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Hi All,

My saddle fitter was out today and while looking at my Bates Caprilli noticed plastic falling out between the panel and the tree area back towards the cantle. The saddle is adjustable with Cair panels. She did not drop the panels for fear of causing more damage. She seemed to think that the plastic was the saddle tree falling apart. After she left I decided well if its broken and I cant use it, might as well take it apart anyway. I noticed that the tree looked intact and most of the plastic had fallen out leaving just staples and the odd screw.
I'd contacted the lady who sold it to me in the meantime. She got back to me fairly quickly. She claims that it is just a "spacer" that Bates puts in to hide the fact that the saddle comes apart to change the gullet and that it is not at all structural to the saddle. Just wondering if anyone has ever heard of this and if I should be concerned that my saddle is unsafe or hurting my horse.
 

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It depends on how old a saddle it is and how the rear panel fixes on. I'm pretty sure early Bates were similar to Wintecs in that there's a wire which runs through the rear panel roll which has a loop at each end. These screw-fix to a moulding on each side of the tree, behind the rear skirts where the panel gusset finishes. It's these mouldings which often fail and break up, a problem I've seen more often in Wintec saddles, to be fair. Usually the panel wire retaining screws are long enough so they stay in the tree plate, but loss of the supporting plastic can allow them to move up and down, which might eventually wear the holes enough for the screws to come out.

Later saddles still have the wire panel attachment - the rear panel sits over an angled moulding around the back of the tree which means it won't come off, providing the retaining screws hold - but they went through a phase of using a hook one side and a flip-over tensioner on the other. I've only seen a few so maybe they decided these were such a pain to use, which they were, especially on a freezing cold day in the middle of winter, that they went back to the original screw fixings.

I'd hope what I've described is the problem you have. If so, there's nothing structurally wrong with the saddle and it won't hurt your horse on that account. If you've taken it apart - fully, not just taken the head down - you should be able to see if there are any definite faults, which basically means cracks or large areas of plastic broken off. I've only ever seen one broken plastic tree, and that had been seriously rolled on.
 
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