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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 13 yo TWH who has some behavior issues (spooking, bolting, spinning) and has been getting increasingly cinchy and grumpy during saddling. I've had a hunch for a bit that his saddle isn't great for him and could be contributing. We had a saddle fitter take a look and she said it was okay. I've been looking into gaited horse saddles with flex trees but they are expensive and I'm afraid to make such a big purchase without knowing if the saddle is part of the problem.
Today when tacking up he actually tried to bite me, which has never happened before. He is typically a very sweet horse and while he does get lippy when treats are involved, he has never tried to actually bite like he did today. The woman who owns our boarding farm witnessed this and I told her I think he's very uncomfortable in my current Western saddle and where the girth hits him. He also doesn't seem to gait as well in it, which could be from being out of shape, but he gaited beautifully in a borrowed saddle I rode in for a while. I rode for a bit and she brought out a cutback saddle seat saddle. He was obviously much, much more comfortable in this. He stood perfectly still while she tacked him up and while I mounted. He moved much more freely as well and it obviously fit him much better, with great shoulder clearance. The problem is that I have always ridden western and felt very unsure in this type of saddle. I'm sure I could get used to it eventually, but I'm wondering if a saddle exists that would fit him like this one did, but feel more like a Western saddle for me? That seems like the best of both worlds.
 

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Sounds like you need a gaited saddle and yes they absolutely exist for western discipline riders.
Different style tree to better fit the shoulders and anatomy of the gaited horse...
This is just one place I've read of but know nothing of quality...
A easy online search though for western saddles made for TWH horses or gaited horse western saddles gave me many names of saddlers choices..
Good luck on your search.
🐴....
 

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To me, it's much easier to tell if an English type tree fits a horse than a Western type tree. Perhaps some kind of dressage saddle might work?
 

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There's a lot of controversy over the flex tree vs the standard tree and even whether a special tree is needed for gaited. Every maker defends their "innovative design" vigorously, so you have to shop carefully. But there are numerous gaited western saddles, the main distinction would likely be additional flare at the front and a lot of them have round skirts for shorter backs. I have a book by Lee Zeigler, a famous gaited horse person, that discusses different types of saddles for gaited horses. She did say that dressage saddles generally have the shoulder clearance that gh require. I have a Wintec dressage saddle that has a nice deep seat, plenty of security for the thighs and it's grippy, which I like. It is my trail riding saddle. The feel of it isn't anything like a cutback saddle.

You're definitely not "stuck" buying an English type saddle, there are even many, many "hybrid" designs that are intended for trail riding that seem to have elements of both. Hope you are successful finding something that fits both of you!
 

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I avoid flex trees like the plague. I think they have sored more horses than they've ever helped.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There's a lot of controversy over the flex tree vs the standard tree and even whether a special tree is needed for gaited. Every maker defends their "innovative design" vigorously, so you have to shop carefully. But there are numerous gaited western saddles, the main distinction would likely be additional flare at the front and a lot of them have round skirts for shorter backs. I have a book by Lee Zeigler, a famous gaited horse person, that discusses different types of saddles for gaited horses. She did say that dressage saddles generally have the shoulder clearance that gh require. I have a Wintec dressage saddle that has a nice deep seat, plenty of security for the thighs and it's grippy, which I like. It is my trail riding saddle. The feel of it isn't anything like a cutback saddle.

You're definitely not "stuck" buying an English type saddle, there are even many, many "hybrid" designs that are intended for trail riding that seem to have elements of both. Hope you are successful finding something that fits both of you!
I've definitely noticed the controversy. It seems every other thing I read is yes, gaited horses are different or no, gaited horses aren't different. I would imagine it's very individual, just like with non-gaited horses. For my guy in particular, he has a lot of overstride and movement in his back. It makes sense to me that a saddle that flexes and frees his shoulder as much as possible would be needed. He also obviously hates a girth that's right up in his elbow/armpit area, so no matter what I need different rigging than what I have now. I also don't have a ton of experience with fitting saddles. I obsessively research things, but that's really only half the battle since experience can be so much more valuable. The woman who owns the farm has been showing TWH for years and years and she said, oh a cutback is what you need, they're specifically made for gaited horses. She also scoffed at gaited or flex tree western saddles and said they're gimmicky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I avoid flex trees like the plague. I think they have sored more horses than they've ever helped.

Thanks for this! It was an interesting read.
 

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I've definitely noticed the controversy. It seems every other thing I read is yes, gaited horses are different or no, gaited horses aren't different. I would imagine it's very individual, just like with non-gaited horses. For my guy in particular, he has a lot of overstride and movement in his back. It makes sense to me that a saddle that flexes and frees his shoulder as much as possible would be needed. He also obviously hates a girth that's right up in his elbow/armpit area, so no matter what I need different rigging than what I have now. I also don't have a ton of experience with fitting saddles. I obsessively research things, but that's really only half the battle since experience can be so much more valuable. The woman who owns the farm has been showing TWH for years and years and she said, oh a cutback is what you need, they're specifically made for gaited horses. She also scoffed at gaited or flex tree western saddles and said they're gimmicky.
Interesting about your girth. I couldn't get the girth into my mare's armpits unless I shoved the saddle up on her neck! LOL! It sits behind where I was used to seeing it on "ordinary" horses. The saddle controversy is really daunting. But oh dear, there's the HOOF controversy and the FEED controversy and the BIT controversy! LOL! There is even controversy about the Wintec line of saddles with their "CAIR" panels (air filled). Some horses do fine, others hate them. I've never had a problem in the 20 or so years I've owned my saddle, but always respect the experience of others. We have to tread carefully!

Your barn owner no doubt has a lot of wisdom to share. This is what Lee Zeigler has to say about cutback saddles: "The cut-back saddle puts the rider in a chair seat behind the strongest point of the horse's back and can lead to clamping of the back muscles. It may be helpful for riding horses in the racking gaits but does not work well to help a horse that paces work in a different gait and does not provide a secure seat for trail riding." Of course some people trail ride bareback, so every opinion has to be taken with a grain of salt.

So there's some justification for not having to make yourself get used to a cutback.
 

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I know this is changing the subject a bit, but if the saddle fitter says the saddle is OK, have you considered it might be ulcers?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I know this is changing the subject a bit, but if the saddle fitter says the saddle is OK, have you considered it might be ulcers?
I have. The vet is coming out in a few weeks and I'm going to ask about that, as well as his eyesight and some other things. I've been looking at new saddles anyway because I want something all leather and this is half cordura, so I figured I might as well get something that has different rigging while I'm at it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There's a lot of controversy over the flex tree vs the standard tree and even whether a special tree is needed for gaited. Every maker defends their "innovative design" vigorously, so you have to shop carefully. But there are numerous gaited western saddles, the main distinction would likely be additional flare at the front and a lot of them have round skirts for shorter backs. I have a book by Lee Zeigler, a famous gaited horse person, that discusses different types of saddles for gaited horses. She did say that dressage saddles generally have the shoulder clearance that gh require. I have a Wintec dressage saddle that has a nice deep seat, plenty of security for the thighs and it's grippy, which I like. It is my trail riding saddle. The feel of it isn't anything like a cutback saddle.

You're definitely not "stuck" buying an English type saddle, there are even many, many "hybrid" designs that are intended for trail riding that seem to have elements of both. Hope you are successful finding something that fits both of you!
I bought the only book I could find by Lee Ziegler on Kindle. I just finished the Gaited Horses Bible by Brenda Imus the other day. I would love any other recommendations!
 

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I’ve owned/ridden gaited horse exclusively for the last 30 years. Most of my friends ride gaited also. The majority ride in western saddles. You just have to find one that fits your horse and you. You might also check out endurance, plantation, and Tucker saddles. My personal choice for the past 5 years has been an M&W trooper saddle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I’ve owned/ridden gaited horse exclusively for the last 30 years. Most of my friends ride gaited also. The majority ride in western saddles. You just have to find one that fits your horse and you. You might also check out endurance, plantation, and Tucker saddles. My personal choice for the past 5 years has been an M&W trooper saddle.
Do you know anyone who rides in a Tennessean saddle from National Bridle Shop? I really, really like the look and sound of them but I'm afraid to spend that much without knowing if they're good or will fit. I emailed their saddle fitter and I think they'll send a sample tree out, so I will probably go ahead and try that out.

I'm also looking at Tucker saddles. The closest big tack shop is almost 2 hours away, but I may have to make the trip to see some things in person before deciding. It took me 7 months from buying him to pick out the saddle I have now and it was only $700 new. Looking at saddles almost 3x that much is harder for sure lol.
 

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Many places have demo saddles that you can try.You should call some shops and ask. I haven’t had the opportunity to ride in any of the “big name” saddles so can’t recommend any. I had the opportunity to try a trooper saddle when I purchased my Rocky Mountain mares at a farm in Kentucky. I Fell in love instantly. A new one feels a little bit different as it has a suspended seat and needs a few rides to ”settle”. I felt perched on the horse until that happened.
 

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Do you know anyone who rides in a Tennessean saddle from National Bridle Shop? I really, really like the look and sound of them but I'm afraid to spend that much without knowing if they're good or will fit. I emailed their saddle fitter and I think they'll send a sample tree out, so I will probably go ahead and try that out.

I'm also looking at Tucker saddles. The closest big tack shop is almost 2 hours away, but I may have to make the trip to see some things in person before deciding. It took me 7 months from buying him to pick out the saddle I have now and it was only $700 new. Looking at saddles almost 3x that much is harder for sure lol.
I believe the Tennessean is a Gary Lane saddle. He is a respected trainer and has at least one book published. Having his name on it probably doesn't make it special but it is supposedly a gaited saddle. Brenda Imus also has her "branded" saddle, but it's a flex tree, and seems to fit funny up around the shoulders, but I'm no expert.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I believe the Tennessean is a Gary Lane saddle. He is a respected trainer and has at least one book published. Having his name on it probably doesn't make it special but it is supposedly a gaited saddle. Brenda Imus also has her "branded" saddle, but it's a flex tree, and seems to fit funny up around the shoulders, but I'm no expert.
I've watched a lot of Brenda Imus's stuff, and read one of her books. I think a lot of what she says makes sense, and I think she was very knowledgeable, but her saddle seems odd. I've read good and bad reviews. Also, her book was very geared towards selling her own products, which was off-putting. She would describe what constitutes a "good" bit, for example, and then plug her product. I was reading the book to learn more about gaited horses, not to get an advertisement every few pages.

National Bridle Shop has Tennessean saddles and Gary Lane Tennessean saddles. I'm not sure what the difference is, they look very similar. I found a used one and have messaged for pictures but haven't heard anything back.
 

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I've watched a lot of Brenda Imus's stuff, and read one of her books. I think a lot of what she says makes sense, and I think she was very knowledgeable, but her saddle seems odd. I've read good and bad reviews. Also, her book was very geared towards selling her own products, which was off-putting. She would describe what constitutes a "good" bit, for example, and then plug her product. I was reading the book to learn more about gaited horses, not to get an advertisement every few pages.

National Bridle Shop has Tennessean saddles and Gary Lane Tennessean saddles. I'm not sure what the difference is, they look very similar. I found a used one and have messaged for pictures but haven't heard anything back.
I hope you find one that works for you! Have to agree, I am not a big Brenda Imus fan. Gary Lane's book is "different" but is very empathetic toward the horse. Larry Whitesell is my favorite though. My TWH is pacey and a lot of the advice out there is kind of gimmick-y when it comes to getting gait. Larry leans more toward classical work and hardly even mentions gait in his 3 DVD set. But I don't think he puts his name on any tack. I
 

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If your horse has a shorter back than a western that suits your size will fit comfortably, but you want more 'security' than an English type, Aussie Stock saddles or half breeds can be a good option too. The half breeds are similar to the 'endurance' type Westerns. While I'd like one of those, I'm not in the market atm & make do with a Wintec(not cair - bad experience there) Dressage saddle for mostly trail riding. I don't do dressage, but I find the balance of the seat allows me to sit securely & well without effort.

To say that 'gaited horses need x-type saddle' to me is like saying '40yo white males need x-shoe size/shape'. Gaited horses come in different shapes & sizes too. Every horse is different. But also, traditionally, saddles have been designed more for the comfort & security of the rider, not so much the horse.

These days, good saddle makers should have good knowledge of biodynamics etc, but common probs with most saddles are that they restrict the shoulders, they are built/rigged to sit too far forward - the pressure from the saddle tree needs to be well behind the back of the scapula to allow free movement - that's why bars with extra flare at the front are often better. And pressure on or too close to the spine all along the channel, with English, which are often too narrow, or Western - tho westerns generally don't even have a channel right to the back, having the base fixed across the back of the tree. And length the saddle extends back matters too. There are many body experts that say the tree should not extend further back than the last rib. That doesn't give you a lot of 'play' at all! But to confuse matters, there are many body experts who say it's fine if a saddle extends further onto the lumbar region. Western saddles have a longer tree for seat size than English/Australian style, so depending on what seat size you need, a western may be too long for a shorter backed horse.

But while if the horse goes so differently in a different saddle, that sound pretty obvious there's a saddle issue(unfortunately many 'saddle fitters' IME are not very well educated to make good judgements), I want to echo ACinTX about ulcers or other possibilities too. Gut probs commonly cause 'behavioural problems', as does pain in other areas. Nutritional imbalances, - for eg lack of Mg & too high K are both associated with nervy, 'difficult' horses. And health probs such as PSSM can be behind 'behavioural issues'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
If your horse has a shorter back than a western that suits your size will fit comfortably, but you want more 'security' than an English type, Aussie Stock saddles or half breeds can be a good option too. The half breeds are similar to the 'endurance' type Westerns. While I'd like one of those, I'm not in the market atm & make do with a Wintec(not cair - bad experience there) Dressage saddle for mostly trail riding. I don't do dressage, but I find the balance of the seat allows me to sit securely & well without effort.

To say that 'gaited horses need x-type saddle' to me is like saying '40yo white males need x-shoe size/shape'. Gaited horses come in different shapes & sizes too. Every horse is different. But also, traditionally, saddles have been designed more for the comfort & security of the rider, not so much the horse.

These days, good saddle makers should have good knowledge of biodynamics etc, but common probs with most saddles are that they restrict the shoulders, they are built/rigged to sit too far forward - the pressure from the saddle tree needs to be well behind the back of the scapula to allow free movement - that's why bars with extra flare at the front are often better. And pressure on or too close to the spine all along the channel, with English, which are often too narrow, or Western - tho westerns generally don't even have a channel right to the back, having the base fixed across the back of the tree. And length the saddle extends back matters too. There are many body experts that say the tree should not extend further back than the last rib. That doesn't give you a lot of 'play' at all! But to confuse matters, there are many body experts who say it's fine if a saddle extends further onto the lumbar region. Western saddles have a longer tree for seat size than English/Australian style, so depending on what seat size you need, a western may be too long for a shorter backed horse.

But while if the horse goes so differently in a different saddle, that sound pretty obvious there's a saddle issue(unfortunately many 'saddle fitters' IME are not very well educated to make good judgements), I want to echo ACinTX about ulcers or other possibilities too. Gut probs commonly cause 'behavioural problems', as does pain in other areas. Nutritional imbalances, - for eg lack of Mg & too high K are both associated with nervy, 'difficult' horses. And health probs such as PSSM can be behind 'behavioural issues'.
I'm definitely going to talk to the vet about ulcers, magnesium or calming supplements, and getting his eye sight tested. He is naturally a more anxious horse so it's very possible he has some stomach upset going on. The cinching issues and problems mounting have been getting progressively worse, so I do think there's a true problem here and not just "learned behavior" like people IRL have said.
I never realized what a rabbit hole owning a gaited horse can be! I can certainly see the thought that they move different so may need a saddle that allows the extra movement (which is why I was looking into the flex trees) but the whole your horse won't ever gait naturally without this particular $100 bit and $1000 saddle is crazy talk. My friend rides her "mutt" gaited mare bareback in a rope halter and lead rope and she gaits better than my registered TWH. She trail rides her that way too because she can't find a saddle that fits. Her mare goes so much better bareback than in a saddle that's uncomfortable. Dylan is really tall (to me) and not very cushioned so I'm not comfortable trying that out for us just yet lol.
 

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You don’t need a special bit nor a special saddle nor special shoeing nor special etc! A lot of people use a snaffle bit along with a western saddle along with barefoot/proper trim and their horses gait beautifully.
Like any other horse, you just need to find the saddle that fits and the bit that they like. My one RM uses a simple short shanked bit along with my trooper saddle. I’ve tried several other bits but this is the one that she likes. The other one uses a Robart’s pinchless bit and my trooper saddle. One mare likes to pace while the other one is very smooth. I’ve taught the “pacer” to lower her head and she smooths out nicely. She has to be reminded at times. These mares are half sisters. This is no different from say a western pleasure horse that has learned a nice jog where the next horse is rougher. Or a dressage horse that must be taught to move the way the rider wants it to. Some horses are naturals while some need a little help.
I still recommend Ivy Schexnayder’s videos for some insight on which gait a horse is doing and how to get some changes in their gaits.
 
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