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staceyk
May. 20, 2012, 10:04 PM
Hi,

In the last six months I have heard lots of talk about short-backed horses and their special needs. The latest Dressage Today saddle fitting article quotes an expert saying that some short-backed horses can't "take" a saddle over 18" and that their larger riders are SOL. Several people I know are selling their Albions and Stubbens to buy Schleese saddles with very short panels.

Is this a new revelation in the saddle world or could it be one of those phenoms where a particular problem is overdiagnosed?

I ask, in part, because I'm told my 17.5" saddle is too long for my 17H horse. It's true that he is short-coupled, but I would never have said that he is incredibly short-backed. If what I'm hearing is true, there are perhaps 1-2 brands of saddle that will work for him. It just does not sound right.

Justmyluck
May. 20, 2012, 10:37 PM
I ride in an 18 inch saddle on my very short backed horse. Im not a large rider either about 5'7" 135lbs I just like open seats but the saddle type I like tend to have more constricted seats so I went up a seat size. We have has zero issues with out 18inc.

Photo: http://i369.photobucket.com/albums/oo133/ghoofs/Walk-3.jpg

vagabondrider
May. 20, 2012, 10:56 PM
I have a Schleese with a 17.5" seat, built on a 17" tree, with shoulder relief panels in front & "banana" panels in the back, so the length of the weight bearing part of the saddle on my horse's back is only 16.5". He has a very short back & he goes better in this than any other saddle I've put on him. Made an especially big difference in his canter.

JB
May. 20, 2012, 11:03 PM
Yes, at some point with the short-backed horses, they won't be able to take a saddle bigger than X. 18" is a fairly "long" saddle, but depending on how it AND the horse are built it's not THAT long. I have a fairly short-backed WB, and an 18" older Prestige Dressage saddle. It is not at all too long for him, or even approaching it, but that's partly because it has upswept panels to get out of the way.

You can go bigger(longer) with a saddle and sweep the panels up more, but at some point, because you're needing a bigger saddle for a bigger (and presumably heavier) rider, you're going to end up putting more pressure on less square inches of the saddle and cause problems. You can only get the saddle out of the horse's way too much before you start reducing it's back print too much relative to the weight of the rider.

This has never been a new concept, but I suspect it, along with the overall increase in knowledge about saddle fit in general, is just "new" to the general population

SendenHorse
May. 20, 2012, 11:05 PM
I have a short coupled horse and ride in an 18" just fine. My horse is 14.3 hands. He wears a 66" blanket.

My thigh is long so that is why I need a longer seat, this was the same on my other horse--also around 15h.

mbm
May. 21, 2012, 11:34 AM
many many "gimics" for many different *things*... if you want to get sucked into the marketing ploys - cool - if not try a Stubben and see what real, correct saddle making can do ;)

short panels are like the overflocked "gussets" something new for the saddle buying market to "must go out and buy" because if you think about it - if a saddler is doing their job correctly they should NOT be selling a new saddle every year... They should sell one saddle per horse and have it flocked as needed....

Stubben is one of the only companies i know who actually make saddle that F.I.T. fit.

Isabeau Z Solace
May. 21, 2012, 11:43 AM
That article completely ignores the mechanics of the rider.

I am a big person.. 6'1" 185 lbs. I ride horses of all different sizes. I generally put my 18" saddle on then with no problems. My Ansur treeless is about 20"!!

But, I ride with a large percentage of my weight carried in my thighs, and wrapped around the horse. I do not concentrate all my weight in my butt!

By comparison, I know a 'little old lady' (60's) who rides her horse in her custom fit (highly pricy) jumping saddle. She does not jump. Nor does she ride vigorously. She basically walks, jogs, and lopes. What she does do is manage to put so much weight toward the back of the saddle that the horse actually has bald spots/wear marks. She personifies the 'chair seat' and her horse's back shows the result.

As I've heard M Wanless describe it many times, she literally uses the horse as a "mobile armchair."

How the saddle affects the horse is mitigated/shaped/determined by how the rider sits in it.

netg
May. 21, 2012, 11:49 AM
My horse has a very short back and I ride in an 18" Stubben for room for my... ahem... copious backside. It doesn't bother His Sensitive Highness in length, and he still very happily lifts his back and rounds against it.


I wouldn't have classified your horse's back as short at all. It's not overly long, but definitely not what I'd call short!

Tasker
May. 21, 2012, 11:53 AM
I disagree based on the fact I am riding everything from 15 hands-18hands in an 18" Stubben Genesis Special. 0 issues with back soreness or loin pressure. I had a loaner 19" GS from them for 6 weeks while my saddle was being built and had no issues with the same string of horses.

If someone could scan and message me the article - I'd be super grateful as it sounds like an interesting read - ellie@watermark-farm.net TIA

But from the sounds of it, a typical armchair type, overstuffed, over gusseted saddle in a 'classic' 18" seat would be a problem and makes me want to say, "no kidding!" as I've seen 16.5-17" saddles with that type of construction do precisely that. And I could give a list of saddle makers that call my saddle 'old fashioned' or 'dated'...but hey - it works and the horses go better!

CatPS
May. 21, 2012, 12:04 PM
JB is totally right. It all just depends on the individual horse's build. If you look at ANY horse, you can measure the area where they can support a saddle... some have a lot of space, some have very little. Plus, seat size isn't an absolute. Deep seats will ride smaller, open seats ride larger, and there is variation across brands. For example, I have a 17" Prestige that rides like an 18"... and if you measure it, it is closer to a 17.75". From what I hear, that is typical of the brand. It's all about finding the right saddle to fit the space that your horse has, and seat size isn't always the best metric.

Rhiannonjk
May. 21, 2012, 12:13 PM
Wow, nice to know there are so many others dealing with this situation! I've been dreading the long-term saddle solution for my short-backed boy, and I've been leaning toward the banana-panel Stubbens. I did try a Prestige a friend was selling, which fit my horse beautifully, but did not fit me well, at all.
In the meantime, I have every specialist (Chiro, vet, etc) check to make sure he isn't showing any signs of soreness related to our current fix. So far so good!

ako
May. 21, 2012, 12:21 PM
Not sure I have this right BUT I believe as long as your saddle is not resting on the last two (i.e. false) ribs then the saddle is not too long. Your saddle should end well enough before the false ribs.

Do I have that right?

Rhiannonjk
May. 21, 2012, 12:27 PM
Not sure I have this right BUT I believe as long as your saddle is not resting on the last two (i.e. false) ribs then the saddle is not too long. Your saddle should end well enough before the false ribs.

Do I have that right?

The problem, at least in my case, is that you also need freedom in the front, for the shoulders. So my horse has a very small distance between shoulders and that last rib.

JB
May. 21, 2012, 01:38 PM
JB is totally right. It all just depends on the individual horse's build. If you look at ANY horse, you can measure the area where they can support a saddle... some have a lot of space, some have very little. Plus, seat size isn't an absolute. Deep seats will ride smaller, open seats ride larger, and there is variation across brands. For example, I have a 17" Prestige that rides like an 18"... and if you measure it, it is closer to a 17.75". From what I hear, that is typical of the brand. It's all about finding the right saddle to fit the space that your horse has, and seat size isn't always the best metric.

Yep, Prestige doesn't have 1/2 sizes as a stock order (not even sure they'd make a 1/2 size, and they tend to run on the larger side.

JB
May. 21, 2012, 01:50 PM
That article completely ignores the mechanics of the rider.

I am a big person.. 6'1" 185 lbs. I ride horses of all different sizes. I generally put my 18" saddle on then with no problems. My Ansur treeless is about 20"!!

But, I ride with a large percentage of my weight carried in my thighs, and wrapped around the horse. I do not concentrate all my weight in my butt!

By comparison, I know a 'little old lady' (60's) who rides her horse in her custom fit (highly pricy) jumping saddle. She does not jump. Nor does she ride vigorously. She basically walks, jogs, and lopes. What she does do is manage to put so much weight toward the back of the saddle that the horse actually has bald spots/wear marks. She personifies the 'chair seat' and her horse's back shows the result.

As I've heard M Wanless describe it many times, she literally uses the horse as a "mobile armchair."

How the saddle affects the horse is mitigated/shaped/determined by how the rider sits in it.

Well, of course, any smaller rider can be heavier on a horse's back than a heavier/larger rider. But the issue still remains is there is a certain amount of space for the ribcage to carry the saddle. You can have a normal length back and a perfectly fitting saddle, and a poorly balanced rider can kill that horse's back.

But a 250lb rider sitting well in a 19" saddle with the rear panels VERY upswept to get out of the way of the horse's loins at the end of a very short back will be weighting a smaller footprint of that saddle, and the greater that ratio, the worse on the horse's back, particularly a Dressage rider who spends most of the time sitting and weighting his seat. It's less of a big deal (though not irrelevant) for the H/J rider who spends a lot more time in at least a light forward seat, if not 2-pt or close.

JanDinWA
May. 21, 2012, 05:22 PM
I have a Schleese with a 17.5" seat, built on a 17" tree, with shoulder relief panels in front & "banana" panels in the back, so the length of the weight bearing part of the saddle on my horse's back is only 16.5". He has a very short back & he goes better in this than any other saddle I've put on him. Made an especially big difference in his canter.
We have an 18.5" Schleese Triumph built on a 17.5" tree with the shoulder relief panels for our horse with a short back. DH needs the larger size and I have no problem riding in it. When we had him measured, they said there is no way he could use a regular 18.5" saddle on the horse without causing back problems. Fortunately the modifications to the saddle didn't cost extra.

mbm
May. 21, 2012, 05:50 PM
But a 250lb rider sitting well in a 19" saddle with the rear panels VERY upswept to get out of the way of the horse's loins at the end of a very short back will be weighting a smaller footprint of that saddle, and the greater that ratio, the worse on the horse's back, particularly a Dressage rider who spends most of the time sitting and weighting his seat. It's less of a big deal (though not irrelevant) for the H/J rider who spends a lot more time in at least a light forward seat, if not 2-pt or close.

i think it would be interesting to challenge this assumption. why? because i see more horses with sore back with the extended panels, build up gussets etc than a normal stubben type panel.

the strongest part of the horses back is right behind the withers.... and that is where we want most of our weight - not distributed back towards the weaker loin area.

Aven
May. 21, 2012, 07:05 PM
i think it would be interesting to challenge this assumption. why? because i see more horses with sore back with the extended panels, build up gussets etc than a normal stubben type panel.

the strongest part of the horses back is right behind the withers.... and that is where we want most of our weight - not distributed back towards the weaker loin area.

I would like to preface the following with the caveat that I do not ride western and do not enjoy western saddles or sports for the most part..

But the bolded part made me think. I have heard it said often and with loads of pictures that western ridden horses tend to have an easier time with their backs as the weight is distributed over a much larger area. Vets, studies, etc seem to support this. Now there are reasons not to sit so far back as a western saddle tends to.

Also what about all the little western horses with these great big saddles? Are they rife with back problems of long saddles? Honestly I have no idea just wondering.

GreyDes
May. 21, 2012, 07:13 PM
I have an 18" Smith Worthington Danzig on my 14hh Arab, who's pretty short coupled. I got mine directly from Smith Worthington, and based on the photos and tracings, they softened the very back of the panels (less flocking), but didn't recommend going to upswept panels.

I do think the panel shape plays a big role. For example, I know that Wintecs, with their larger panels, don't work well on either of my Arabs. My guy's been very comfortable in this saddle, and I've never seen any soreness in his back.

Here's a photo of the saddle - https://picasaweb.google.com/116042752484454221533/DesertFox?authkey=Gv1sRgCL6J-p6t7pujPQ#5745112383406389842

staceyk
May. 22, 2012, 07:39 AM
Certainly I've heard that the saddle can't sit beyond the last ribs, and I know that it has to sit behind the shoulder. It's just hard for me to wrap my brain around the assertion that a 17.5 saddle and my 125 lb frame are borderline "too big" for my 17H big-bodied horse. Yes, the gussets teeter on the edge of the last rib. I wonder how much weight actually falls there, though, and whether concentrating my weight on shorter upswept panels (which are hard to find these days) is the ticket. Is it more advantageous to concentrate weight into a smaller surface area?

An acquaintaince who has a horse with an enormous laid back shoulder (gorgeous animal) was told the same thing about her 18" saddle. It seems more plausible with her horse, but she has a somewhat larger frame and she's on an endless search for a shorter panelled saddle.

I LONG for the good old days when you didn't need an interdisciplinary team of equine professionals to buy a saddle.

KateWooten
May. 22, 2012, 08:30 AM
no, you just need someone who is independent, and not affiliated to one brand or another ! Plenty of people will build a larger seat onto shorter panels for you - check out Custom's Pony Panels for example.

There is a compromise with putting a larger saddle on a smaller horse - of course ... just try it bareback - is there enough space on this horse for you ? If there is, then there's theoretically no reason why someone can't build a saddle to interface your butt with his back - and that's all a saddle is, an interface.

I can not put a 19 saddle on my 13.2 pony and for sure, I wouldn't want to. If I need that big a saddle, I'm too big for her ! At 125 lbs, I'd be surprised if you'd actually need a 17.5 staceyk - a well fitted 17 might work better for you. I'm about 125 and only ride in 17s when I don't have 16.5s available (by which, I mean.... I should admit ....... I ride in better saddles than I can afford to buy, because I'm often testing demo saddles and inventory, so I usually choose to ride in a really really really nice 17 than one of the cheap 16.5s that I actually own !)

Mad Mare
May. 22, 2012, 08:33 AM
. . .
Also what about all the little western horses with these great big saddles? Are they rife with back problems of long saddles? Honestly I have no idea just wondering.

No, because the design of the saddle distributes the weight over a greater area.

Think of it as the difference between standing on one foot, flat on the floor, and standing on one foot on the ball of the foot. It's all the same weight, but it's distributed differently.

Eileen

JB
May. 22, 2012, 08:50 AM
Certainly I've heard that the saddle can't sit beyond the last ribs, and I know that it has to sit behind the shoulder. It's just hard for me to wrap my brain around the assertion that a 17.5 saddle and my 125 lb frame are borderline "too big" for my 17H big-bodied horse. Yes, the gussets teeter on the edge of the last rib. I wonder how much weight actually falls there, though, and whether concentrating my weight on shorter upswept panels (which are hard to find these days) is the ticket. Is it more advantageous to concentrate weight into a smaller surface area?
A horse would have to have an extremely short back for a 17.5" saddle to remotely be a problem on a 17h height.


An acquaintaince who has a horse with an enormous laid back shoulder (gorgeous animal) was told the same thing about her 18" saddle. It seems more plausible with her horse, but she has a somewhat larger frame and she's on an endless search for a shorter panelled saddle.
I can see the shoulder pushing the saddle back so far as to cause a problem


I LONG for the good old days when you didn't need an interdisciplinary team of equine professionals to buy a saddle.
LOL, I don't! Ignorance may have been bliss for us but was killer on the horse!

No, because the design of the saddle distributes the weight over a greater area.

Think of it as the difference between standing on one foot, flat on the floor, and standing on one foot on the ball of the foot. It's all the same weight, but it's distributed differently.

Eileen

staceyk
May. 22, 2012, 02:04 PM
A horse would have to have an extremely short back for a 17.5" saddle to remotely be a problem on a 17h height.


And yet, that is exactly what a BN saddle expert has said, and put in writing, in their saddle recommendation. I'm not sure that I'm proposing an 'ignorant' approach to saddle fitting (your word) so much as a little sanity. We have a horse that can't talk. It seems to me that there are too many people stepping in to fill the void with a solution that costs the owner a lot of money (in this case, the proposed dream saddle is 7K).

GreyDes
May. 22, 2012, 02:31 PM
staceyk - what does your horse think of the saddle? I'm with all the folks who are having a hard time believing you can't find SOMETHING off-the-shelf that will work.

I feel your pain dealing with a small saddle area, but even on my little guy, there were several options that could have worked, and all were well less than $7K. It did take some hunting and a lot of help from the CoTH folks to find those options, but they're out there!

Have you looked at the Trumbull Mountain website? They have some great info on saddle fitting that's very practical.

GreyDes
May. 22, 2012, 02:58 PM
Check out - http://www.trumbullmtn.com/2012/01/occams-razor-and-saddle-fitting/

out west
May. 22, 2012, 03:32 PM
I have had a similar problem, and had a saddle built with special panels, they have a broad bearing area, but are short (still take up every inch of room on my short backed guy). The problem is that he has now changed, and needs a different shaped tree, and the saddle isn't adjustable!! I think the article is spot on with my horse, with the short broad panels I feel weight was spread well. I did go with a 16.5 seat as well. Unfortunately now I have to sell a specialized saddle.

staceyk
May. 22, 2012, 03:37 PM
I have my current saddle from Trumbull -- it's a pretty good fit for a growing horse. He's between a MW and W, and has a high wither that broadens to be a very wide back, which is challenging to fit with off the shelf saddles.

I opted to get a wide saddle and flock it up, but in a few months the flocking has "deflated" (serge panels settle more). The BN fitter/seller came to my barn where he has many happy customers. I was really just wanting him to reflock my saddle while he was on site, but once I saw their setup and watched a few fittings I indulged in a complete evaluation.

It was a bit of a heart breaker, after all of the analysis and discussion of my horse's needs, I felt so confident that they were going to have THE answer for my horse. Despite ample evidence that saddle H would be perfect, it did not really seem to suit either of us, at least not in the first ride.

I appreciate the analytical part, and feel it was time well spent. However, the translation to the perfect saddle? The jury is still out.

arabiansrock
May. 22, 2012, 05:27 PM
I have a very short backed arabian mare. WE need an 18 inch saddle. Ended up getting a Hastilow Concept with upswept panels. Works a treat for her and only 2600. Could have gotten similar fit from Black Country for similar price also. You DO NOT need to spend 7000 to fit these horses.

Isabeau Z Solace
May. 22, 2012, 05:45 PM
I LONG for the good old days when you didn't need an interdisciplinary team of equine professionals to buy a saddle.

Meh... you still don't. Does your saddle hurt the horse? No? Then it's fine.:D

Tasker
May. 22, 2012, 05:49 PM
There are some shots of the 19" Stubben Genesis Special on the 2 15.2 hand horses below. From left - right the black horse is 15.2 and slight in the body with a very short back. She wears a 72" rug and it is on the the 'large' side. The first chestnut is built like a sausage with a very round topline and a longer loin connection and deeper barrel. She wears a 78" rug and it is a perfect fit. They both ride 'bigger' than they are and have a long stride.

The 2nd chestnut has more of a diamond shape to his barrel but is not long in the back. He wears a 76" rug. The bay is 16.2 and very narrow in the barrel with a longer loin. She wears a 78" rug. The last chestnut is more robust and round with a fairly short coupled build. He wears a 78". These 3 are in the 18" GSD.

All of them have at least one ancestor in common and fit more than 'ok' in the exact same saddle. The tree width and shape was the most important aspect of fitting the saddle. Our horses detest loin pressure and are not shy about expressing their opinions of a big gusseted saddle - no matter how short the seat is!! They have strong backs and know how to use them! :) It was a worthwhile investment and I am currently saving to buy a second one exactly like it. Worth every penny!!!

ETA:
A few posts back someone mentioned that the panels need to be wider to eliminate pressure points. I used to think that too! But I have found through hours in the saddle with ever increasingly difficult training, the horses are more comfortable and their walks are better with more stretch over the topline, more overstep and better activity from behind than with a wider/longer/broader weight bearing panel. The caveat for that is that the tree is perfectly designed for the shape and width of their withers, shoulders and spine. Stubben really knocked it out of the park with this saddle honestly. :yes: A top pro rider/trainer/breeder told me within a month of the 19" being my main saddle - 'Even Linda Zang would give that collected walk-extended walk-collected walk diagonal a 10!' and she has/had no reason to BS me...I was there for a strip down, fix my fundamentals lesson and am fine with being told how things were in a blunt way.

candysgirl
May. 22, 2012, 09:14 PM
My short backed 14.2h Arab wears an 18" Stubben Aramis (essentially an old Tristan with upgraded leather) just fine. In fact, I use that saddle for endurance. He loves it! It fits him beautifully. Its all about how the saddle is built though. He can't wear most of the 'new' style saddles with the thick panels and all the padding. They just don't work on him.

Snoball 1
May. 23, 2012, 08:38 AM
Roosli's have upswept panels....Tree shape, plus panel shape should mimic the horse's back shape and length. There are plenty of saddles that should work well for you....

KarenRO
May. 23, 2012, 10:53 AM
FWIW, I've ridden my 14.3H Morgan mare in an older (built 2000) Northstar dressage saddle for several years. The saddle has a deep seat and gussetted back panels but only a half panel up front, which is good for her large shoulder.The saddle looks long. She is built uphill and I've always been told that 'banana' shaped panels would not work.

This weekend, I rode her in a Toulouse jumping saddle that I had on trial. The saddle was a wide tree and from the ground, the saddle felt wobbly laterally. Would you believe that even though the saddle felt too small for me and I'm fairly certain that I was behind the motion (couldn't figure out where to put my leg!), the mare moved much better in this saddle than the dressage saddle? She was light, elastic, felt free. This experience is making me rethink the whole gussetted panel concept and how it is distributing weight along her short back.

KarenRO

myvanya
May. 23, 2012, 03:27 PM
Ditto the comment on Rooslis. I now have a Roosli for my super short backed off the track Quarter horse. It was the only saddle I was able to locate used at the time that fit him and was pretty affordable. It has an upswept panel and mimics the shape of my horse's back very well. Just keep trying until you find something that works for your horse.

Isabeau Z Solace
May. 24, 2012, 05:31 PM
For anyone interested in more info on saddle fit, there was also an article in the April 16 issues of The Chronicle. Saddle Fitting:Where Science Meets Faith Healing.

lorilu
May. 24, 2012, 09:45 PM
I have a 5yo Lip mare. As a mare, she looks long - but the distance between wither and end of ribs is rather short, and her loin is the long part.
She HATED my Albion 18.5 Likewise, she hated my old 18 inch Rembrandt Integral, and a new 18 inch Wintec.

OTOH, she loves the 18inch OLD MODEL Wintec Pro. No gussets in her loins. Took me a while to find one....

L

SnicklefritzG
May. 24, 2012, 11:17 PM
My horse is 15:2 and not particularly close coupled, according to most people who have seen her.

However, I had the Schleese people tell me that I needed a 17.5" seat built on a 17" tree with upswept panels in order to accommodate my mare's "short back". Let me say that was the absolute WORST experience I've ever had with saddles, period. My very patient and kind mare had bucking fits with the saddle I just described. It was a complete nightmare.

There are several people in my barn who have small horses. One horse is about 15hh and the other is pony sized, both are in off-the-rack saddles with no special modifications, no short trees or anything and they seem to be doing just fine and are successful at 3rd/4th level.

If you are in the market for a saddle, just try everything you can get your hands on.

3s
Jun. 8, 2012, 01:13 PM
Quote:"Meh... you still don't. Does your saddle hurt the horse? No? Then it's fine." Unquote.

Really? How do you know it's not hurting your horse? Maybe he's just gotten so used to dealing with the pain (and become numb to it!) that he's simply given up. Sometimes you don't even know the damage you do to your horse until it's many years later and much too late.

Me - I'd rather listen to what the experts say, and in my book, Schleese is probably the epitome of expertise. (and please don't argue with me here - this is MY opinion and I'm entitled!)

Isabeau Z Solace
Jun. 8, 2012, 05:33 PM
Me - I'd rather listen to what the experts say, and in my book, Schleese is probably the epitome of expertise. (and please don't argue with me here - this is MY opinion and I'm entitled!)

Meh... 1) many 'saddle fitters' and 'master saddle fitters' ain't experts. 2) they 'fit' the saddle to a stationary horse not a moving one. 3) I've seen Jochen's work. Meh.... No miracles performed. But gosh darned the guy sells a lot of saddles !!

3s
Jun. 8, 2012, 05:48 PM
Meh... 1) many 'saddle fitters' and 'master saddle fitters' ain't experts. 2) they 'fit' the saddle to a stationary horse not a moving one. 3) I've seen Jochen's work. Meh.... No miracles performed. But gosh darned the guy sells a lot of saddles !!

1) agreed. But there are few with more experience, training, and ongoing education than Jochen Schleese. There's a reason that he has taught saddle fitting at the German National Riding School and a reason why he is so respected in the industry by other equine professionals.

2) Schleese actually is one of the few companies that is capable of fitting to the moving horse.

3) Miracles are performed only by God. There are enough clients for whom he has made a difference though - and that's probably why he sells a lot of saddles!