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harness saddle fitting woes

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  • harness saddle fitting woes

    I am having saddle fit woes with my gelding as I've recently discovered he has broken withers. He likes driving so far, but is easily made sore.

    I just got a used but lovely driving essentials marathon harness with a treed saddle, to replace the non-treed saddle I currently have.

    The new treed saddle is too narrow a pitch, and though clears his spine it digs into his sides, behind his shoulders/love handles. Confirming my fears, my horse shot me an awful look when I cinched it up this morning.

    I adore this harness, its stout and nicely made and otherwise a brilliant fit on him. Short of placing it on the ground and stomping on it, is there any hope for having the tree widened?
    Last edited by buck22; Apr. 21, 2010, 05:09 PM.
    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

  • #2
    get it to a harness maker and have it properly fitted.


    • Original Poster

      that can be done???

      I did not know treed saddles were adjustable? I do have an email into DE but its too soon to hear back I suppose. I can drive it over, not far from them.
      Last edited by buck22; Apr. 21, 2010, 09:36 PM.
      Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


      • #4
        You need to make wither tracing of your horses back

        you can use a thin wire clothes hanger or get one of those artists/dressmakers flexible thingy's

        Lay it over the withers and mold the wire to shape
        then take it off and draw it on a piece of newspaper or something

        if you cant bring the horse with you to the harness shop, then bring the wither tracing so they get the fit right


        this ia a good site for how to size your horses back


        • #5
          If it's a good harness you have then they can fit a new tree inside.

          If it's not able to refit then it's not that much to get a whole new saddle with a new tree inside it.

          I've a welsh section C that has extremely high withers and I can't get a ready made saddle that tives him sufficient clearance. I have a tree made for him and and then the driving saddle is made for that.

          Cost is £400 in total. That's for English Leather.


          • Original Poster

            though hopefully DE will respond that mine can be adjusted, in the meanwhile can someone please recommend a harness saddle that can be fit?

            I'm new to driving and tack, I thought smuckers and driving essentials were good brands, but because my horse is particular I'm having a lot of problems. I've now got two beautiful complete harnesses but I'm stuck in neutral till I get this problem fixed.

            Thank you. and thank you for the wither tracings!

            Thomas would you please share your source for a harness saddle for such a great price? I shop in the UK all the time, I adore english leather, I think its the finest to be had, and I import nearly all my tack. When the us dollar is strong, shopping in the UK is more reasonable than one might think.
            Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


            • #7
              Driving Essentials harness saddles absolutely CAN be adjusted - just call 'em or e-mail 'em & they'll tell you what to do.

              If all it needs is widening, you can actually widen it yourself by unscrewing the hardware, placing it upside down on a blanket (or some sort of protection from scrapes/scratches) on a hard surface, and *pushing*.

              ALERT: The problem w/ this approach is of course that if you bend it too far, you'll have a demon of a time getting it back into the proper shape. On balance, it's best to send it to DE (or any other reputable harnessmaker near you), TBH.
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


              • Original Poster

                HORRAH!!!! I'm within driving distance of DE, and there is some marvelous flyfishing out that way anyhow, so a nice road trip can easily be in order.

                A very nice person also indicated that it could be tweeked by hand as well, but I'd be so afraid to get it evenly done. If DE can do it, I'm probably far better off that way.

                THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Best news I've heard all year so far. We'll be merrily driving yet.
                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                • Original Poster

                  just got off the phone with DE, they say that though anything is possible its cheaper to just buy a new saddle. They suggested because I'm a novice I need to hire someone to come evaluate my needs. I don't know where to start.

                  I'm so sad, my horse has been doing so well with driving, we were both really excited and happy, now we're stuck in neutral again until I can figure out how to get his saddle adjusted, hopefully by someone else, DE really isn't willing or helpful.

                  eta: an update, a very helpful woman named Jan is ready to assist with a custom fitted saddle. She too suggested I widen the saddle by hand as well, lol! But I sent her some photos, explained my problem and she's willing to assist me. I'm really happy to feel like I'm back on track and have a rosy future to look forward to... I'm struggling a bit with my horse's diagnosis of broken withers, Though I try to remain really optimistic, I feel at the end of my rope sometimes. Whereas last year I was mildly enthused about driving because I like it and like my horses well rounded, now, it feels like our only option... his only chance at a career... and I need help. When I get a less than warm reception when asking for help, I feel stalemated and its frustrating. I know I'm a novice to driving and am basically flying solo, but I'm fairly sensible in general and I'd never do something to put my horse or myself in danger... we all have to start somewhere don't we? I'm doing my best to learn and do my level best for my horse. Sorry to blog, pity party over
                  Last edited by buck22; Apr. 26, 2010, 08:19 PM. Reason: updating news 4.26
                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                  • #10
                    saddle fitting device

                    There's a tree width device that works for all kinds of saddles


                    • #11
                      I know a bit of what you are feeling as our horse Alex was injured in a barn fire. His skin was damaged from wither to croup and he remains hairless there to this day. That left us with a 7 yo horse with driving being his most viable career. We worked through things slowly and carefully and today we have a happy and healthy horse who LOVES driving

                      Actually, Driving Essentials WAS being helpful. You need someone knowledgeable to take a look and determines if your problem is saddle fit or horse injury and where it needs adjusting. Since you are a novice at both the injury and driving, you will be floundering in the dark without hands on help. Without help you can buy Freedman custom made harness and end up with something that doesn't fit. IOW, it's not the brand of harness, it's the special needs of your horse. You have to know what to ask to be changed to meet his needs.

                      I'd start with the injury. How long have you had the diagnosis of broken withers. Has the vet talked to you about what this means, where exactly is the break, what does this mean for your horse's ability to move and carry any weight or pressure. Is the horse still healing or are you at the WYSIWYG stage? Once you've established your baseline with the horse, you will have a better idea of what he can or can't handle.

                      Next, look at the harnesses you have already bought and what your options are. WITH EXPERIENCED HELP, look at the saddles/harness you have... WHAT doesn't fit, does the treeless saddle have a gullet for the spine? Is it wide enough, enough padding to pad the terret screws? Think of your guy as a Prince and the Pea now... where that saddle might not bother most horses it does bother him. Now look at the DE harness in the same way. Which needs less adjusting to make it what you want?

                      What worked for us with no bone injuries, but tender skin issues was more of a Gig style (width and padding) treeless saddle


                      If you are close to DE, you aren't far from help either. Check with the My Ladies Manor, Brandywine or other club and ask if someone can give you a hand. Club contacts available on either the Carriage Association (caaonline.com) or American Driving Society (americandrivingsociety.org)