Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tenting the saddle pad

Go Lightly has been speaking of tenting in saddle pads a bit lately. I have to thank her for something concerning that. I will explain why a bit later...

For now though, you can all thank her for bringing it up. Since we are discussing saddle fit, it will help to explain the 'tenting' by starting back at the beginning. Like the saddle tree. The saddle tree really determines whether or not the saddle will fit the horse. The tree will also vary to some degree, depending on the use it is designed for.

This image from Sugar River Saddlery and Tack in Wisconsin, shows a number of different trees, ready to be made into saddles. They will actually ship you the tree to fit on your horse, before they start to make your saddle. Of course there is a deposit and forms and stuff, but honestly, I have not heard of many if any saddlery shops that will do this. In most cases, saddles either fit your horse or they don't.

I found the website by looking for examples of the western saddle trees. Pictures to help us 'visually guided' folks...

This is their solid oak tree with bronze horn. It shows the way a saddle tree fits on the horses back. Obviously this tree is a bit wide for the 'horse' it is on since the pommel is a bit low and would be making for a sore back, but it is shaped a lot like the english saddle trees, with a nice wide space for the spine.

They also offer trees comprised of a few different components. Polymer Tree, Wood Tree Option for Covering, Fiberglass Wrapped, Bull Hide Wrapped (Rawhide), Flex Tree & ProTech.

A lot of the saddles on the market come in the standard- bullhide/rawhide wrapped wood tree, fiberglass tree, fiberglass wrapped tree and with technology advancements more options offering lighter weight, greater strength and longer saddle life, there is much to choose from and something for everyone. Then there are other companies offering treeless saddles.

Some of the saddle trees offer more of an actual seat on them. When you look at them as a bare nekkid skeleton, they look more like this one-

It looks like this picture is from a forum from the horse channel. Anyone care to say what they like or dislike about this type of tree? There are two things I find right off, that makes me think about continuing my search if I were shopping for a saddle.

The underside of a finished saddle here-

For those who don't already know, this is the correct way to set down a western saddle if you do not have a stand or rack for it. The horn and front of the saddle go down. Depending on the horn length and size, it may keep the saddle from falling over onto the seat and cantle, if not, you may need to lean it agains something to help it stay upright.

With this one, keep in mind, the riders position in the seat, would be right between the two rear cinch straps. Right about the back of the channel between the saddle bars, towards the top of the saddle as pictured. The rear of the saddle shows the skirts stitched or laced together. Many saddles on the market are constructed like this. The lacing of the skirts is another thing preventing the saddle pad from being tented the length of the horses spine, allowing for airflow. Add in the thickness of the pads and it makes it a bit harder to do. Not all saddle though, have the fleece lining the channel of the saddle. Some are left a bit more open.

Everyone can do their best to tent the pads, but as the horse moves, the pad may slip down and rest on the back. This can in some cases cause problems. Some pads offer built in channels to allow air flow along the spine. Sometimes you just have to make exceptions and work with what you have.

Hopefully this will explain a few things for her and help others understand their saddles from the inside out.


  1. Good info, I think the "tenting done under a western saddle is iffy at best , more about making sure the pad isn't yanked down tight over the wither ,the pads that have cutouts or are tapered might help with that . But the bottom line is the saddle needs to fit! the tree that looks so solid does not look like a great idea at all . other than I cant see the underside to see if it would cause pressure ,I can't put my finger on what I dont like ,I just don't like it ,looks like you would be sitting on the likes of a plastic pail , no flex, no contact, I just don't know

  2. Plus you might get a sweaty butt ;-)

    Really, a good Western saddle is designed for all-day comfort for horse and rider. I can see how the "classic" trees pictured would facilitate that.

    If you look at a lot of old saddles, many feature open channels down the middle.

    Wonder if you could put a potty in there... :P

  3. OOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooH.

    Oh, there ya go.
    I wondered about that.

    Western saddles, some are designed to sit higher off the horse's back, some are designed to sit more flush.
    I think?
    English saddles are NOT as exaggeratedly different?
    Yes, a dressage saddle is very different from a flat jumper saddle.

    It seems to me, please correct me if I'm wrong, that the western saddle has four points of contact with the horses back. The english has three.
    Please, argue this?

    My post didn't make any sense, sorry about that.
    I'm going to clarify it, once my eyes are more open.

  4. I tent my western and english pads. To make an air pocket, and keep it from being tight on the withers. It doesn't matter how much you tent it, if the saddle doesn't fit. Kind of like trying to pad up a saddle that doesn't fit, or put a riser pad under an english saddle, that then drives the points of the saddle down into the horse. Get a saddle that fits.

    One of my students just bought a nice dressage saddle. She had been riding my mare in an older Wintec. It fit...but certainly not the quality of saddle as the Harry Dabbs.

    Well, the new saddle looks like it was made for Cami. She is moving more forward and freely...big swing to her shoulders, much more open. (Well, open for Cami. lol)

  5. Here is one of the things I find wrong with the black saddle tree-
    this saddle tree has the same issue. The stirrup leathers have one place to go. That is it. With the trees that have the open channel down the center, the leather from the rest of the saddle, allows for you to move your leg and the stirrups back a bit, where your leg is under you more, making your postition a bit more solid.

    Also the solid center does not allow the air to escape even if there were a channel or the pad 'tented'. It is a solid barrier. I found the link to the forum and post where the pic came from. I will post it.

  6. Here is a link to the forum where I found the pictures of the saddle tree- board.horsechannel dot com

    The fifth post down is where poster NMyers states-

    Saddles are a hard deal here is some pictures to help you......

    The picture below shows excellent fit along the bars of the saddle tree. Bars fit the back evenly without poking in. They lie flush with the horse's back so the bars can evenly distribute the rider's weight comfortably for the horse. (Don't be discouraged if your tree fitting is not exactly like this...the best possible, most comfortable fit can be found for your horse)


    If your tree fit doesn't look exactly like this...that's okay :) This is to show you what angles we would like to see in the pictures.

    The picture below shows a shot from the rear. There is space between the tree and the spine of the horse. Spine clearance is necessary for the health and comfort of the horse/mule.


    The clearence between the cantle and the spine is definatly a must. Lack of this can cause spinal issues and pain, when the saddle is put together its hard to see this but, your saddle should evenly dispurse your weight. Lunge your horse with saddle and pad on if you see any dry spots under the saddle pad then your saddle is not fitting correctly, keep in mind as well that some saddle pads are designed to absorb sweat at a very fast rate, so make sure you work your horse to a good sweat. Remove the saddle and pad ASAP.

    The last shot is of the gullet or front of the tree. There is good spine/wither clearance in the front with a good bar fit at the front as well.


  7. Yay blooger character limits...

    The rest of NMyers post-
    With the saddle put together, these have a tendancy to look a little lower on the horse, which is fine but remember that if your not in the saddle you need as least two finger widths I like three. Because spme flex trees are designed when weight is placed into the saddle, that the gullet will spread to dispurse the weight, making it larger. Most horses fit nice into a 7" or 7 1/2" gullet, most large barrel horses fit into 8" Gullet and Standard Draft Horses fit into a 9" to 10" Gullet. However keep in mind as well that you have several diffrent bar options, Semi-Quarter Horse, Full Quarter Horse, Gaited, Mule, Arabian, and Draft Bars. Now these are just variations, there not meaning you have to have these on those breeds, I have had Tennessee walkers in arab bars, and Mustangs in Draft Horse Bars. These relate to the spread of the bars, if you look on the picture from the rear this is a Mule Bar Saddle and the spread allows the bars to properly sit on either side of the spine. Most horses fit well into a Full Quarter Horse Bar, without issues, western saddles tend to be heavy as well, so it becomes a transition for the horse as well they don't flex as easy as english saddle and they move around alot more, also remember western saddles should not be cinched extremely tight either, this can cause girth galls on your horse. I double alot of my pads, My Percheron Mare only has one pad but I custom fit that saddle to her, now my arab had two saddle pads on him I used a fleece saddle pad and threw a navajo pad over the top of that. There are also built up saddle pads that are just like a standard pad except the shoulder area is built up as a rule I never use these as there not fixing the fit issue there only covering it up, and will eventually cause problems. I double my pad not because the saddle does not fit, I only ride western (gave my English days up long ago) and my horses are ranch horses, they drag thing from the horn, rope calves and goats, even help pull a calf every now and then, the get things thrown on the saddle, pull things with the saddle, and all around the saddles get banged around a bit from getting on and off, you name it so I add an extra pad under there to help ease any pressure from the saddle being pushed and pulled on. It all depends on what you are going to want out of your western if your just trail riding you dont have to get extremely picky on them but keep in mind most trail rides last for hours and a bad saddle and pad can cause sores on those long days. Hope this helps and good luck in your riding.

    (CNJ back in) Feel free to express your agreements and disagreements with their post.

  8. Here is the clicky link for the first saddle pic, and here is the clicky link for the forum post.

    If this doesn't work- you're on your own... Blogger really needs an edit feature.