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of the saddle becomes too low, again putting way too much pressure over the withers. The very purpose of any saddle tree is to distribute the

rider’s weight over a greater surface area. In the above scenario, when the saddle is girthed down, the front of the saddle comes down and the back of the saddle lifts. So now, he explains, the entire weight of the rider is only distributed over the front half of the saddle, not fully over the whole tree. This puts way too much pressure over the withers. Therefore, the top of the tree point needs to come off the horse’s withers and the bottom of the tree point needs to have contact with the horse’s shoulder approximately 9 inches down from the withers of the horse. Danny has addressed these issues by redesigning the

tree. His own tree creates the correct length and angle of the tree point, he says, allowing the shoulder hole of the horse to remain open, enabling the scapula to fully rotate under the tree point. The gullet plate on a DK English saddle has 46 centimeters (18 inches) of adjustability and can be adjusted to fit any horse’s asymmetrical shape, from an OTTB with a “shark fin” wither to an extremely round, broad draft cross. Additionally, Danny would like to explain what happens

when there is too much pressure on the withers. Research has shown that the muscle of a horse can withstand 2.5 pounds of pressure [per square inch] over the withers before it becomes damaged. From 2.5 pounds to 4 pounds of pressure we are damaging the muscle. From 4 pounds to 6 pounds of pressure we have restricted blood flow into the muscle, killing the hair follicles. This creates those telltale white hairs we are all too familiar with. Danny relates, “People will often tell me, ‘well, I don’t have any white hairs on my horse, so I’ve never made him sore with my saddle.’ This statement is incorrect. This simply means you haven’t reached the threshold of 4 to 6 pounds—it doesn’t mean you’re not damaging the muscle.”

Fitting the Rider Besides fitting the horse, fitting a saddle to a rider’s anatomy is also very important. The anatomy of a woman and of a man is completely different. In simple terms, the seat bones of a woman are much wider than a man’s because they are designed for child bearing. The woman’s pubic symphysis (the joint uniting the left and right pubic bones) is lower and rotated forward; a man’s is much higher and straight. The tail bone of a woman is straight up and down; a man’s slopes inward. This gives a man much more freedom and rotation of his pelvis, whereas a woman is more restricted. Consequently a woman needs to be supported in the front of the saddle so that she doesn’t come down and make uncomfortable contact. Then we have the human femur, the largest bone in the

body. On a man, the femur comes out of the pelvis and falls straight down toward the ankle. A woman’s femur comes out of the pelvis and then slopes forward and inward toward the knee. Additionally the hamstring muscle of a man attaches to the buttock and then to the back of the knee. A woman’s

hamstring muscle attaches to the inside, medial aspect of the knee. The thigh of a woman is round; the thigh of a man is oval. Thus a man’s thigh sits more easily and flatter against the ribcage of a horse. A woman’s thigh, when sitting in a saddle with a wider twist (which is typical of a saddle with a wooden tree) is actually rolled outward, forcing her to ride with little knee contact, something she will struggle to correct as she rides. Theoretically speaking, all saddles should be made for a woman because a man can ride in anything. Finally, a word about forward cut flaps. The length of the

Pelvis of a man (top) and woman (bottom).

femur has nothing to do with a forward cut flap. The length of the femur should only determine the length of the flap and the length of the thigh block. When the seat of the saddle is properly designed and supports the rider’s pelvis correctly, it supports the lumbar vertebrae correctly and allows the femur to fall straight down. This places the rider in the correct position of alignment; shoulder, hip, heel. The rider will feel balanced and secure resulting in more effective use of the aids.

In Conclusion Since Danny’s fully adjustable English saddles have been in use for many years, much of his enthusiasm is based on positive reports he hears from his clients, as well as the veterinarians and chiropractors that work with the horses. They are impressed, he says, with how quickly the horses’ sore backs have recovered when worked in a properly fitted saddle. “The best part,” says Danny, “is that horses build muscle in my adjustable saddles. They develop more muscle over the withers and topline because of unrestricted blood flow. Better blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients reach the muscle. And, the tree points should be adjusted as the horse builds muscle in these areas assuring a proper fit at all times.” So, the next time you’re thinking about how your saddle fits, this Master Saddle Fitter encourages you to consider a simple formula: adjustability = fit. Your horse, he says, will thank you for it.

Editor’s note: We welcome any feedback or questions regarding saddle fit which Danny is happy to address. Please send emails to

Warmbloods Today 59

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