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Most of us have heard that

if your saddle fits properly there should be equal sweat under the saddle pad from front to back. This is also incorrect. Danny explains, “All your girthing power, and your stirrups, everything that holds the saddle to the horse is in the front half. When you have air and heat, it creates sweat. If you’re getting sweat under the front half of your saddle, it means the saddle is moving. The instability is allowing your saddle to shift from side to side over your horse allowing air in to create the sweat.” Therefore, on a saddle that fits correctly, the front half should be dry and under the back half of the saddle it should be wet. The sweat marks over the back half [under your saddle] should be very large and symmetrical. The front third of the saddle should have large, symmetrical dry areas, indicating the saddle is fitting straight and stable over the horse’s withers. If you are seeing small, uneven dry spots under the front of your saddle this is very bad. It’s a sure sign your saddle is bearing too much pressure over a small area. White spots and white hairs (further explained in the next section) are typically found three inches below the withers. This is where the traditional English wooden tree creates too much pressure at the top of the tree point.

 Left: Wooden tree with the points contacting the horse 4 - 4.5 inches down. Note that the bottom of the tree point is not touching the horse and how it is pushing in on the wither muscle behind the shoulder.  Below: Danny’s proprietary tree with a wither point about 9 inches long. Notice how the bottom of the tree point makes contact with the horse and the top does not interfere with the shoulder rotation underneath it.

“We’re getting by on the willingness of the horse to do what we ask of him. It’s time we stopped taking advantage of their willingness.”

Frequently Danny hears people

remark that we’ve been using the same kind of tree in English saddles for hundreds of years and it’s been working. Danny responds, “When I walk up to a horse and put as little as 10 pounds of pressure over the withers or down the top line of a horse, and the horse drops four or five inches [under my touch] from the pain, clearly this is not working!” He continues, “We’re getting by on the willingness of the horse to do what we ask of him. It’s time we stopped taking advantage of their willingness.”

Perfecting the Fit The most important thing about having an

adjustably fitted saddle is the fact that all horses (just like people) change. Four things cause change in horses: work, feed, age and metabolism. In winter, metabolism slows down causing weight gain. In spring and summer metabolism speeds up causing weight loss and gains in muscle and body mass. “If a person were to gain, or lose, 15 pounds would their pants still fit?” he asks. “When you buy a traditional English wooden tree saddle, which is symmetrical and can’t be adjusted, and then your horse changes (as they all do), or you change your horse, your saddle will no longer fit.” A big buzz word in the English saddle world is “tradition.”

The industry says that on a traditional English saddle we want the top part of the tree point to make contact with the horse, and we want the bottom part of the tree point to flare off the wither muscle, making no contact with the horse’s wither muscle. Danny strongly disagrees with this traditional philosophy, based on scientific research of biomechanics of the horse in motion. “The traditional design of an English tree puts too much pressure at the top of the withers and also fills in the shoulder hole of the horse. This is a huge problem,” he explains. He further clarifies that if you take a bare horse and look at his shoulder hole while standing still, he might have anywhere from a shallow to a very deep shoulder hole. However, when the front leg is lifted and brought forward to create motion, the rotation of the scapula fills the shoulder. The traditional English tree, which is rigid and has the tree point flared off at the bottom, puts too much pressure at the top of the withers and fills the shoulder hole in. That’s where the scapula needs to go. This creates an enormous amount of resistance as the shoulder is forced to work under the rigid tree. In this tree configuration, the tree points are not stable enough over a horse’s withers. Consequently when the saddle is girthed down, the front

58 September/October 2012

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