Understanding Saddle Trees

We have presented seminars on Understanding Saddle Trees from a tree maker’s perspective at the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan Wyoming.  While we may present similar seminars in the future, none are currently planned.  Here is the outline of what we discussed.

Understanding Saddle Trees:  the Top Side

The morning session will be discussing the different measurements that can be used to order a tree - different ways they can be measured and our reasons why we like to do it the way we do.  We will discuss some of the common measurements and some less common ones that should be considered as well.  Things like seat length and thigh length - why they don't always or even often correlate, the factors that affect how they change relative to each other and what things about the rest of the specs may make you want to rethink the seat length you are ordering for this customer.  We'll talk about gullet measurements and hand hole measurements - why they don't always correlate.  We'll discuss the components that make up the shape of the fork to allow you to compare different fork styles (top slope, undercut on the sides, shape of the back, stock thickness, top cut angle).  Then on to horns - what can change when you order a wood post horn versus a metal one and why, how the different specs on a horn affect the final look, and relate that to some fork specs as well.  And cantles - the three slopes you see on a cantle and how they affect the final look and, in some cases, strength or function.  How the height affects the slope of the face and how that may change the amount of dish you want to order.  Bevels on cantles and how they can be functional and not just aesthetic.

Understanding Saddle Trees:  the Bottom Side

In the afternoon we will be talking about the fit of the tree for the horse.  We'll start with some underlying principles of saddle fit.  Then we'll do a bit of equine anatomy so we understand makes up the shapes we are trying to fit.  We will discuss Dennis Lane's system and explain how it works because we will use it along with pictures in our explanations as we discuss the shapes we are trying to fit on horses.  With that as a basis, we will discuss all the Factors that Affect Fit.  If you understand how changing them individually changes the fit on the horse, then you can figure out what multiple changes at a time are likely to do.  When you leave, you should be able to evaluate a horse's back and have a good idea if the normal specs you order from your tree maker will work for this customer's horses and if not, what you will want to change to get a tree that will work. 

Our goal for the seminar

Our goal is to explain the concepts behind how the different parts of a tree work together not only in how they function for the rider and horse but also in creating the look you want.  While we will be presenting from our viewpoint as a maker of hand made trees, the concepts can be applied to any tree regardless of the maker.  We want to help you understand more about trees in general so you can evaluate the trees you use and figure out the best way to order what your tree maker offers to get the look you want and the fit you need for your customers and their horses.


This will be in a lecture/discussion format.  We will have our material prepared with photographs, parts of trees, etc. to explain the concepts.  Ideally we would like to encourage discussion between saddle makers about what they find works well in their area and their market, and what their customers prefer and why.  Especially if we get makers from different disciplines in the equine world - some who build for working cowboys, some for arena events, some for recreational riders - this could lead to good discussions about the variations that are possible and needed for these different functions.