We felt these questions from a lady who'd purchased a saddle second-hand Vogue SoftTree saddle, and Heather's answers would be helpful for others too:
Could someone refresh for me the way the Vogue saddle works ... in respect to fitting the horse. What I was told was because the materials are all soft, and despite the fact that the channel is very narrow when it's new, that 1) as the saddle warms up it will "settle down" around the horse, leaving no pressure points and 2) after a certain number of rides it will kind of stretch out, so that the channel between the panels will get wider.Is this correct? Is it what's supposed to happen? I haven't put a lot of rides on my Vogue yet, as have been told the panels will be pinching her withers, and they do seem not soft enough to actually "settle down around" my mare's wither, back, and shoulder. Although I accepted the rep's description when I bought the saddle, I now can't see how it's actually going to work?How is the heat from the horse's back going to travel up through the saddle pad, panels, and leather bottom of the saddle so that the leather bottom part will soften, stretch, and settle around the horse?How much will the panels really soften? Are they soft enough to be sitting on the horse's spine and not cause discomfort? (they do sit on her spine, as the channel is so very narrow and her spine is wide).
Answers from Heather Moffett:
My own horses have been ridden in the saddles since youngsters. The oldest, a Lusitano retired with Cushings and a suspensory problem, is rising 23 and his cousin, now 22, is still in regular high level classical dressage work; as is my 13 yr old PRE is also working at advanced level.As a classical dressage trainer first and foremost, I design saddles that permit the horse to move as freely as possible and to enable the rider to sit in the correct position with ease and in comfort. A rider wriggling around with sore Seatbones will unbalance the horse!I designed and had made treed saddles for many years before turning to treeless and worked with some of the top saddlers in Walsall, the last, for 10 years, being Barrie Swain. Barrie hated the fashion for wide gullets as he said quite correctly, that muscle is strongest at its point of attachment to the bone, and having a wide gullet or channel as you term it, reduces the weight bearing surface of the panel considerably. The saddles have been on the market since 2003 in their earliest form and many horses have been ridden from being backed into their old age in the same saddle. My 22 yr old is in the saddle I put him in when the Vogue first came out. It is now 12 years old. My horses backs are never sore, they have absolutely no atrophy even at 22 yrs, and I would certainly not use them on my horses if they were injuring them! I am at the forefront of the anti rollkur campaign and involved in the anti soring campaign in the USA.Let me assure you that my vocation has always been to help horses, in developing ways of teaching riding to make the rider as little a burden for the horse as possible, not to contribute to hurting them! I hope this reassured you, but the saddle - I presume it was second hand? - does need appropriate balancing or padding where necessary, and was designed by me to enable this. I do remote fitting by email and photos, so contact me if you need more help.