Is this what a horse feels?
We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com website. Western Saddle Fit - The Basics, aimed at riders, is available either on DVD or streaming on Vimeo while the six hour series Well Beyond the Basics, aimed more for professionals but understandable by anyone, is available by streaming on Vimeo. (We left this website up because we have had many requests to keep the information available.)
A few years ago Rod surprised me with a very nice desk chair as my birthday present. It is great. It goes up and down, spins around, tilts back and forth, and rolls around the office wherever I want to go. But, it has a problem…
There are bolts underneath that protrude through the hard bottom of the chair and into the padding of the seat.
With all the padding on the chair you wouldn’t think it would be a problem, but although you can’t see them, they are easy enough to feel. And while my finger doesn’t hurt when I press down on them, after I sit on the chair for a while my butt sure can tell you where they are! And using an extra cushion doesn't help. Tried that and I could still feel them if I sat there for a while.
So it got me thinking. Is this something like what a horse feels when nails or screws protrude through the bottom of the tree? Who knows for sure what they feel. But here are some pictures showing that a similar thing might happen.
This is one of the broken trees we have duplicated in the last year. There is a lot of wear over most of the bottom of the bar, which is good. But there is that one heavily worn point surrounded by blank space. There was something under the rawhide that was large enough to cause a pressure point severe enough to make the wear pattern different.
Here is another one. This one hadn’t been used a lot. It is in to be duplicated because it isn’t working well on the guy's horses. But there is this funny wear patch in the middle of the back bar pads.
Check it out, and this is directly underneath screw holes on the top of the bar. These screws didn’t come through the rawhide, but they came through the wood – enough to cause a different wear pattern on the bar.
Another one – again in to be replaced for the same reason. Only this time there are holes all the way through the bar. It was the same on both sides. Again, there isn’t much wear on this tree so it hasn’t been used a lot.
So, did the horses feel these lumps through the skirts and padding? There is no way of knowing since the horses can’t talk and pressure sensor pads are too expensive to have kicking around just to satisfy my curiosity. But when I see pressure points like this on the bottom of used trees (and they are very, very common) I sure have to wonder…
And when I see unusually shaped white marks on a horse (Gus belonged to us and came with these marks) and the previous owner says this same saddle has white marked other horses in the same spot in the same way, I would sure want to check out the saddle to see what is going on.
I’d say the chances are pretty high you’d find something protruding through the bar. It would be an easy fix too. Take out the screw, cut off the tip and put it back in. It would save the horse a whole pile of discomfort or pain.
Now, if I can only get Rod to do the same for my chair…
White marks bother me, but I liken them to the calluses on my feet that I walk on. As an old cowboy who rode lots of horses lots of miles put it, "If you've got white marks and they won't pull from the horn, you've got a problem. If you've got white marks and they will pull from the horn, your okay."
I agree. While I'd like never to see white spots, if it doesn't effect the horses performance, I liken it to the calluses on my hands and feet.
I guess I would liken solid white spots to scars more than calluses. They are due to damage at some time in the past that was so severe that it affected the color producing cells (melanocytes) so they can't make color any more. How long they take to show up depends on what stage the hair coat is in at the time - how long till the new white hair grows in as the old one is shed out. They can be caused by damage of any type - pressure, rubbing, etc. So whether they show a current problem or not depends on if there was more damage to the horse than just the melanocytes, and if so, what it was. It also makes sense to check out if the same situation is still occuring. If it is just a "scar" from an old event that didn't leave other damage, it won't be a problem.
More difficult is the roaning that occurs when a horse is used a lot, especially in heat, that sheds out with the next coat change. Does this mean it is likely there was real damage below the skin too? Don't know the answer to that one.
And we won't even start talking about dry spots...