Why conchos should have nothing to do with positioning your saddle
Here's why "set the center of the front concho at the back of the shoulder blade" is really, really bad advice! We've seen this come up on the internet at times and thought we should explain, from our point of view, why it is just wrong.
As we have said numerous times before, the front of the bar needs to be behind the shoulder blade of the horse or you get the muscle squeezed between the bar and the bone when the horse has weight on his leg. (Here's a link to a video showing, with pressure mat data, this to be true.) The concho is attached to the bar - either with strings drilled through the bar or by being screwed into the bar. So there has to be bar ahead of the center of the concho! If you put that at the back of the shoulder blade, you put the bar on top of the bone. How much depends on how the saddle was made - as you can see in the pictures following.
Here Rod's finger is at the front of the bar. You can see how much bar is ahead of the middle of the concho. Yes, this amount will cause problems!
Compare to the last picture. There is less bar ahead of the concho on this saddle than the last one, but if you hold the saddle in this position with your breast collar so this inch of bar is on top the shoulder blade, it is going to cause problems.
Here's a tree where the concho was attached by drilling through the bar and putting strings all the way through it. One hole is behind the line and the other - very dark in this picture - is ahead of it, so the center of the concho would be where the line is. Again note how much bar is ahead of the center of the concho. If you put the center of the concho at the back of the shoulder blade and hold it there with a breast collar, you will cause problems for your horse.
Here's a saddle where the concho was screwed on, not drilled through the tree. There is a screw hole under the line where the center of the cocho would have been. You can see the amount of bar ahead of it on this tree - enough to cause problems if held in place with a breast collar.
Here is a picture of a tree where the concho was poorly installed. The holes that were drilled through the tree were right on the edge of the bar - and you can see the wood chipped away so the concho would not have been solid at the end of this tree's life. Not a lot of bar ahead of the concho on this one (though these is a bit) - but the concho wasn't attached well either...
So you can see that there has to be some amount of bar in front of the conchos, though the amount will vary depending on how the saddle is made. If the saddle isn't held in place with a breast collar, it will probably work back to where the bar is behind the shoulder blade. But if you set your breast collar to hold the saddle in position based on the conchos, you will be compressing the muscle between bar and bone and damaging it long term. Please - find the front of the bar (it is easy to feel - here's how), put that behind the shoulder blade, and ignore the conchos!!!
(This was originally posted on Facebook almost four years ago. Figured it should make it onto our own website eventually... Actually, if you check our Western Saddle Fit Facebook page from 2017 - 2018, there is a fair amount of good information on there as well.)