You're saddling your horse wrong...
You can now purchase our 67 minute video, Western Saddle Fit - The Basics, by going to our new website, westernsaddlefit.com. We also have a 7 minute YouTube video on Western Saddle Fit - The Essentials. Enjoy!
The first thing the rider does that affects saddle fit is to put the saddle on their horse. Where they position it is so very important.
We’ve posted pictures of the high pressure (red area) that results from having the saddle too far forward...
and shown how the same saddle doesn’t cause high pressure points when it is in the correct place.
We’ve shown how to find the back of the shoulder blade…
and the front of the bar…
and explained that you need to have the second behind the first…
or you do this to your horse in the long run.
We’ve shown what normal withers look like, with a smooth transition over the shoulder blade to the back
And it isn’t just recreational riders and newcomers who saddle wrong. It is trainers, top level rodeo cowboys, top level riders in all difference disciplines in the show ring, clinicians (even internationally recognized ones). It is people who write books and host clinics. And, surprisingly enough, it is a lot of working cowboys.
A great many of these people train horses far better than we ever could and can ride rings around us. Why should they listen to what some people who live in the boonie toons of Northern Alberta say? So, are we going to go and tell them that they are saddling their horse wrong? No.
But they are.
And they’re hurting their horses…
We did a series on why saddles will lift up at the back. The link to the first one is below.
But I think you are asking why the skirts angle upward behind the cantle. That would be due to the way the saddle is constructed. A big problem with saddles is skirts that are too tight behind and end up rubbing either on the spine itself or on the back edges of the skirts. By cutting the skirts so they lift a little at the back, it alleviates those problems for the horse. This also looks to be a new saddle with shearling that hasn't packed down yet and it may change once it gets ridden some.
Great article on saddle fit though, thank you.
I can't speak for that specific type as I am not familiar with them and they have no pictures of their tree and panel system on their website. However, from previous experience I can say that the issue with the flexible panel systems is the connection points between flexible and solid. If it is flexible enough to bend as the horse moves, why won't it "move" - ie bend down and create a high pressure point - under the connection between the panels and the solid structure above? So far, everything I know shows that they do, and horses get sore under those connection points. Maybe someone has figured out the solution to this but I haven't seen it yet.
The other issue is that these systems have you higher off the horse - a tree and then the panels - which intrinsically gives you less connection and makes you slightly less stable.
And I don't believe anything like this would be solid enough for roping.
So no, not a fan...
Yes, the idea that the saddle needs to be behind the shoulder blades definitely applies to English saddles as well. Western bars should fit right behind the shoulder blade. I don't know about English panels. I have often heard that they should go about 2 fingers back, but that is based on the idea of giving room for the shoulder blade when it rotates back. We've shown that this isn't a problem with Western saddles due to the fact that there is no weight on the leg when it is rotated back: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/rethinking-saddle-fit-and-shoulder-blade-movement/
However, I don't know how this works on English saddles - if the panel design is different enough that the extra distance is needed. I would doubt it but since we only work with western saddles, I really can't say.
The other question is "What about these damaged horses who have so much lump and hollow? How does the rotation of the shoulder blade work on them?" And honestly, I can't tell you that.
But I can say that if the saddle is moving from where you put it, then it doesn't match the shape of the horse where you are setting it. If it did, it would stay there. So if it is moving, I would suggest getting it rechecked and probably reflocked by a competent saddler.
Just a word of warning - some saddle fitters know a lot about what they are doing and can really help horses. Others have a few hours of teaching by who knows who. I have heard some pretty outrageous things from "saddle fitters" who really didn't have a clue how saddles really work. So just because they say they are a saddle fitter or have letters after their name, you have to be wise in assessing what they say. Don't take it all as correct and true. (Especially when it comes to western saddles, which relatively few really know about.)