Thursday, October 30, 2008

10 Easy Tips for Saddle Fitting

10 Quick Tips for Easy Saddle Fitting

If you want a good fit take a few minutes and answer these basic questions.

1. How much does your horse weigh? If a 1000 lbs or more, look to a Full Quarterhorse Bar (FQHB)/wide saddle. Need to know how much your horse weighs click here.

2. What kind of withers does your horse have? Mutton-withered? Look to a FQHB if your horse is anywhere close to a 1000 lbs. i.e. 900 lbs or more.

3. Consider your horse’s back. Is he wide or narrow? Can’t tell? Look into our template system. A wide back will require a FQHB. A narrow back will need a semi-quarterhorse bars.

4. Is your horse short backed? Look for a shorter skirt or round skirt saddle. You don’t want the saddle skirts to rub the horse’s hips.

5. Is your horse gaited? Seriously consider a gaited saddle. Gaited saddles have more rock with wider bars in the front and are smaller in the back to allow for the movement of their shoulders.

6. What is your budget? Be reasonable in your expectations. Leather saddles cost more than cordura saddles. You will find few leather saddles for under $500, so be realistic. Most of the time you will get what you pay for.

7. Consider what you are going to do with this saddle. Yes, the trail saddle looks nice, but you won’t rope off of it for long. Need to know the difference check this page out.

8. What seat size do you need to look for? Here’s a chart to tell.

9. What saddle pad will work? Most horses do not need special pads, but some horses do. Think about what will work. We try to describe what the pads will work best for what kind of horses here.

10. Answer all the questions. All these questions need to be considered to insure a good fit. If you still have problems, give us a call or use our Saddle Expert System to contact us. We will be glad to help you work with you to find just the right saddle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Top Ten 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:

Myth #1: One size fits all.

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.

Myth #2: I’ll be able to buy a saddle that fits two different horses.

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.

Myth #3: A good saddle pad will solve my saddle fitting problems.

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.

Myth #4: All saddles that claim to be semi-quarter horse have the same gullet width.

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 regular to narrow, semi-quarter horse bars and the term full to wide, full quarter horse bars.

Myth #5: There are standard measurements in the saddle industry

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.

Myth #6: I can’t order a saddle online because I need to try it on first.

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.

Myth #7: I have to be an expert to tell if my saddle fits properly.

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! Review our checklist on how to tell if you have a good saddle fit here.

Myth #8: You have to spend a lot of money or get a custom-made saddle to find one that fits properly.

If you went to Wal-Mart and were unable to find any clothes that fit, would you walk out convinced that you should pay exuberant 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 fit, 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 saddelry, 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.

Myth #9: Flex trees can warp or cave in after you use them.

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.

Myth #10: I can get a close contact, narrow twist saddle for a very wide horse.

Can you get a high-fashion, well-fitting, sportcoat 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.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Used Saddles has been setting up our used saddle program. We’ve been looking and looking around the internet at used saddles and trying to find the right prices and the right people to deal with. If you have ever tried to purchase a used saddle, you know, it can be a treacherous experience. We know this as much as you do. We are constantly trying to make sure we are not taken advantage of. The online world is full of con men and charlatans that it makes us realize that people need a safe place where they can do business online.

A safe place with quality products is what we are trying to accomplish with our used Saddle program. We want people to find a quality used saddle at a good price with the knowledge that they are not buying from some fly-by-night operation or a person who may or may not have the saddle. We don’t want there to be any surprises. What you see is what you get. No exaggerations. Nothing but the truth. We’re hoping to do much the same thing as we have done with our new saddles: ship out your saddle free, give you our generous return policy, and the whole time walk you through the purchasing process.

If you have any ideas how we can make this program better please leave a comment. If you have had good or bad experiences with buying a used saddle tell us about it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall Trail Riding

Indiana may be one of the most inconspicuous states, but it is where the HorseSaddleShop calls home. Besides us and a good deal of other things, Indiana has fabulous fall foliage. The weather is turning chilly and the leaves are changing color, and that means fall trail riding is upon us. Every fall friends of ours go down to Brown County, IN, home of some of the most gorgeous trails around. They find it difficult to find words to tell us how stunning it is. In the winding forest trails you can only sit and wonder at the beauty of God’s world. The leaves are a thousand colors and they create a painting that would make Michelangelo ashamed to try. It’s not bad for a tiny corner of Indiana.
We hope you enjoy this fall season. We hope you enjoy your sweaters, hats, coffee, and horses, and we hope you enjoy your friends, but most of all we hope you enjoy Him who made it all. So bundle up, saddle up, ride out and enjoy yourselves, and when you get back tell us about it!