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  1. #1
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    Default Dressage Today saddle article

    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.
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  2. #2
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    Jan. 5, 2009
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    Default

    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.

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  3. #3
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    Default

    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.



  4. #4
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    Dec. 13, 1999
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    Default

    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
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  5. #5
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    Sep. 11, 2011
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    Default

    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.



  6. #6
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    Aug. 14, 2004
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    Default

    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.



  7. #7
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    Jun. 21, 2009
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    Default

    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.



  8. #8
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    Mar. 24, 2010
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    Default

    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!
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  9. #9
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    Jun. 24, 2005
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    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!



  10. #10
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    Sep. 9, 2008
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    Default

    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.



  11. #11
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    May. 26, 2006
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    North Carolina
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    Default

    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!



  12. #12
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    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?



  13. #13
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    May. 26, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by ako View Post
    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.



  14. #14
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    Dec. 13, 1999
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CatPS View Post
    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.
    ______________________________
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  15. #15
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
    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.
    ______________________________
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  16. #16
    Join Date
    May. 24, 2007
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    Monroe, WA USA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by vagabondrider View Post
    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.



  17. #17
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    Aug. 14, 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB View Post

    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.



  18. #18
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    Jul. 25, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbm View Post
    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.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 19, 2009
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    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/1160427...12383406389842



  20. #20
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    Feb. 13, 2006
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    Default know the theory

    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.
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