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the narrowest one on top of it, then grabbed it in your hand and squeezed them together, applying approximately 25 pounds of pressure, you could make the top plate spread out and widen.” Next he poses a question about what would happen when you girth your horse up at 100 pounds of pressure, and then add the weight of the rider and the motion of the horse. “That plate is going to spread out over a very short period of time; and what’s worse is that it is moving back and forth while you ride, creating instability and pressure.” As the gullet plate fatigues it defaults to the widest position, so you’d have to change the plate frequently. He also points out that interchangeable gullet plates still do not address the issue of asymmetry. “Don’t forget that they are exactly the same, symmetrical, from one side to the other.”

“Only five percent of horses are equal and symmetrical,” says Danny. Out of the 60,000 horses that Danny has fit, he’s only seen maybe ten horses that were truly symmetrical!”

wool is more rigid than air. “In fact”, says Danny, “try thinking of it this way. Take a wool flocked saddle, girth it down and add the rider. The transfer of pressure is 100% straight down into the muscle of the horse. This compresses the muscle, disallowing blood flow.

The restriction of blood flow into the muscle decreases oxygen. Oxygen is very important to the development of the muscle. Less

oxygen means the muscle will fatigue much more quickly during work.” Air, on the other hand, always gives to pressure. Danny uses the example of a round balloon. “If you put one hand on the top and the other on the bottom and

Air, Foam or Wool? A subject of much debate revolves around the materials used to fill, or flock, the panels of a saddle. There are three kinds of substances used: foam, wool and Flair air. A foam filled saddle can never be adjusted to fit the conformation and asymmetries of a horse. It simply doesn’t work. There has been much discussion about the differences

between air and wool. Many people claim that air becomes hard when you’re sitting in the saddle. However, when you walk up to an air filled saddle [while the rider is mounted] and press your thumb into the back panel, the air moves away. If you were to do the same thing on a wool filled panel it would not give to the pressure. So truly

squeeze together, you’ll get 40% compression and 60% expansion. Therefore, when you sit in a saddle filled with Flair air you only get 40% compression down into the muscle. The 60% expansion distributes the rider’s weight over a greater surface area. Because there is significantly less compression, the horse receives greater blood flow into the muscle. More blood flow means more oxygen. More oxygen promotes faster healing and faster muscle building and far, far less fatiguing of the muscle.” Danny cautions, “If you try putting a Flair air system in a saddle with a traditional wooden tree, you’ll get a saddle that rolls, and bounces.” This is because a wooden tree is not stable over a horse’s withers. It can’t be fitted to any horse because it can’t be adjusted to the horse’s asymmetries. So, if you have an unstable substance such as air, and try using it with an unstable wooden tree, it simply won’t work, he remarks. It does, however, work beautifully when you have an adjustable tree, like the one Danny designed and utilizes in his DK saddles. It is able to be properly fitted and stabilized over a horse’s withers. Using this system results in much more swing in the horse’s back; the horse will be able to move underneath it and really come from behind because there is no rigid substance blocking his movement. “To alter wool flocking, fitters will either put more

 Above: Crystal Kroetch, 2011 Pan Am Silver medalist riding in a DK saddle. 56 September/October 2012

wool in or take wool out, which is incorrect. You have to balance the saddle through a correctly fitted tree. You can’t balance it with a substance,” he states and elaborates with an example. If the front of the saddle is too wide and sits down on the withers of a horse, and the back of the saddle lifts up and is not making contact with the horse (in doing so, not distributing the rider’s weight over the whole tree), the typical solution would be taking a rigid substance, such as wool, and stuff more wool in the front to make it tighter. However, in a short period of time the wool will settle and harden. This makes it tighter over the shoulder and blocks the rotation of the scapula. “Always

Photo by Jan Beran

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