Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Top 10 Saddle Fitting Myths

The internet is chock full of information, but sometimes it can be frustrating not knowing what is true and what is not. Myths abound in the area of saddle fitting, and we sort through these myths with our customers on a daily basis. These myths can cause frustration as well as cost you money, so beware of the following:


Quite a few times per week we find ourselves explaining that one size saddle does not fit all horses. This seems like basic information, but for a first-time horse owner, it can be baffling to find that not only do saddles come with different seat sizes for you, but they also come with different tree sizes for your horse. We tried to make a simple way for customers to measure their horses to find out what size bar they need and came up with our handy, printable gullet templates. Regardless of how much your horse weighs or how wide you think his back is, measuring just to make sure can save you the headache of returning an ill-fitting saddle.


There is a rare exception to this myth, and that’s if you have two horses that are extremely similar in weight, back width, back length, and wither shape. But a mere 25 pounds in the wrong spot, a 3 inch shorter back, or a slightly higher wither can mean a saddle fitting one horse and hurting another. If you’re shopping for two horses, we recommend focusing on one horse at a time instead of trying to come up with a compromise between the two. Compromising saddle fit is, quite frankly, compromising your horse’s comfort and therefore, his behavior as well.


Many horse owners think that putting a good saddle pad under an ill-fitting saddle will alleviate pinching, slipping, or uneven pressure. Good saddle pads can cause the saddle to fit better. There is much technology in the pad industry to help a saddle fit better and you should take advantage of that technology. Padding-up to help eliminate sores from a poor fitting saddle is not a good choice. For example, if a saddle is too narrow, padding up to buffer the pressure will make the horse wider which will cause more pressure.


There are many variations to this myth. The truth is that the saddle industry uses terms loosely. Semi-quarter horse bars are often referred to as quarter horse bars, but others use the term quarter horse bars to describe wide bars, so the same saddle can be given different terms. This is very confusing to someone buying their first saddle. We’ve tried to wrestle this myth to the ground in our shop by standardizing our terms. We apply the term medium to regular, narrow, or semi-quarter horse bars and the term full to wide, full quarter horse bars.


It’s surprising to find out that manufacturers do not have a standardized way to measure gullet width. Billy Cook may do it differently than Crates, so that if each company were to measure the same gullet, a different number might be the result. At the shop we built our own little tool to measure gullets. We measure each saddle by hand so that a standard of comparison between our saddles is achieved, no matter what manufacturer produced it. Most online saddle shops simply use the statistics that the manufacturers provide with each saddle, leaving you to guess how the numbers actually stack up.


There’s no denying that the best way to see if a saddle will fit is to try it on your horse. Yet thankfully saddle fitting is not rocket science, and our customers have successfully fit thousands of “hard to fit” horses simply by using our downloadable templates and discussing the horse’s particular needs with a saddle expert. We’ve dealt with all sorts of conformations, from sway backed to high withered, and unless your horse has multiple unique issues, there’s no reason to think you can’t make a great choice online and save money over your local tack shop.


With all the helpful articles on saddle fitting on the web today, it can feel like you have to know a textbook full of information to be able to select a well-fitting saddle. Many customers call feeling exasperated wondering, “Is it really THAT hard?” No, it isn’t. All you have to be sure of is your horse and your saddle needs---no one can be an expert on those two areas but you! We have several tips regarding this frustration. First, if you’re having a specific problem, like white hairs on your horse or saddle slippage, troubleshoot those areas first. Secondly, if you know your horse’s build and figure out what size tree will fit, half of your work is done. Most saddle fitting problems arise from a saddle that…doesn’t fit!


If you went to Wal-Mart and were unable to find any clothes that fit, would you walk out convinced that you should pay exorbitant prices for custom-made designer clothes? Probably not. It’s the same with your horse. If you have a hard-to-fit horse and are having trouble finding a saddle that fits, it doesn’t mean you need to dish out more money. Have you thoroughly researched your horse’s specific needs? If you know exactly what you need but haven’t found it yet, give us a call. Not only do we have extensive experience fitting horses, but we also have the ability to tell you what can and can’t be done and at what price. We’re proud to be partnered with Dakota Saddlery, a quality company that does custom work for our shop. Dakota has always been willing to work with our customers and fit their specific needs at a low price.


We don’t know where this myth came from, but quite frankly, it’s preposterous. Flex trees are relatively new to the equine industry (in comparison with the age old wooden tree), and we suppose that if someone only heard the term “flexible tree” without knowing what it is, this myth would be easily spawned. Many people hear the term and assume that a flex tree is bendable like a piece of plastic or rubber. In reality, flex trees only “flex” about a centimeter in either direction, and only under pounds of pressure. You would probably find it hard to even see a flex tree “flexing.” This centimeter of movement, however, is what makes the flex tree more comfortable for the horse and allows the saddle to conform better to his movement. We’re not going to recommend flex trees for roping or ranch work, but we’re willing to say that under trail and pleasure conditions, there’s no way a flex tree is going to warp or cave in.


Can you get a high-fashion, well-fitting, sport coat for a very wide man? Nope. In the same way, a very wide horse is going to have to unfortunately admit he’s in the minority. Extra wide saddles are not impossible to come by, but you have a much more narrow selection. We recommend checking out Tucker trail saddles if you need an extra wide tree. The terms close contact and narrow twist refer to how you feel on the saddle. A close contact saddle with a narrow twist has less bulk and won’t spread the rider’s legs far apart. But a horse that is extra wide is not going to allow a close contact feel because of his broad back.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stop the Squeak

Like a steadily dripping faucet, there can be little as annoying as squeaking your way down the trail in your new saddle. At first the sound of new leather is rather gratifying; eventually it gets on your nerves. Those light colored show saddles are major culprits of saddle squeak, as the lack of natural oil that makes them light also lends to squeaky leather. Saddles usually squeak between the fender and the saddle tree.

But there's an easy, inexpensive solution that won't take up much of your time. All you need is some baby powder. This will reduce friction between layers.


  • Lay an old blanket or tarp over the ground
  • Turn your saddle upside down on the blanket. Lay out the fenders and stirrups and expose the area under the jockey
  • Sprinkle all the areas that are layered against each other mainly the fenders, jockeys and between the skirts
  • Shake the saddle vigorously to make sure the powder gets in deep and coats all the areas where you placed it
  • Saddle your horse. Wipe up any excess powder. Ride on smelling baby fresh and enjoying the silence.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ima Jazzy Zippo

I often hear people telling me how their horse is just an animal and they don’t understand how someone can get so attached to a horse. I never knew how attached I could get to an animal until I got my horses! The bond I share with my horse is like no bond I’ve ever experienced before! Nothing can replace that bond.

I have had a few horses over the course of my life. I had bonds with each of them. However, the strongest of those bonds didn’t come until December 17th of 2015. This was the day that I purchased my current horse Jazz. I had purchased horses before and have been just fine with them. But after buying Jazz, everything changed! I not only got a new horse but I gained a best friend! The relationship that he and I share is indescribable! I now know what everyone was telling me about the bonds they share with their horses.

On December 17th I had looked at many horses and he was the last one on the list for the day’s road trip! As I pulled up, and walked into the barn I saw a girl brushing a tall, bay horse with two white socks and a white blaze! As he stood there patiently bobbing his head to the music playing overhead, I hoped and prayed that he and I would click! I mean after all who doesn’t want a horse with that much personality? I then saddled him and rode him around their indoor arena and fell in love with this big bay! It was at that moment that I knew I had to have him! This is the day that has given way to the great relationship I share with him today!

The one thing that stands out the most about Jazz is his personality. He always keeps you laughing. When I have a bad day, all I have to do is walk by the pasture gate and he comes running to see me and shower me in horse kisses! (Whether that is because he likes to see me or wants a butterscotch treat I’m not sure). With him, there is never a fun shortage! For example, it was Halloween and I was out cleaning stalls and went to my truck to grab a pair of gloves and came across a bag of candy corn. I thought to myself as I watched Jazz stand patiently by the barn door, “hmm I wonder if he would like candy corn.” I grabbed one out of the bag and took it over to him. He took it from my hand gently… then looked at me, raised his lip and spit it straight out on the ground! It’s moments like these that I wouldn’t trade my time spent with my horse for anything!

I’m so lucky to have the relationship that I do with him! I can only hope all you other horse lovers out there have the same relationship with your horses as I do mine, there really is nothing else like it!! No one understands the type of bond until they have themselves experienced it!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ulcer Warning Signs

Studies show that a high percentage of horses that travel frequently, are stalled frequently, or consume high levels of grains. High performance horses are at a higher risk of having ulcers. In mild cases of ulcers, the symptoms can be so minor you don’t even notice. More severe cases are much easier to identify.

Signs of ulcers:
  • weight loss
  • acting up under saddle
  • cinchy, biting
  • not able to touch the stomach
  • teeth grinding
  • bad attitude
  • cribbing
  • high anxiety
  • loose stools
  • poor hair coat

Some signs of ulcers can be easily confused with saddle fitting issues. The only sure way to know if your horses has ulcers is to have their stomach scoped by a veterinarian. Your horses stomach needs acid to digest food. They can produce up to 9 gallons of acid per day even when not eating. It is recommended to decrease the high levels of grains your horse is consuming and increase the amount of roughage per day. Using a slow feeder to feed you horse hay helps prevent waste, along with keeping your horses eating all day long and maintain a low acid level in the stomach.

There are many great supplements on the market to help prevent ulcers or help your horses that have ulcers. Ask your trusted veterinarian what they recommend.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Are You A Fashion Guru?

    Every little girl's dream somehow involves fashion, right? Well maybe not quite all girls; I on the other hand had a different dream in which was being a horse trainer that had the passion to show both barrel and pleasure horses. However, at the age of 21 the only thing I have seemed to accomplish that is even remotely close to my dream was showing pleasure horses competitively. Since I was 17 months old, I have been in the show arena. Even though I do not remember what the show outfits looked like back in those days. Fashion doesn't just exist out on the runway, but does exist in the show arena.

I do know that over the years, the show fashions have changed tremendously throughout my show career. I have had numerous outfits for each of my horses. The new norm seems to be that the nineties are coming back into the show pen: in wearing vests with a long sleeve button down shirt underneath which is a much cleaner look for women. Anymore you see the same outfit used in showmanship, horsemanship, and in western pleasure. By creating these outfits in multiple pieces not only does it save you money down the line, but it can be quite costly at the start. 

When I was showing my horse Libby in small fry classes at that time, the outfits that were very popular were the fitted rhinestone jackets with dress type pants, along with the cheap sprayed painted cowboy boots to match your outfit color. There were a couple of years that I remember most exhibitors wore customized monogram starched shirts with cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and chaps to complete their outfit. Lucky for today's exhibitor, you can still be tried and true when picking your outfit(s) of choice. The most common outfit that is worn for western pleasure, trail, and western riding is a fitted jacket with a color that looks good on your horse. For showmanship and horsemanship, your safest choice is to keep it classy and traditional with a good fit.  

All in all, just remember to create and or find outfit(s) that fit you the best and the color that is best fit for your horse. My mom and I find show saddle pads that have color variety, then we customize my outfits based on the saddle pad design to ensure that my horse and I are always riding in style. 


Monday, January 23, 2017

Just Horsin’ Around: Trailer Packing Checklist 101

Packing my bags is easy, but when it comes to packing the horse trailer, that is another story! Over the year of my family and I hitting up the local and state campgrounds or hauling to weekend show grounds to compete, we’ve tried numerous ways to organize our trailer. This might seem easy to most, however you will soon realize having horses can be a real chore. Below you will find the trailer checklist my family and I use on a daily basis when show and camping season is in full swing.

The Essentials
  • Coggins & health certificate
  • Wheel chocks
  • First Aid Kits (Equine & Human)
  • Camp / Show Information & directions
  • Vehicle equipment

Horse Equipment
  • Hay (Number of Hay Bales ____)
  • Feed & scoop w/ large FILLED water jugs
  • Salt blocks/ extra tack
  • Hay bags / Lead ropes / Leather hole punch
  • Manure fork / Bucket
  • Shavings & foam squares
  • Picket line / Grooming Tote which includes (brushes, combs, hoof picks, etc.)
  • Saddles / Saddle Pads / Saddles Racks / Saddle Bags / Blankets
  • Girths / Shipping Boots & Leg Wraps
  • Fly Protection (Mask, Spray, Sheet)

Vehicle Equipment
Give thought to what you carry such as:
Jumper cables, reflective wear, oil, towels, tool box, tire tool, tire jack, trailer ramp, etc.

Camping Equipment
  • Sleeping Bags / Blankets / Sheets / Pillows
  • Outdoor Extension Cords
  • Flashlights / Lantern / Lamp Oil
  • Grill / Firewood / Fuel / Stove
  • Matches / Lighter / Gas
  • Fan / Heaters
  • Chairs / Table / Tablecloth
  • Cooler (w/ Food & Drinks)
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Plates / Cups / Silverware
  • Dish Soap / Garbage Bags
  • Paper Towels / Toilet Paper
  • Hammer / Screw Driver / Shovel
  • Level boards to level trailer
  • Extra rope & ties

  • Boots (Riding/Rubber)
  • Jeans
  • T-Shirts / Flannels / Vest
  • Underwear / Socks
  • Sweatshirts / Lightweight Jackets / Heavy Jackets
  • Rain Gear (Ponchos)
  • Gloves
  • Chaps / Hat / Hunt Cap
  • Shower Shoes
  • Swim Suit

Odds & Ends
  • Reflective Gloves & Wear
  • Toiletries / Personal Care Items
  • Soap / Shampoo / Razor / Make-up
  • Deodorant / Toothpaste / Toothbrush
  • Medication / Towels & Wash Cloths
  • Aspirin / Pocket Knife / Mirror
  • Extra Batteries
  • Video Camera / Cell Phone / Charger
  • Insect Repellent / Bee Sting Medication
  • Sunscreen / Sunglasses / Reading Glasses
  • Duct Tape / Gorilla Glue
  • Safety Pins / Sharpie Markers
  • Clock / Watch / Compass / Map
  • Zip-lock Bags
  • Dog Food / Water Bowl / Leash & Cable
  • Hands-wipes
  • Riding Helmet

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Breaking Out Lacy

One of my favorite and most memorable experiences in the equine world would have taken place in July of 2016. I had been searching for another horse online and had found a 2-year-old Bay Roan Quarter Horse that I loved. I decided to contact the seller and see if she was available and two days later I headed down to Tennessee.

It was 11 hours one way to drive there and look at a horse I had never seen before, but as soon as I saw "Lacy" I knew she was coming home with me. In the first 5 minutes her quirky personality drew me to her. Purchasing this 2-year-old filly has been the greatest learning experience for me. After a few weeks of ground manners and desensitizing with a tarp, I decided that she was ready for a saddle.

Breaking out Lacy has been so rewarding. In the first few months of training she has already been trail riding and camping. In the next year or two my plan is to start training Lacy for barrel racing. This was my very first time breaking out a horse on my own, but I am very pleased with the results, and I would do it all over again. The bond we have is unbreakable, Lacy doesn’t act like a horse she acts more like my pet dog.

- Rachael