We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

Effect of weight on the horse's back - Part 2

Posted by RodandDenise on August 30, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

Last post I told you about a study on how weight on a horse's back affected them, and how the study was performed.

So what did they find…

in the three areas the researchers were checking:
 1.)  how flexed (rounded) or extended (hollowed) the back was 
 2.)  how the total range of motion was affected
 3.)  how the leg positions changed? 

Lunging girth

First, there was no difference at all with a lunging girth, which tells us that pressure around the horse doesn’t affect his back movement.   (There is another study that shows how tight the girth/cinch is does affect respiratory performance. Hint - too tight slows them down!) 

Saddle only

Second, there was no difference with just a saddle at a walk and trot, and only a slight extending (hollowing) effect at a canter.

Saddle with weight

Third, with weight, the back was constantly more extended (hollowed) in all three gaits, but the range of motion was the same as without weight.  In other words, the back moved up and down the same amount, but it was more hollow at the most hollow and not as flexed at the most flexed.  Overall, under weight, a horse’s back sags.  They do not, in and by themselves, round their backs to carry weight.

Effect of weight on the horse's back - Part 1

Posted by RodandDenise on August 24, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

There are many people who teach that the horse rounds his back under saddle so you should build a tree so that it bridges slightly, leaving room for that rounding.  Some even go to the point of poking the horse in the belly to get him to lift his back when they evaluate trees.  This is a highly promoted technique by at least one very influential individual with peer reviewed papers to her name.  There are others who say that you should fit the horse as he stands because they don’t round up under saddle, or at least not in that way, and you don’t want a saddle bridging.  And intuitively, if you put weight in the center of a flexible structure only supported on two ends, it will sag in the middle.  So if you ask tree makers “What would you prefer if you had to make the choice – too little rock or too much rock?” you will get both answers.  A study that evaluates the changes in shape in the horse’s back under tack and weight compared to a bare horse is really valuable to tree and saddle makers. 

Who did it and why?

In 2004, there was a paper published in the Equine Vet Journal written by P. de Cocq, P.R. van Weeren and W. Back from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University in the Netherlands.  This university, and especially some of these authors, have published a lot of peer reviewed papers on equine biomechanics and factors that affect them.  This one was titled “Effects of girth, saddle and weight on movements of the horse”.  In it, they state that “the effects of saddle and weight on the back movements of the horse have never been studied…”  We’ve been riding horses for thousands of years, and only within the last 10 – 20 has the technology been available to answer some questions we as saddle and tree makers argue about - probably the same questions the cavalry officers of Alexander the Great were arguing about. 

This Week in the Shop

Posted by RodandDenise on August 20, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

Fork swell fork saddle trees

Here’s a picture of the last set of trees we had ready for shipment.  It is unusual for us to have four swell forks at a time since more than half of what we build is various forms of slick forks, but that is how the orders came in.  The two in the middle are wood post horn Modified Associations going out to Northern BC.  The metal horn fork is a Buster Welch headed down to Idaho, and the one on the left of the picture is a duplicate we built off a broken tree that looks similar to our Packer pattern.  I’ll have to write about duplicates another time.

We do up trees in sets of four if possible.  That gives us the best use of our time as the first couple are being varnished (3 coats) while the last ones are being built, so rawhiding can start right away.  Rod can rawhide a couple trees in a day, and with Denise having everything glued up and marked out before he starts, he can build four trees in four days.  So in theory, we should make four trees in a six day work week.

That is IF:
Rod doesn’t have to make rawhide
Or cut up a bunch of hides he made earlier
And there are no “special” trees that take extra time
And the cows don’t need to be moved
And the horse doesn’t go through the fence and need doctoring
And the garden doesn’t need a whole pile of attention
And we have no weddings, funerals, “after weddings”, going away parties, or other local events to attend
And nothing else exciting in our lives occurs to take us out of the shop.

All this goes to explain why, though theoretically we can make four trees a week (and sometimes do, especially in the winter) we average about 12 a month.


Posted by Ed Magonigal on 

More great information thank you

Saddle Trees - from Shop and Desk

Posted by RodandDenise on August 15, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

We always like to share with others what we have been learning and doing, and this blog gives us the opportunity to do that.  We plan to share pictures of what we have been building in the shop and anything exciting that is happening there.  As well, Denise has been doing a lot of reading over the past few years, looking at equine anatomy and biomechanics and digging into what research there is about saddles and saddle fit.  So we plan to share some of what we have learned at the desk as well.  And there is always the rest of our life too.  We hope many of you will check in here to see what's new with us and in the saddle tree shop.  If you have comments or questions on what we have written here, please leave them in the comments section below.  Discussion is always good!

Posted by heath atkinson on 
hi rod awesome blog really showed me a few things ive never considered in fit of a saddle to the horses
Posted by Ed Magonigal on 
Good information. I could never build a saddle but the information you give out helps one to understand how a saddle should fit.
Thank you