With all saddles, whether treeless, part-treed or treed, there will always be an element of fitting. There will never be a saddle that is a “magic wand”, which can just be placed on every horse’s back without any thought to his conformation. Those with atrophy and/or asymmetry, and some young horses with undeveloped topline and musculature, will require additional padding. HM Saddle Agents should give you advice on this before purchase, preferably through a personal consultation visit, which is part of HM Saddle’s trial service*, although customers in an area where we do not yet have an agent, can be advised via conformation photos** and other important information by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consideration of the fit of any saddle is highly important in young horses, or horses that change shape due to fluctuating condition and/or fitness levels. It is imperative that all horse owners should pay attention to this and ask their saddle supplier for help and advice as soon as they notice any changes, before their horse develops any soreness or white hair. HM Saddles would highly recommend that any increase in workload when purchasing any saddle should be undertaken gradually, keeping a check on all the above.
We recommend a high-wither cut numnah or saddle cloth is used on all horses, regardless of wither shape, even for the flattest, mutton withered horse, as the cloth is merely saddle shaped, pulls up into the front arch of the saddle and stays there. Flat or straight-cut saddle cloths always pull down over the wither, can cause rubs and also is a major factor in causing lateral slip in saddles.
For horses with atrophy and especially asymmetry, we strongly recommend the Griffin Shimmy Pad. We have found this to be the best correction pad of all, having shims from 5mm-15mm thickness. The shims are very easy to interchange, and the pad stays securely put under the saddle. This would be used on top of a normal cotton high wither saddle cloth if using the half pad, but not with the ProPad, as this would be overkill! If you would prefer to only use one numnah then the Shimmy Full Pad will also work very well. We also recommend that you purchase a saddlepad for your GP saddle with d-ring straps, as these fit our saddles much better than those with girthstraps.
We have long advocated using the Professionals Choice dressage girth, as it has been the best of many that we have tried. This girth is extremely well made, elasticated at both ends (one end means that the saddle is pulled unequally to one side) and has a wide neoprene strip against the horse, which is velcroed and can be removed for easy washing. Correct choice of girth can influence the stability of the saddle and leather girths, in particular, can contribute to stability problems.
We also recommend the HM Backsaver memory foam pad for use with many horses who need a little extra buffer between saddle and saddle cloth. Again, use with a high wither plain cotton numnah. We also make the Backsaver wither pad, basically, the front section of a Backsaver pad, for those horses with some wither atrophy but no muscle wastage further back.
The Vogue SoftTree saddle, when brand new, may look a little odd when first placed on the back of the horse. The panels and flaps may appear to point a little backwards. This is because when the rider’s weight causes the saddle to sink in the middle, this pushes the flaps forward. The saddle may appear not to touch all along the back, and may protrude at the rear, on either side of the back, but after riding in it a few times it will very quickly mould and adjust to the shape of the horse.
The saddle may even look asymmetric when taken out of the box! This is because it is fully flexible, except for a small solid cantle, and will sometimes assume the shape of the box. This will quickly correct itself once used on the horse.
Under cold conditions, the memory foam used in the seat will feel hard. It is advisable to warm the saddle before use, either keeping it in a warm place, or allowing it to sit for ten minutes or so on the horse’s back before riding, preferably with a rug over the saddle and horse’s back to retain heat if necessary.
The SoftTree saddles have a soft front arch, which expands and contracts automatically to accommodate all but very high withered horses. Padding is advised if the horse is high withered, has any muscle wastage or needs to build muscle up over the back/wither area.
It is not advised to use the saddle on several horses of different shapes, as this will alter the arch to the wider horse, although it is perfectly fine to use it on two of similar shape, with or without additional padding.
The FlexEE saddle is built around a leather base, shaped as a plastic tree would be, but with wide, flexible leather points. Shown here, but without the rear girth webbings attached:
HM FlexEE Synthetic
Although the saddle looks completely ‘normal’ as in a treed saddle, it is essentially ‘treeless’ in fit and function, and will flex to accommodate the shape of the horses back, even though it has panels. The panels, in the latest and final model, are velcroed at the front so that it can be altered slightly to fit. The main purpose of the Velcro, however is to allow the panel to extend slightly further forwards of the front arch, allowing the shoulder to slide under the panel and permit freedom, but forwards and back and laterally.
When a new saddle is first placed on the horse, it will look way too high at the front and appear to tip backwards:
FlexEE saddle before riding - here the owner has placed the saddle a little too far forwards, and needs to slide the saddle back two inches. If the horse has a very forward girth groove, the billets need to be swung well forwards, to ensure that the girth lies in the correct area.
FlexEE saddle front view before riding - front view, showing shoulder shims in place and knee rolls attached. The arch is high, as the saddle hasn’t been sat on yet.
After riding, the saddle has clearly dropped and is now nearly level, although it still needs to be two inches further back to be fully level, and will drop a little more on subsequent rides. This horse does not need additional padding:
FlexEE saddle after first ride - the shape of this numnah is not ideal, i.e. it is not fitting around the saddle, and the front seam is under the saddle itself which could cause rubs.
If you would like further information, advice or to trial an HM Saddle, please contact us on email@example.com or +44 (0)7877 202 950, or consult one of our HM Saddle Agents.
Advice on fitting secondhand Fhoenix/Vogue and FlexEE ranges of saddles is available from Heather Moffett and HM saddle fitters. Advice is given via email and photos plus wither pattern. Cost is £30 for an initial telephone and/or email consultation with Heather Moffett or other HM fitter. Every effort will be made to assist correct fitting, and follow up advice will be given if needed after the initial consultation.