Q&A

Our team of experts are here to help…

Do you have questions on saddle fitting or saddle making or just wish to expand your own knowledge? You may find some of the answers below. Alternatively you are welcome to CONTACT US.

Both my trainer and I ride my horse, how can I find a saddle to suit us both as we are different sizes?

Finding a saddle to suit more than one rider is more common than you may think.  The first point to remember is that it must be fitted to the horse primarily. (image rider sat on cantle)

The main factor is whether you are able to share the same seat size, if not, it is likely you will have to go to the larger seat. It is imperative that a rider sits in the centre or balance point of the saddle so squeezing a rider into a seat size that is too small will put excess pressure at the back of the cantle and ultimately onto the panels under the cantle, as well as putting the rider out of balance.  Your saddle fitter will advise as to the maximum length of panel/seat that your horse can take without impinging past T18.

(image diagram T18)

The use of Velcro blocks is now a huge advantage to allow the shorter rider a more effective support if compromising with a larger seat by bringing the block closer towards the leg. (image Velcro dressage block) Velcro blocks also allow repositioning of height and angle for different stirrup lengths and the angle of your hip to knee. It may be that even a different style and depth of block is beneficial for each individual rider’s preference.  They can also be requested on back blocks where sometimes riders are unsure whether they will benefit from them or find them interfering.  Reputable manufacturers use a premium quality of hook and loop fastening so it is unlikely that they will fall off whilst riding however replacement blocks or additional sets can always be purchased separately. (image back jump Velcro block)

If we are looking at a Jump saddle then a forward flap is also another option to consider.

(image Jump forward flap)

We would like to hear your comments and any further questions on this topic. We are readily available for saddle fitting advice, so please feel to contact us with any subjects you would like us to focus on.

Am I better to have a wool or a foam panel?

There is no doubt that foam panels have improved no end in recent years, to the extent that even custom made foam panels are available in some of the higher end brands. However this is great when you are buying a new saddle for your horse and it fits there and then, but what happens when you have a difficult to fit horse or your horse changes shape, as most do at a later date?

(pictures Foam panel v wool panel)

This is where wool comes into its own, not only will a wool panel be flocked to fit your horse in the first instance but has the properties to be adjusted accordingly at subsequent intervals. If it is a young horse the balance front to back is likely to change as he is still growing, saddles with front and back gussets allow the freedom to add or soften to achieve this. Perhaps he is an older horse and muscle atrophy is starting to appear, again wool panels can be flocked independently left to right to achieve a better balance.

(picture of horse with atrophy) (picture of front gussets)

A panel can be reflocked completely throughout its lifetime by a saddler and in some instances foam panels are often converted by preference to wool.

(picture of saddler flocking panel or video)

In addition, wool is a ‘natural’ material and has remarkable properties. It will mould to the shape of your horses back, it is proven be shock absorbing, can help to reduce friction, absorbs up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and draws heat away from the horses back.

We would like to hear your comments and any further questions on this topic.

What does “spring tree” mean on a saddle?

A spring tree is the classic style of saddle tree used in English riding saddles. The tree is constructed from Birch plywood and reinforced with Spring Steel that is fixed onto the rails of the tree and through the centre. Hence the term Spring Tree. The spring steel not only strengthens the tree but also allows the wood an element of flexibility. The flexibility in the tree can range from soft to firm dependant on what angle the layers of 1.5mm birch are laid up giving a number of choices for saddle makers.

First designed and used in Walsall UK in the 1940¹s it has been estimated that to date there have been over 3 million spring trees produced for saddles world wide.  Although the principles remain the same the technology and understanding of design has evolved greatly over the years.  The British Standard BS: 6635 2003 states that Wooden Spring Saddle Trees must be produced to the latest engineering standards and with a symmetry tolerance of + / – 2mm. Many of the worlds leading saddle makers will produce on Wooden Spring Trees.

Old fashioned Rigid trees, which are still common in polo saddles and some of the less expensive Indian-made saddles, are all wood without any spring steel reinforcement; they¹re heavier and don¹t have the flex a spring tree offers.

Plastic Injection-moulded trees or ‘polymer’ can be flexible or rigid but do not also offer the degree of different profiles that can be offered with wooden spring trees.

What are serge panels?

Serge panels are an alternative to leather for the underneath bearing surface of a saddle. This is an age old traditional way of panelling still used today in side-saddles,  which in recent years has seen a come back.

Serge is natural material which is made of wool.  Wool is the best material to absorb moisture and then disperse this naturally over a period of time.  Not only will it make your saddle lighter in weight, but it is also kinder to your horse’s back. (image of panel)

Many customers report significant improvement in their horses shape and movement once they start using serge.

It helps to eliminate slipping and as it is extremely soft and kind to their backs.

It can also be suitable for ‘cold backed’ horses. If your horse shows signs of tension when you put the saddle on and/or mount, this extra softness and relative warmth in comparison to leather panels in cold conditions can help to ease this. (image Loxley’s saddle on back)

Serge is very popular in endurance riding, as the rate of heat and moisture absorption is far quicker than leather, so the back is kept cooler for longer. Hence making this particularly beneficial in warmer climates.

Most commonly saddles that have serge panels are still used with a saddle cloth which helps to keep it clean, however it can be used without if required.

Cleaning is often the largest worry for riders considering serge, however if used with a pad then this is a simple as using a soft brush to remove any loose hairs or a small suede shoe cleaning brush for anything a little more stubborn. The material requires no conditioning or treatment and as with leather allow to dry naturally if it does get wet.

(image cleaning suede brush)

For your saddle fitter, a serge panel can have the flocking regulated with an awl directly through the panel which is not possible with leather.

(image of awl through a panel)

How should I store my saddle?

Your saddle is probably the most expensive item you are likely to purchase after your horse, so it makes sense to follow a few simple guidelines to make sure it doesn’t come to any unnecessary harm.

STANDS: Probably the most common seen issue is storing saddles on the metal saddle racks.  The narrowness of these rails can cause significant imprint into the wool flocking on the panels, which can then in turn affect the pressure against your horses back.  This can be simply remedied by using foam pipe lagging along the rails to spread the weight which is cheap and effective, this can be purchased from most DIY stores.  In additional to this further pad out the stand by using your saddle pads over the top of the stand as well.(or good use for your old collection of unused saddle pads)

Ideally the best racks are ones that have flat sides to protect the panels or even the single pole racks but be careful the saddles don’t rock and fall off!

Don’t stack saddles! Not only does this put unnecessary pressure on the underneath saddles but panels sat onto of cantles can again cause serious indentation.

Another simple oversight is often tack room walls if made of brick can be quite rough, slamming the saddle forwards on wall fixed racks can scratch the front facings of the saddle, so a little protection either side from sticky foams or even old pieces of carpet help protect.

OFF THE RACK: try where possible not to put the saddle pommel down on the floor, again this can cause scratching damage to the front edge facing of the saddle. But more commonly if left like this for longer periods of time especially with jump saddles can cause the knee pads to fold back and crease.

COVERS: Always cover your saddle! Honestly how many of us don’t? They are so many reasons that this is good for your saddle.  Thankfully only the other day I had finished riding and had put my saddle on the door with the lovely thick fleece cover on and then Loxley kindly knocked it off.  The horror of that thud sound when it hits the ground.  Luckily the cover had protected it from any scratches and dents.

Barn cats are also notorious for loving to have a good scratch on leather, I bet there have been more seats replacements due to animal bites and scratches than actual wear and tear.

Temperature changes can have great effects on leather, so using a good quality fleece cover will help to stabilise this and wick away any excess moisture to prevent mildew and protect from outside conditions.

So a cover will with you general overall protection while transporting and storing from knocks, bumps, rain and spillages.

STIRRUPS: Long gone are the old standard stainless steel stirrup irons, so with an ever increasing array of cheese grater options, don’t forget the scratching this can cause to your saddle.  Stirrup covers are now readily available to protect or an old pair of socks can do the same job.

Don’t expose to long periods of strong sunlight as this will strip the colour from the leather

Don’t expose to excess heat and this will dried out the goodness in the leather

Don’t be panicked by a white grease appearance on the leather after exposure to heat and then coolness as this is the grease solidifying which is a good sign of leather quality.

Don’t dry next to a heat source if it has got soaking wet.  Allow it to dry naturally and then condition afterwards

Please see our other link for advice on cleaning.

Bliss of London

College Farm, Bosty Lane
Aldridge, Walsall
West Midlands WS9 0LF

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