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Wide vs. narrow--channel UPDATE post 32: horse is still sore!

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  • #21
    The panels of the saddle should rest on the longissimus muscle, and the channel should be wide enough to clear the spine. That said, if the channel is *too* wide for the individual horse (and each horse's needs are a bit different), the saddle may "scrub" back and forth and cause problems. Most horses are fine with a channel about 2 3/4" - 3" wide; some need a bit more, but I don't think I've ever seen one (including draft and Baroque breeds) that need the fist-width channel some saddles have.
    Kitt Hazelton
    Saddle Fitter
    www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
    www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

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    • #22
      The gullet channel size is important to the spine width and muscles that run along the spine. If the channel is too narrow and pinches the spine it will hurt your horse and inhibit movement. Conversely, if the gullet channel is too wide and your horse is narrow it can sit right on the wither and the panels will sit down too far on the back muscles causing instability and discomfort.
      The channel is important as well as the horizontal shape of the panels. Compare not only the front of the saddle but also how the rear panels match the side to side shape of your horses back towards T18.
      Thoroughbreds although similar in many ways vary widely these days, some much broader and straighter longi
      tunaly than others.
      Jay McGarry
      sms trained saddle fitter
      www.trumbullmtn.com
      800-442-9672

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      • #23
        If the gullet's too narrow, it can actually put pressure on the transverse and spinous processes of the spine - not so much "pinching" as actually making contact on bone. If the channel's too wide, the tree can actually make contact with the spinous processes. Not good either way.
        Kitt Hazelton
        Saddle Fitter
        www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
        www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

        Comment


        • #24
          Originally posted by Kitt View Post
          ... that need the fist-width channel some saddles have.
          funny you would say that..I just measured across my knuckles which is 3"

          I went to look at used saddles and picked up an older close contact that had (I swear) a 1" gullet. whoa!

          I'm finding this discussion interesting because my dressage saddle narrows in the back too, and I'm not so sure that's good.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #25
            Originally posted by MaybeMorgan View Post

            I'm finding this discussion interesting because my dressage saddle narrows in the back too, and I'm not so sure that's good.
            But have you noticed any back soreness, or had any other indication that it mattered that the channel tapered? I posted a link to a CL ad for the exact saddle I bought. Is yours similar?

            I also PM'd a few other Kieffer Wien riders to see if they had anything to add.

            FWIW, the Kieffer is 3 fingers wide most of the way, then tapers to two fingers.
            A helmet saved my life.

            2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

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            • #26
              MaybeMorgan, you have a wee little fist! Mine is 5" plus! But it's all relative ...

              Channels that narrow toward the cantle are common in some of the older saddles, and in some - the forward-balance saddles in particular - it's not an issue, since that part of the panels doesn't make contact with the back. If the saddle is a traditional UK-made, supposed-to-have-contact-throughout-the-panel-area type, it can create problems.
              Kitt Hazelton
              Saddle Fitter
              www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
              www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

              Comment


              • #27
                I too have 3" knuckles, its how I used to measure channels in fact.

                I am of the opinion of wide vs. narrow, evenly spaced vs. tapers to narrow in back, gusseted vs. non, etc, etc, is all subject to the horse the saddle is set upon. Imho, it is HIGHLY individual and the only one who can say 'yeah or neigh' is the horse.

                I once had an interesting dressage saddle that was comfortable as hell for the rider. It was a general fitting saddle but had uniquely wide panels and uniquely super duper wide channel, almost 4".

                I had no use for it as my horse outgrew it, so I lent it out to friends since everyone ogled it.

                It was ridden in by at least a dozen people on probably close to 20 horses, all a generally decent fit. While all the riders loved it, all the horses that bore it tended to have strong opinions one way or the other.

                I suspect it was the channel width that made it a love it or hate it for the horses. And, it wasn't always the bony ones that objected and it wasn't always the flat backed that loved it either - though I did personally witness it actually sit in a horse's spine once and just being girthed the horse found it painful. Overall however, the reactions from the horses were very individual. It was an interesting thing to observe.

                Oh wow!! Just noticed you Kitt. Welcome! Great to have your expertise!! I have treasured your blog for many years now.
                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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                • #28
                  Testify, buck22! The saddle fitter can offer highly educated, well-considered opinions, and offer supporting evidence as to why the saddle should/shouldn't work ... but in the end, the horse and rider have the final say.
                  Kitt Hazelton
                  Saddle Fitter
                  www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                  www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    No, I have not seen soreness and in general I think it is a pretty decent saddle. I have been considering looking for an upgrade, though.

                    My one concern is that if I look at marks on the saddle pad, they are nice and even in the front, then merge in the back. And you can see the narrowing closer to the spine when looking down the back from above.

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by Kitt View Post
                      The panels of the saddle should rest on the longissimus muscle, and the channel should be wide enough to clear the spine. That said, if the channel is *too* wide for the individual horse (and each horse's needs are a bit different), the saddle may "scrub" back and forth and cause problems.
                      This pretty much sums up my understanding of channel width. I have this same saddle (although perhaps a bit newer?) for Mr. Princess-and-the-Pea Thoroughbred and it seems to work great for him. At least on mine, the narrowing of the channel width is pretty minimal -- not like some of the older saddles that really converge in the back (barnmate has an older Kieffer Lech that tapers to less than two fingers).

                      My fitter was actually very impressed that I managed to buy something "practically custom" used from ebay. Pony's only objection is that das hard German panels are nien floofy enough for him, but he requires a Mattes sheepskin pad between him and anything that's not eiderdown-and-cashmere flocked anyway.

                      Have you had a fitter take a look at it on? My bigger question from the photos is actually whether the panels are a little "overstuffed"/ too round and need to have some flocking removed (or if that's just the picture)?

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by MaybeMorgan View Post
                        funny you would say that..I just measured across my knuckles which is 3"

                        I went to look at used saddles and picked up an older close contact that had (I swear) a 1" gullet. whoa!

                        I'm finding this discussion interesting because my dressage saddle narrows in the back too, and I'm not so sure that's good.
                        Yeah, that has been my experience w/ older saddles too - gullets narrower then 2 inches - might work on a few horses, but for more of them, way too narrow. Most horses will "make do", but you won't get the best performance they COULD provide. A few will really let you know it isn't working.

                        My fist is just over 3 inches, my hand is not small - glove size 8, and I use my fist as an estimate for a lot of measurements. I do agree, a 5 inch gullet is probably overkill and will be an issue for most horses too, but right around 3 inches seems to work for most horses, and those oldie saddles are often in the 1 to 1.5 inch gullet range.

                        Kitt, totally agree with your statement - in the end, the horse lets us know. But if we don't give the horse a choice, they often accept. Watching someone try a lot of saddles in one ride - it is amazing how much better some horses will go when they are in the "right" saddle.

                        Of course, it isn't just gullet width, it is shape of tree, length of panels, width of saddle, balance, etc. Then, oh joy, oh joy, we need the saddle to work for the rider too

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #32
                          Updating to say:

                          It turns out that it's horsey's trapezius muscles that are sore since that ill-fitting saddle on Saturday. And a week later, they are STILL sore.

                          I am having the saddle fitter out Monday to check the fit of the newly-adjusted Kieffer, as well as the CC saddle I usually ride in myself. That is a Pessoa with exchangeable gullet plates and the flocking is somewhat adjustable. Also, please note that except for a few test rides with front shims to compensate, he hasn't been ridden in the narrower Kieffer.

                          If this doesn't resolve with time off and new saddle fittings, who do I call first, the vet or the chiropractor?
                          Last edited by Bristol Bay; Jan. 20, 2013, 04:01 PM.
                          A helmet saved my life.

                          2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

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                          • #33
                            There's no point in spending money on body work until the saddle fit issues have been resolved. My plan would be to either wait for the saddle fitter and lunge in the meantime, or if you don't think your saddle will ever fit well, start searching for one that does. You may have to give your horse 3-5 days off to resolve muscle bruising before trying new saddles. Once you've got a solution, then definitely get the chiropractor out. It may take a few visits to get everything back together again.

                            Good luck, I've just been down this road myself and it's not fun ...
                            "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              You'll have to let the soreness subside before you try to do any saddle fitting. Trying to fit a horse that's back sore is almost impossible; you won't be able to tell if the horse is reacting because the saddle doesn't fit, or because s/he's back sore. And be sure the horse has healed enough to be ridden; again, you need to know that any reaction the horse has to the saddle is due to saddle fit rather than residual pain.
                              Kitt Hazelton
                              Saddle Fitter
                              www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                              www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #35
                                I think Both of you make really good points. The saddle I have been riding him in with no problems is a Pessoa. I recently switched out from a narrow to a medium because the sweat marks on his saddle pads showed that his muscles had developed to where he needed a larger plate. I also had his back checked by the vet and he had no soreness at all, and this was about a month ago.

                                So I think I'll go ahead and have the saddles checked out for size only, since the tree on the Kieffer is adjustable. I already had it adjusted, but it still sits too low on him. I suspect the people doing the adjusting were in denial that a horse could be that narrow, since they are used to dealing with big WBs. Then when the back soreness resolves, I'll have both saddles reflocked.

                                I totally agree, Kitt, it's pointless to try and get the fit just right when he's sore. On the other hand, I want to make absolutely sure my saddle didn't cause his soreness. If all of this trauma to his back and the resulting vet bills are the result of one ride with an ill-fitting saddle, there are going to be some uncomfortable conversations between me and the people involved in riding him in it.
                                A helmet saved my life.

                                2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

                                Comment


                                • #36
                                  I recently just found the right saddle for my horse after having her get quite back sore in the wrong saddle. She's a young mare whose back was developing/broadening, and I only realized the saddle was really not right once we started having some training issues. Now, her back is probably very different from your tb...but I learned that it is not only about the gullet width, but also the placement of the rails in the tree of the saddle. In her case, we tried a saddle with a fairly wide gullet, but the rails of the tree were still too vertical, eventually aggravating her. Long story short, I was in a bit of a pickle, because I had a horse who was very defensive under saddle. As Kitt mentioned, there's no way you can try saddles that way. So I spent a good two months working her lightly on the lunge, making sure she was over her back. My poor girl had all of a sudden developed a fair deal of anxiety that was particularly apparent in all upward transitions...it took a while for her to trust she wouldn't be in pain. It was only then that I even seriously attempted to get a saddle. I then had someone come out to me who had literally 8 or 10 saddles I could try that would be right for her back type. Good luck--it can be a process, but finding the right saddle makes all the difference.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #37
                                    When I first got him, I rode in a Passsier GG medium tree that fit him just fine. I was having so much hip soreness, though, that I upgraded to a Lemke Buffalo Deluxe. This is one of those grippy saddles with the huge blocks. It was dreamy and cushy, but when I started riding more I realized the blocks were causing me more pain. I sold that and got a CC saddle so I could keep riding. The Lemke required very minor tweaking after it was broken in. He has high withers and is narrow, but I don't think he's a tough fit. I want a dressage saddle that fits him and that has none of those holding-you-in qualities so I can ride in it, too. I have owned 5 saddles since getting him off the track, and have lost a ton of money trying to get a saddle right for him and for me. I wish I could have a new custom fitted saddle (Stubben comes to mind) that fits all of our needs. I know I could resell this Kieffer for what I paid and start from scratch, and I'm willing to do that.
                                    I just feel so bad that he is experiencing pain due to human error--four humans, to be exact, all of whom should have known better.
                                    Last edited by Bristol Bay; Jan. 21, 2013, 11:30 AM.
                                    A helmet saved my life.

                                    2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

                                    Comment


                                    • #38
                                      It more than width of gullet. You need to check to make sure the saddle is not bridging

                                      Comment


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by Bristol Bay View Post
                                        When I first got him, I rode in a Passsier GG medium tree that fit him just fine.

                                        He has high withers and is narrow, but I don't think he's a tough fit.
                                        There is a contradiction in these statements - a Passier medium does not fit that narrow ...

                                        Have you read this entry on Kitt's blog (there is a lot of great information on her blog )

                                        I'm still dubious that a single ride created so much soreness - I do readily believe that he already had some sensitivity & this last saddle just pushed everything to the breaking point
                                        BUT you should be able to have the expectation that your trainer & leaser will NOT use a badly fitting saddle - from your description, it seems very obvious that the saddle was not a good fit. I suspect you will just need to state in writing that no saddles you (& your saddle fitter) have not previously approved, may be used - NO exceptions.

                                        Like others, I encourage you to give the horse a couple of saddle-free weeks to get the inflammation down & then have the fitter out to assess the Pessoa & the Kieffer.
                                        I'd likely have both a vet & Equine Therapist out to assess the horse - unfortunately neither all vets nor ET's are created equally


                                        (if he has turn out, it's also possible that he did something there & this is just coincidental to the saddle trial)

                                        Comment


                                        • #40
                                          I was recently re-evaluating how my saddle fits my tb, because the marks after a ride were more front and back than even so I thought the saddle might be bridging. When he stands in the cross ties, the saddle looks fabulous on him (and it was fitted to him, and reflocked about 3 months ago), so I couldn't figure out the front/back sweat patches. Then he was standing in his stall with his head down eating hay and I noticed how different the shape of his back looked, when the muscles on the sides of his withers popped up he didn't have the "big withered tb" look that he had when he was standing in the cross ties. I put the saddle on him while he was eating and it looked so different! So I pulled out my wintec gullet kit to measure the difference in the size/shape behind the shoulder blade where the front of the saddle sits. When he's standing with "bad posture" he easily fits the narrowest gullet. When he's flexing those muscles, even the medium-narrow very distinctly pokes into him and is too narrow, the medium is a better fit. Has anyone else noticed this difference? Do saddle fitters factor this in when they fit a saddle on a horse standing so that it still fits when the horse is moving and using his back correctly (beyond fitting the saddle in the cross ties then going for a ride to "test" the fit)?
                                          Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
                                          Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
                                          My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com

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