steep bank one is butted in the midriff by the horn as one leans forward...But these criticisms of the old stock saddle are the objections of ignorance, and are usually voiced by people who have tried to ride with a bent leg on a saddle not designed for it. A hundred and thirty years ago nearly everyone in Europe and North America - cowpunchers, foxhunters, soldiers - rode with a more or less straight leg, the feet rather far forward, leaning rather far back: any hunting or military print proves the point. The weight-distributing stock-saddle was admirably designed for its purpose and for the contemporary seat...

...In moments of crisis he can grab the horn; even the best riders do not disdain this help when, for instance, a cutting-horse whips around at full gallop; it is a great deal better than hanging on by the reins. Above all, by distributing the rider's weight, the stock saddle is perfect for long distance riding.

A few statistics bear this out. And Australian stockman, on an American stock-saddle, without changing horses rode from Murray River to Melbourne, 143 miles by the route taken, in twenty six hours. A constable of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, on a forty-two pound stock-saddle, rode from Regina to Wood Mountain Post, 132 miles by sunlight, without changing horses, and his horse bucked him off at the finish. Most of the Mounted Police constables and ranch-hands moving between Fort Macleod and Calgary in the 1890s covered the distance, 108 miles, in a day. Kit Carson with a party of five Mexican gentlemen rode from Los Angeles to San Francisco, 600 miles, in six days, and only two of the party changed horses.
" (Pages 225-226)"

Not saying anyone needs to switch to a western saddle, or that it is the end all of saddles. But they are not bad designs, nor do they simulate a lion biting a horse on the withers, and they do NOT put pressure along the spine. Too many millions of horses have moved too athletically and had long service lives using western saddles.

It is like the argument about riding with or without contact: Millions of horses have been ridden well and contentedly both ways, so maybe both work fine when done right.

Either way, if either Buck or Schleese want me to take them seriously, they need to knock off the nonsense about lions and focus on saddles that fit, not saddle styles. There are far too many variables in any given saddle / rider / horse to make blanket statements.
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post #1002 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 12:03 AM
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Fact: A western saddle tree sitting on a horse has less contact area than a properly flocked english saddle. A properly flocked english saddle only needs a thin pad to protect the leather from sweat. The only reason a western saddle tree works at all is due to a heavy leather skirt fleeced on the bottom with a 3/4" to 1" pad in between. A bare tree would gall a horse in minutes.

Fact: If a horse shows preference to a western saddle with a heavy rug over an english saddle that simply means the english saddle did not fit and needed a heavy rug also.

Fact: The western and military saddle was not designed to fit "A" horse. It was designed to be pulled off a dead horse and thrown upon the nearest horse available. I agree with their design for those purposes.

Fact: Hondo gives me a huge amount of effort. Freely. I enjoy him enormously. I cannot even express it adequately. He is not a war horse or demand working horse. He is MY horse. He will get the best I am able to give and it will NOT be an off the shelf western saddle with a compromised fit.

Gullet width, gullet slope, twist from gullet to 18th, rock (dip in the back). These are not normally even advertised variables when purchasing a western saddle. The chances of getting a combination that actually fits a horse is small indeed.

If the horse has a long wide back with a light rider and saddle, a compromise may work. But with a 14 hh horse like Hondo with a short back to boot, there can be no compromise.

That said, there are a few situations where saddle fit just doesn't matter that much.


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post #1003 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 12:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo View Post
Fact: A western saddle tree sitting on a horse has less contact area than a properly flocked english saddle. A properly flocked english saddle only needs a thin pad to protect the leather from sweat. The only reason a western saddle tree works at all is due to a heavy leather skirt fleeced on the bottom with a 3/4" to 1" pad in between. A bare tree would gall a horse in minutes.
not sure where you got that information. it's not a matter so much of size as type. look at the 'fork' of an English saddle and you will see why it needs more padding there. but, I had always heard the exact opposite of what you posted; that the Western saddle has more weight bearing surfaceon the hrose , regarless of the skirt.
Fact: If a horse shows preference to a western saddle with a heavy rug over an english saddle that simply means the english saddle did not fit and needed a heavy rug also.

Fact: The western and military saddle was not designed to fit "A" horse. It was designed to be pulled off a dead horse and thrown upon the nearest horse available. I agree with their design for those purposes.
never heard this. Western saddles came about more as the entire method for containing/selecting livestock changed from the European way, using a long pole with a 'noose' on the end, to one of having the cowboy swing a rope and secure the end to the horn. and THAT is becuase of the much greater distances cowboys travelled. not going to go all over the country with a long pole in your hand.
Fact: Hondo gives me a huge amount of effort. Freely. I enjoy him enormously. I cannot even express it adequately. He is not a war horse or demand working horse. He is MY horse. He will get the best I am able to give and it will NOT be an off the shelf western saddle with a compromised fit.that's how most of us feel.

Gullet width, gullet slope, twist from gullet to 18th, rock (dip in the back). These are not normally even advertised variables when purchasing a western saddle. The chances of getting a combination that actually fits a horse is small indeed.so true.

If the horse has a long wide back with a light rider and saddle, a compromise may work. But with a 14 hh horse like Hondo with a short back to boot, there can be no compromise.

That said, there are a few situations where saddle fit just doesn't matter that much.


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post #1004 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 01:08 AM
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The below is just FWIW:

Did read quite a bit on Len Brown before buying his pad. One of the worst experiences/worst things he did (in his own words and view) was designing saddles for a mounted police unit that contoured to each horse's back perfectly (keep in mind, this was with using his orthoflex tree, which flexed and moved with the horse). The horses were miserable beyond words when this was done. Sore, behavioral problems, lowered performance, etc. As soon as they went back to their old saddles, the horses were fine.

I don't think that a saddle which conforms to a horse's back perfectly is the answer. Horse's backs move and change in motion, especially the spine/back which lifts when a horse moves especially up into gaits such as trot and canter. I wouldn't have believed it, unless I physically saw it happen. It was easy to spot on my shark withered, long backed mare.

As far as saddles go, it really does depend on the amount of riding being done in them on a particular horse. In western, you can get away with a not so great fit for short periods of time and thick pads, riding infrequently. Maybe english too with a thick enough pad, but I just feel from personal experience that english saddles have a tendency to dig more than western.

If I could get the same close contact feel, light weight, and comfortable seat for me, I might ride western. I am very happy in my dressage though.
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post #1005 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 02:42 AM
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Hondo, your facts are not facts. A bare western tree would take longer to hurt a horse than a bare English tree, but both are irrelevant since no one rides a horse in either a bare western or English tree.

Does this weight distribution look like the outline of a western tree?



No, and it is not even symmetrical because how the horse and rider interact with the saddle, while in motion, changes the reading. Which side of the back the horse is using most, how the rider sits (on crotch? On pockets? Leaning left, as I tend to do due to a long ago back injury?), how the rider moves with a horse - all of that plays a part.

As the Nikkels note: "(By the way, you will notice that there isnít totally even pressure under the saddle in any of these examples. The reason for that is that there isnít ever totally even pressure under a saddle. And the areas or pressure are constantly changing and shifting, even on a horse standing still, just due to their breathing. Whatís higher now is lower now Ė and in about that kind of time frame too. Thatís just the real world, which is why the pressure sensing equipment, while a great step forward in learning about how saddles work on horses, still has a lot of limitations when it comes to being practical for research purposesÖ)"

Notice in this one, the legs are a big part of the weight distribution - even with a western saddle:



Center of pressure under a saddle

But a few things are obvious: Weight tends to be carried more to the front than rear, and in fact, the rear of a western saddle has very little weight on it. Since Bandit has a pretty flat back, I like to sit the saddle further back than most recommend. It is common, in looking at pressure pad readings, to see spikes near the front. That matches what I've felt with my hand slid under the saddle pad, and the muscles of the shoulder pushing back and getting pressure as they push underneath the front. But then, that isn't a constant pressure either.

Still, Bandit has plenty of shoulder and rides better - works more eagerly and with more oomph in his stride - when I position the saddle about 2" behind where most say to put it. But I don't know how anyone can look at a lot of pressure read-outs involving western saddles and conclude there is a problem with pressure on the loin, or pressure near the spine. One of the constants is pressure maps is the LACK of pressure in either area with a western saddle.

The idea that an English saddle is superior due to flocking is pretty far-fetched. English saddles have internal flocking, adjustable by a fitter. Western saddles have external 'flocking' - the saddle pad - which can be changed easily by any rider. The saddle tree has padding either way. Just one is internal and one is external. And if I had to choose between them, I like the external flocking that I can swap out in seconds, replace, adjust with a folded towel, etc.

There are good reasons to prefer an English saddle, but their flocking isn't one of them. They have a narrower twist, it is easier to feel the motion of the muscles, and years ago, riding Mia like this, the only thing between me and my horse was often my jeans, which often ended a ride with our mixed sweat soaking them:



Years ago, maura - an HF moderator I deeply respected and sorely miss - said she felt more secure in a jump saddle than a western saddle. I can understand that, then and now.

"Fact: The western and military saddle was not designed to fit "A" horse. It was designed to be pulled off a dead horse and thrown upon the nearest horse available."

No. I've read far too many manuals and autobiographies of cavalrymen and cowboys to swallow that argument. The cavalry tried to buy horses of a certain size and shape. But both the cavalry and cowboys understood how to adjust saddle blankets to compensate, and both took seriously the need to keep their horses functional. The standard cavalry field load for a horse was 250 lbs, and they routinely rode them 20-30 miles a day. In war, often enough covering 250 miles in under a week. And when done with good husbandry, it worked.

"He will get the best I am able to give and it will NOT be an off the shelf western saddle with a compromised fit."

Well, I had a semi-custom saddle made, so I'm not exactly in the "just throw something on their back and let them suffer" camp. But our off-the-shelf Abetta with semi-quarter horse bars actually fits my horses well.

And when I run, or hike, my shoes are not custom shoes. Pretty much any 8D men's shoe will fit me close enough, once broken in. I always have a callous on the side of my big toes, so I suppose none of them have fit me perfectly...but good enough.

At some point, reality needs to be looked at. Lots of horses have been ridden lots of miles with jump saddles or dressage saddles, without harm. Lots of western horses have been ridden very large numbers of miles, with big guys and a load of other gear on them, without harm. And, of course, I can put the wrong saddle on Bandit tomorrow and have him get irritable fast. Put Cowboy's saddle on about 2 inches too far forward, and he'll start bucking when you mount. Slide the saddle back, and he's carried me willingly on 3 hour rides - and he's a 13.0 hand pony!

And Trooper still has the spots he got in a few months on a ranch in Colorado:



I frequently ride with one of these in my rear pocket (closed, of course). The hoof pick knife is a great tool to ride with:



That would be pretty painful if I rode my western saddle the way a lot of people (including the instructor I had) said - on my pockets. But since I don't, I don't even notice them. It is one of the uncounted variables in riding. How steep is the cantle? How wide the twist? As it changes how the rider rides, it affects weight distribution. Do you put weight in the stirrups, or not? Do you lean? Do you post? When catering, are you steady in the saddle or scooping (as some people teach to do)?

Do whatever you want with Hondo, but I see no evidence that every horse needs a custom built saddle - or is ridden by an uncaring rider, otherwise.

BTW - a local Border Patrol unit was having problems with their horses. They called a person I know to review things. She walked in, and one of the first things she found was that saddles were assigned to RIDERS, not HORSES. She had them assign the HORSES individual saddles, and the problems went away overnight.
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post #1006 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 02:53 AM
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A few years ago, on a few of our "three hour tours" of the desert:







As we got near home, Cowboy started trotting - at his own initiative - up the hill. Doubt he'd have done that if he had been in pain. Our little tank is probably the best horse we own, but I'm really too big for him. Still - 3 hours, in the summer, with a 30 lb western saddle made for a 15.3 hand Arabian, on a horse who is willing to give sass - and no complaints. But he is one heck of a horse!
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post #1007 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 05:55 AM Thread Starter
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What a great topic.

I'm very interested to hear the opinions and rationale behind them.

Off topic, I read those Born Free books about the lions years ago, and enjoyed them.

My generalization is that western saddles tend to cause more problems at the front. I've not many horses sore in the loin area from being ridden in a poorly fitted western saddle, but I've seen many instances of atrophy around the withers. To me, people causing issues from the saddle sitting down on the withers is a no-brainer and there are no excuses for it. Too narrow in front is common, but many people seem oblivious to it. Even less obvious are issues at the back of the saddle, and those are more subtle and very common in english saddles. The back of a western saddle is more forgiving of angle issues and distributes pressure better. If an english saddle is too narrow in the panels, not flat enough for the horse's back, sits too far back on the loin, etc., the horse will get a sore back if you ride far enough and/or weigh enough.

I'm skeptical of any hard and fast rules for saddles, barring the obvious ones such as room for spinal clearance, rubbing or pressing into bones, etc. So much depends on the type of riding you do. I've had saddles that worked extremely well for one type of riding, but not for another. Other huge factors are your weight and build, and the horse's size and build.

For instance, I've heard to place the saddle farther back, and I've heard to place the saddle farther forward. Halla has a somewhat forward girth groove. Yet her barrel is fairly straight from front to back. So I can put a saddle back farther on her, and technically her girth might not be in the girth groove. But the saddle does not get pulled forward regardless, her shoulder is freed up, and it seems to work better with where the rider sits on her back in relation to her center of gravity.

With Amore, you have to put saddles farther forward. She has a tiny girth groove, and the girth has to sit in it or it will end up there anyway due to her light bulb shaped barrel. If a saddle gets on her shoulder or over her withers, she will buck. So there is one place a saddle can go, and if it doesn't fit perfectly it won't stay there. You just cannot ride her in a saddle that doesn't fit well. Any saddle that fit her poorly enough to where it would cause her any pain, would not even sit on her back well enough to ride in. So she's never been more than very minorly sore from a saddle. Yet we have had to abandon rides because I've tried saddles that didn't fit. They'd end up on her neck, and we'd quit. Her shoulders are perfectly flat, and her withers are barely visible, so either the saddle fits perfectly over her rounded barrel and cinches down, or else it shoots off her front end.

In my experience, there are different kinds of saddle fitting worries. First, before I get on any horse, I see if the saddle fits "good enough." That means I can't see any obvious big issues. If there are any, I won't get on. But many horses are ridden in saddles that mostly fit well, you can't see problems obviously, and then you look for the behavioral signs. A saddle might look OK, but the horse will have problems with being ridden, and then I know there is something wrong that I can't see. Problems going forward, bucking, rearing, stilted movement, sometimes these obviously come from the saddle. I believe over time I've developed a feel for this.

This seems to be something people have some trouble sorting out, and it can be tricky. But the problems come from the locomotion, the saddle/back, or the brain. If it's the legs, the gait won't be pure. A horse affected by saddle fit is not going to feel like they are mincing with their front legs (tender hooves), or favoring a leg, etc. You can feel when it's the saddle because the horse has an initial drive to go forward, and then they seem to get held up. Then they buck or move hunched up, or short stride.

These issues are fairly easy to get past, for me personally. The saddle gets rejected because the horse says it's not feeling good, and we move on. The harder issues for me are the ones relating to my personal use of the saddle on a particular horse. The saddle fits good enough, and the horse moves out well and doesn't object. But when I take the saddle off I see ruffled hairs from movement, dry spots under the stirrup bars, or the panel sweat marks don't sit evenly on either side of the spine. After long and hard rides, I can find a little tenderness when I palpate the back the next day. Would any horse be sore in any saddle in this case? ...After all, I'm sore from exercising. So is it normal? Or could I improve on it with an ideal saddle fit? Those are the things that bother me and I keep trying to minimize, but they are very difficult to eradicate. I know that many people would believe their horse had no issues or soreness, and it's only a lot of experience over long and hard rides that makes me even know how to look for it. But since I can find it, it bothers me.

My biggest ideal would be to find a dressage saddle with an ideal balance for heavy two pointing. I think my saddle is "fine," judging by my horse's well developed back muscles. I've tried various pads but am not satisfied yet.
If I didn't ride such a strong horse, I'd use my treeless all the time. My horses obviously feel great with it on their backs, and it has the best pressure distribution for someone my size without poking anywhere. But you give up the solid platform you might need to get through to a strong galloping horse like Halla, so I use my dressage saddle much more often.
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post #1008 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 11:24 AM
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I agree with your entire post, gottatrot! It mirrors what I've seen, word for word.

With Mia, the saddle would slide into whatever spot it matched, as the Nikkels say happens. But on Bandit, I can put it anywhere and it doesn't shift. Was Mia a little more downhill? Was it the shape of her barrel? I had been taught to shift the saddle a little to find where it settled, and that is what I did with Mia. But a very nice conformation feature of Bandit is that I can shift it almost anywhere on his back, and it stays there. I suspect that makes it easier to find a saddle that 'fits' Bandit than Mia.

Cowboy has the disappearing shoulders problem. Yeah, he's a bit chubby. But I can stand next to him, with no saddle, and struggle to feel just where his shoulder is. The best test seems to be this: Mount up. If he refuses to move, or bucks, dismount and move the saddle back 2-4 inches. Mount up and he'll do fine. He has learned to trust his riders to listen, so he'll give a couple of small bucks of protest and then wait for his rider to fix the problem.

But how many of his lesson horse issues were due to students bringing their own saddles (of who knows what size) and tossing it on a 13.0 hand pony with a hard to fit back?

Cowboy, next to my 5'2" wife:



Bandit:



Both will do fine in Semi-QH Bar saddles, but saddle placing is crucial with Cowboy and flexible with Bandit. I've tried what the Nikkels say about letting the shoulder slide under the leading edge of the tree...and while Bandit won't balk, he's more eager when the saddle is about 3" further back. When I saddle him, he frequently has one front leg toward the front (and thus that shoulder blade toward the rear). I now try to put the front edge of the skirt at the rear of that shoulder blade. Trial and error indicates that will give us a good ride.

Still, a different rider could get a different pressure reading if they rode Bandit in Mia's saddle, just because they rode a little different than I do. I will say this: If I ever buy another saddle, I will insist on no more than 3/4 rigging. Even 7/8 rigging tends to constrict the front end, IMHO.

I've argued before that there are people who listen to horses, and people who do not, and that there seems to be limited ability to teach someone to listen. Those who listen become passionate about saddle fit because HORSES care about saddle fit. We might not all come to the same conclusions, but people who listen to their horses will TRY to get a good match. The folks who don't listen will just wonder why their horse acts unhappy...if, that is, they even notice.
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post #1009 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 11:33 AM
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@horseluvr2524 I did read about Orthoflexes problems a couple of years ago. That may have persuaded me away from the Corrector. With your success, I need to go back and re-read up on it.

What you say here is the important part: "All I can say is that I can now easily slide my hand between pad and horse even with a fully tightened saddle on. Shan has been so happy with it, and I have seen her topline develop so nicely, that I just say 'if it ain't broke I ain't fixing it!'. lol.

@All; At this point whether a lion or stallion bites the horse's thoracic trapezius is really unimportant to me. I'm just glad I believed it which put me on a more proactive course for that area which has been a great benefit to Hondo.

@tinyliny That the western saddle tree has more surface area on the bars has become a holy grail for the western saddle in some quarters. And it cannot be disputed. It obviously does have more surface area.

But if one browses around on the American Saddle Makers Association on saddle design, particularly the bars, and begin to think not about total bar area but rather bar CONTACT area, the western saddle design begins to look not quite as good as when total area was more or less blindly being considered.

When one begins to look at the pressure points from mis-alignment of the bars, it gives one some pause. Also mentioned on the site is a too extreme curvature of the cross section of the bars causing a pressure point even in the center of the bar. And keep in mind that this site is by people who make and prefer western design.

Some if not most manufacturers of bars do put too much curve in the cross section of the bars. This is to prevent the edges of the bars from becoming pressure point due to mis-fit. The over curved center creates a larger area of pressure point than the edges of the bars.

@All; I have pondered quite a bit about a horse's shoulder sliding under the western bar. Maybe the horse doesn't notice and doesn't care but I just cannot get that fact wrapped around my head. Hondo has a lot of movement in that area and below that I do not want to impede.

A flocked saddle is the only saddle that truly fits a horse as it should. That said, I do not intend to go to a flocked saddle. There is no one in my area to adjust it properly and I do not have the expertise. That is the reason, among others, that I have decided to form my own bars for the trooper saddle. I really also like the idea of the hammock english seat but have never sat in one. We'll see.

@gottatrot I envy your experience and abilities to spot discomfort in horses. I'm beginning to notice more small things but I've a long way to go.

@All;

Off topic on another note. I put GC's back on Hondo's fronts yesterday with hind going on today. Just for fun I looked back in my records to see when it was last year that I first installed GC's on the front. April 23!

He has such thin soles that at the moment I have decided he needs to be shod full time for the rest of his life. He seemed to know he was getting GC's again and was SO cooperative I felt he was glad to be getting them. Probably all in my mind but it feels good to think that anyhow.
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post #1010 of 3233 Old 04-23-2017, 11:34 AM
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Just a thought...what would happen if I used a Vee-shaped rigging using both front and rear D-rings? I've never tried that before.
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