Saddle Facts - Custom Saddles made Sight
Unseen? How to use Saddle forms, saddle
pads, & other aids for professional thinking
How can I be sure my saddle is going to fit my horse? Or me?
And I feel insecure in all of this. Are you a real
company? Am I going to lose my money?
I can’t believe my local store went out of
business. (Sold out to a bunch of chain store people
that know almost nothing)
times, you just know what fits. Either you have a
current saddle, or an advisor to tell you what is
needed. Or, you have enough experience to feel
confident in your order. Sometimes, you know what
you need because what you have almost fits, or used
to fit; (but the body of your horse, or your shape,
has changed.) Sometimes,
though, we have questions, doubts, about fitting and
use, and purpose.
you might be wondering how you can buy a saddle
online, long distance and be assured you will come
out OK in this deal.
WARNING: As you read this article, you might
expect Cultured Cowboy is defending a bunch of
over-priced high margin saddles. Nope. Couldn’t be
farther than the truth. We are deep discounters. We
just like horse sports. (If I wanted to make a lot
of money, I’da kept that finance loan business I
started about ten years ago.) (I hate chasing
accounts. I hate high interest rates. I hate
obsessive shipping rates. I am an old gullible,
lovable, likes to sleep at night, “flower child”
My sentences are often too long. I probably
misspelled something, even with a spell-checker. And
I think too much like a horse.
let me assure you the Cultured Cowboy is a viable
company. We have lots of stuff; normally have
available several hundred saddles. (No need to brag
on how many are on display, (most are not), but
people come here from 3 hours or more, all the time,
with their horses, to try out saddles. And, it is
worth their trip.)
If you have a need that is not too specific,
(and sometimes even real specific) we probably have
a saddle ready to ship to you tomorrow, certainly
some time this week.
ride. We ride several disciplines. It is what we
yearn to do. We have a horse farm with an arena,
barns, and training ability. Our stable has assisted
state, regional and even national champions, in
“more than one” breed/sport category.
We have temporarily housed everything from
Arena Productions’ Lippizaners and Andalusians, to
TWH’s to Trail riding QH breeds. Halter horses,
pleasure horses, brood mares, breeding stallions,
performance horses; our disciplines have included
Dressage to Roping, grade horses to extreme breeds.
call us a bunch of “Jack-of-all-Trade” and
“Masters-of-None”. We never quit learning. (Ever heard the definition of an
ex-spurt?) Every horse can be a unique experience.
Every student, a unique personality, every customer,
a special friend. And we take the things we learn
from all of you, re-circulate these ideas, and
re-distribute to you, to better help all of you.
(Same thing Chuck did when he was a full time, 14 to
16 hr a day, riding/horseshoeing equine
network, and ask hundreds of questions from judges,
and professional horse people, beginners, and old
timers, all over America. We ask what is working,
what is shaking, and what they are best looking for.
all this, we try to get the right answers for you.
Sometimes, people get all excited and ready to
order, then call, ready to throw out their Visa
dollars. Over half the time, we ask a bunch of
questions, based on our experience, that they never
thought about; need pictures of horses, and saddles,
bits & bridles, etc. So, you get out of the
frenzied mood. That’s good! It is good to think
about questions and options and possible needs to be
addressed. This is what a real saddle store is
supposed to do – make sure your ride is the best
ride that you can afford. We like working with
riding instructors, personal trainers, and
(Not much pun intended here.)
Cowboy prefers to do things right the first time.
The reason we quit “buy buttons” and such, was
because people needed our skills more than they
needed to fill out a form that didn’t ask the
correct questions to get their saddles right.
(translation – returns, disappointments, shipping
fees). There are so many options, that a
conversation can easily determine which might be
best for your situation.
really thinks they save a bunch of money on Ebay, or
at the auction barn, when you have to trade two or
three saddles around to find one that really works.
(Of course, if you have time and experience, trading
can be a fun sport too.) Auction barns get
commissions, and so do the online auctions. Stuff
you sell there has higher costs and more mark-up
than we can get away with. They just use least
expensive saddles to trade at average pricing.
SIDEBAR: When saddles cost less than two pair of
boots, there is something wrong with the picture. We
meet people who bought saddles at “buyer
beware”, that fell apart going through a rainy
trail ride. (Pressed paper lined skirts. Pleather.
Stretchy Belly suede leathers. Nails working their
way out of the tree and into the back or shoulder of
your horse, rigging falling loose…all this we have
witnessed. No kidding!) There are people who have
legitimate deals out there, but most “deals” are
buying inferior products, getting them all used
looking, and letting them roll for $50.00 to $100.00
over cost. (There are new saddles we don’t clear
near that much profit, and Cultured Cowboy can be
found, if there is a problem.) Once sold, they are
done. Can you find them to ask questions? Do you
expect pressed paper or eight layers of belly suede
pressed and sewn, to work with your horse? You
cannot possibly ride and return them. They look too
bad after a ride. And, the inexperienced riders
think they must have done something wrong.
with just a few simple questions, answers and
recommendations, you can save hundreds of dollars,
and a lot of mistakes. And, today, you can have a
much better saddle, than something often
standardized. As I told someone this week, we have a
lot of choices ready to ship from our Greenwood, SC
warehouse. And, we have even more selection in
Chattanooga, TN. And some in TX, and even some in
other states. But with all this, we still custom
make about 2/3rds of what we ship. Rather than a
“settle for”, she is ordering a dream saddle.
Yep, it will take an extra 6 weeks, but will be used
over a 10 to 20 year period.
because many of us have a lot of special needs.
of the concerns our customers have, with ordering,
sight unseen, are “Will my saddle fit my horse
when it gets here?”
Several of our saddles are made with more
than one tree choice. Then there is the BigHorn
SilCush marvel. Those saddles form fit to the back
of your horse, and to your bottom. Great trail
saddles. Once we know what you need, your saddle
should be right when you get it. Even oiled, as if
it’s already broken-in, if you like.
if you do not have a friend with a saddle that fits
your horse well, or it fits, but nobody has an idea
what tree is in it, or you just want to be the most
conscious of proper fitting for your favorite steed?
Cowboy has a set of forms that we can send to you to
try on your horse. The forms come from America’s
tree makers. This form set is sent to you, so you
can place them on your horse to see which saddle
tree type best fits your horse. The tree forms are
marked, but not so you really know which is which.
This is good. This way, any preconceived notions are
eliminated. There are usually 2 or 3 forms that will
work. Sometimes one is outstandingly better. You
tell us if TH, or AW, or F, or whatever works, then
the saddle can be made on that tree bottom.
get these forms, just let us know you want to use
them. We ship a set to you. The cost is a simple
rental of $25.00. It usually takes a week, to week
& ½ , for the forms to get to you, try them and
send them back. You pay the shipping both ways. If
you order a saddle from us, we allow half of the
$25.00 rental fee to go toward your saddle costs.
The other half is used to pay for the forms, and
in-house costs of credit card fees charged by your
bank, etc. If we do not get the forms back, we bill
you for the $500.00 cost of those forms. Shipping
can be via UPS, USPS, or whatever is easiest for
you. The whole box of forms is much less shipping
than a saddle.
using these forms, place each one on the back of
your horse. Look for a nice even fit. Look for a
form that does not have angles that are too wide, so
the tree will rest on the spine and top of withers
too much, or too narrow, so that the tree will rest
sharply on the rib cage in one line on each side, or
pinch the sides of withers. The tree form should
rest on the most possible area of your horse’s rib
cage. Look for any “bridging”.
Then put it on your horse with some
appropriate padding between form and horse. If it
still works well, or better, we have a winner!
are some of The Most Often Discussed problems in
horse fitting that we see, with all the thousands of
horse pics sent to us:
a horse with a large shoulder, then the rest of the
back drops off to normal. Saddles might rub off
hair, or kill the hair follicles, seen as white
spots on the shoulders. This horse needs to be
fitted with a tree wide enough in the gullet, and
properly fitting in angles,
to get some of the pressures off that
shoulder. Often a Full QH 7” wide gullet. Then,
proper padding must be used to fill in the rest of
the body to match the line of the bars of the
SIDEBAR: Now, I’ve read lots of articles about how
perfectly aligned a saddle tree should be with the
horse back. But not all people have $3500.00 to have
a mold made, then a tree custom made, then a saddle
custom made from there. If you do. Call. We can get
all this arranged. NO REFUNDS on this level of
customization. But, today’s high tech pads are
almost as computer engineered as some bridges. There
are pads made to fill in the gaps between horse and
saddle, when the back of the horse is not made quite
like the bottom of your saddle.
pads are padded heavier in the middle. This allows a
more dense middle plain in the backs of horses that
may be high withered, older, pregnant, overly
shouldered, etc. Front and rear of the pads taper to
a thinner thickness. These pads are made from Cashel
Cushions, Tacky Tack non-slip neoprene, and other
great products from NASA foams to wool felts.
up pads are the name commonly given to pads that are
built up on the sides of the front end of the
saddle. The pads are made to fill in on high
withered, thin withered horses. I used many of these
on Walking horses to lift a saddle so the withers
are was not bound by my saddles. Some times these
pads are cutback. Sometimes these pads are
contoured. Both ways allow freedom for your horse.
pads are pads that are shaped in an arch down the
centerline of the pad to better fit most horses.
These pads help eliminate any bunching of a pad on
the horse’s spine.
there are Cashel pads that are wedged, or reverse
wedged, to lift the front or rear of your saddle,
(many times more for your balance, than for fitting
the horse, but sometimes you need these to help with
young growing horses that are growing front or rear
end taller than the other, at a particular time.
These young horses will eventually even out!) I have
used dressage wedges under Western saddles to get
what I needed done. Cashel certainly makes Western
and English versions of all their pads.
of good wool will not only wick away moisture, but
settle into the shape of the back of your horse. I,
personally, like to have a separate wool pad for
each horse that needs one. This way, the wool can do
its job in whatever area needs movement, for that
particular horse/saddle combination. There is
nothing wrong with having a thick wool pad with a
wider tree, to fit that bulbous shouldered, or
growing, horse. It will break in, and ropers do it
all the time for extra protection.
of non slip neoprene are made of a “ripply”
neoprene that will stick to the horse’s hair coat,
without a lot of pulling or pinching. Great bottom
for wide horses. Mutton withers, or wide backs have
a tendency for saddles to slide from side to side in
sharp turns, or while mounting and dismounting. This
waffle weave neoprene will allow a lot of sweat and
air to dissipate over the horses’ back too.
pads dissipate concussion on things that almost fit,
or on spots that need the protection. (Especially
when there is an orthopedic problem.)
Barrel racers and ropers like these pads for
practice because they keep horses from getting sore
when used on a lot of practice runs. (You almost
never see a gymkhana artist using one in the
competition arena, because they weigh over 9 lbs.)
Kind’a like boxers work out with heavy padded
gloves when sparring.
pad company has thin pads from very absorbent
materials. Show/pleasure people like these, because
they are easy to trim to fit under other blankets
and pads, stay closer contact, and still add a
remarkable layer of “bounce” absorption.
/ neoprene combination pads may be contoured or
straight. They use wool for wicking and
“schmoozing” and the neoprene absorbs sharp
shock. I like the Pro Equine line.
and some other companies have “pocket pads”.
These pads have a pocket sewn onto the top, so you
can fill with “shim” pads to a good fitting
point. Cultured Cowboy has a heavy harness machine
and has sewn pockets on other pads to allow them to
be used for more than one animal, to get a shim
exactly where it was needed for a horse that was
larger on one shoulder than the other, or to fine
have taken hospital felt, or wool felt, and/or
neoprene, pads, to cut holes out in areas that
needed relief. For example, a sore knot on a spine,
or a rubbed raw place on a weekend trail ride could
stop the ride for a horse owner. But, having padding
everywhere around, not on, the sore area, can give
needed relief. (Usually, I like to use a wool saddle
blanket over the pad I had to adjust, too.)
squeaking drives me crazy, but those Pro Choice air
pads will absorb shock too.
might have other ideas or items that have helped you
through difficult fitting, or an injury. Let us
add them to our list. ]
a narrow built horse with a high withers. So high
that many saddles slide back, or rub a sore on the
withers blade. In this case, the contoured pads, or
built up cutback pads, PEP pads, and Walking horse
saddle trees, (with high gullets) make a good
a saddle that kicks up in the back. The rear of the
skirt looks to be a couple inches in the air.
Sometimes those wedge pads, and reverse wedge
pads, work great to solve this dilemma.
Most often, changing from a full double to a
7/8 rigged saddle or to a ¾ rigged placement, (Use
those in-skirt rigs with 3 way rigging.) or a
centerfire type rigging that allows much adjustment,
will put pressure where it needs to be placed so the
saddle fits properly. (Assuming the saddle is the
right angle fit to start with.) What happens is that
the center of the saddle becomes where the girth is
pulled against, rather than the front end, which can
make that saddle kick up in the back. Note: Many
flex trees will kick up till you sit in them. Have
somebody sit in the saddle and see what is then
happening on a flex tree. I have gone out and just
adjusted the girth tighter and switched to a wider,
roper type girth and solved this problem.
a short back horse and the owner is afraid the
saddle is interfering with the horse.
Arabian bars are the shortest out there. The
bars used on barrel racers are the next shortest.
Solutions: Don’t buy a short back horse if you
need an 18 inch seat roper saddle to do your job.
Just does not work! We have had tree makers combine
the Arab bars onto other pommels to get the shortest
possible bars. Add $200 to $300.00 for these custom
trees. Remember that skirts extend past bars both
front and rear. So, a 30 inch skirt will often have
4 inches of leather sticking past. This leather is
for looks, to support saddle bags, to hold tools,
etc. The bars are what holds next to the horse. This
is why you see many pads, where the extreme padding
is only under the bar areas of the saddles, not all
the way to the edges. This combo gives max
protection with closer contact. (Oh yes, did I
mention that saddle tree makers make the tips at
both ends of the bars roll upwards? That’s so when
your horse moves, the ends will not tend to jab into
your horse.) Most
leather skirts do not interfere with your horse, but
by golly, sometimes they do!
flat back horses used to be a real problem. But,
more saddlers are making their saddles using
specialty trees, such as the “flat back”, draft,
haflinger, and similar trees. Sometimes twisting
saddles are a problem with wide, or mutton withered
horses. The Tacky Tack, Tacky Too type non-slip
neoprene pads are great to help hold these in place.
Girths made of the same material also add more
support. Be sure you are not using too wide a gullet
width on your horse. You do not want the saddle to
rest on the spine of your horse. Bars must ride on
some kind’a rib cage to keep the saddle in place.
skin horses. I have trained young horses with skin
so soft that they could only take 15 minutes of
light riding a day till the skin thickened. I use a
product called Reducine ointment to help toughen
tissue like girth galls at the elbows. This is
black, sticky, gunky stuff, but it will help a lot.
Use cotton or some kind of soft cover on your girth
till you finish with the Reducine treatments. The
stuff is hard to clean off. I’d rather use
something soft and disposable. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT
HOME: I liked this Reducine, so much, for toughening
girth areas, that I started using it on my knuckles
when I started trying to break boards, Karate style.
It toughened. I got scars to prove it. BUT, who
knows what long term use might do to us. Just use it
sparingly…I was 17 to 19 and foolish, at the
time.) Other times, a fleece cover or neoprene cover
has helped prevent soreness. With these sensitive
skins, I like something like a merino wool pad. This
is wool blown through fabric. Toklat makes a good
one with a NASA foam interior. Wool fleece is not as
slick as Kodel fleece, is not as slick as acrylic.
Certain acrylic fleece, like carpet yarns,
can actually burn the skin.
Double padding helps with some of these guys.
A thin hospital felt next to the back, with other
pads or blankets next to the saddle can work.
horses with backs starting to, or did, drop in the
center. Use a flex tree that has front to back as
well as side-to-side mobility. On saddles that flex,
or saddles that do not flex, use the swayback pads.
Flex trees are not to be used for ranch roping. The
saddle will bow too much and something is going to
get a shock. Actually aged horses with swayed backs
should be used for light work. They still need
exercise, and love to go with their riders, just not
as much as they used to be able to do.
Sort of like me! I keep forgetting what I
probably more to discuss and discourse, but I’m
out of time right now. And there must be another 300
emails that downloaded while I wrote this much!
Better see whom I can help!
God Bless, Chuck
in the Saddle
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