Here is what you will need to know if you are looking to get the correct horse saddle set up…
Saddle position affects performance and comfort for your horse as well as yourself. Significantly.
Your horse’s shoulder muscles must remain free enough to bulge under the front of your saddle while you ride. Squeezing/pressing anywhere along the wither area creates a miserable experience for your horse and less comfort for you.
These simple key tips will enable you to set up your saddle in the right place on your horse’s body to offer maximum positive results with the equipment you own.
WESTERN vs ENGLISH: Position them differently.
The skeleton (Tree) of a saddle is the strong, substantive foundation around which the saddle’s softer parts are constructed.
WESTERN trees have long, broad parallel “bars” generally shaped to flare at the front over the horse’s shoulders. Therefore, the front edge of a Western saddle’s tree will sit farther forward than an English saddle’s forward-most tree points.
ENGLISH trees have a smaller frame that covers less length and breadth along the horse’s back.
When positioned properly, the front edge of either saddle should not affect the horse’s body adversely, especially if it is shaped appropriately and a shim in your saddle pad is used correctly. In fact, a shim can help a too-narrow saddle feel better.
No matter how soft is the underside covering of a saddle, both English and Western trees can impact your horse’s movement if they are placed too far forward or too far back.
A note about TREELESS SADDLES:
Our research has indicated clearly that saddles without some sort of well-shaped rigid internal foundation put too much pressure on the center area of horses’ backs. Over time, especially if carrying heavy riders, horses will develop a sagging center, compromised stride quality, and other physical deterioration.
POSITION RULE OF THUMB? IT’S ALL IN THE FINGERTIPS!
STEP 1 – FEEL
Locate the back edge of your horse’s shoulder blade (scapula) by ‘feeling’ for it with your fingertips while the horse is standing still. You should be able to feel (gently but firmly) the muscle-covered edge of this big bone as it drops off toward the rear. Curl your fingers over it and make note of the position.
STEP 2 – CHECK
Place your saddle and shimmed pad on top of your horse keeping in mind that a WESTERN SADDLE’S FRONT CONCHO should be located right on top of/in line with the area where you curled your fingertips over the scapula’s back edge.
An ENGLISH SADDLE’S FRONT EDGE should be located right behind where your fingers curl over the edge. (Note that saddles with forward-shaped flaps such as jumping saddles will be calculated differently. Feel on the underside of the saddle and note the forward most rigid ‘points” of the tree. Make certain those points are behind the scapula’s back edge).
CHECK that you’ve got it right by reaching underneath the saddle pad along your horse’s body to be certain your fingers can curl over the scapula’s back edge and the saddle is positioned properly.
STEP 3 – DOUBLE-CHECK that your saddle is placed correctly by noting where the cinch lies as you tighten it. You should be able to see about a hand’s breadth of open space from your horse’s elbow to the front edge of the cinch.
ICING ON THE CAKE – If you can reach back under your saddle pad when all cinched up and feel there’s room for your horse’s shoulder to bulge/swing under the front of the saddle, you can be confident your saddle setup will serve you both best. Note: of course it’s important to make sure the saddle isn’t tilted up TOO high. Feel underneath the back of it when you’re mounted as your horse walks off. Fingers should not be pinched.
Visit www.naturalhorsemansaddles.com to learn more.
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***Note – This information is valid for the models produced by Natural Horseman Saddles – You may need to consider where your rigging is placed on your Western Saddle if you ride another brand. Double Checking with the hand width may not work if you are using rigging that is set further back or further forward than our saddles.