Have you ever sat on the fence looking your horse or a group of horses in motion around the pasture?
Have you noticed how their muscles move and flex along their entire body from nose to tail. Yet many still put rigid trees on this fluid animal.
Saddling our horses over the last few hundred years we have concerned ourselves mostly with the comfort of the rider.
As a result the contour of the seat of the saddle for all the different disciplines produced some very interesting saddles over the centuries.
What has been lacking in this evolution was the comfort of the horse. An animal that has put up with some of the most ill fitting attire of the animal kingdom.
This is not to say that saddlers in the last 100 or so years have not tried to make saddles fit horses better. There is only so much a rigid tree can do for back that is in constant motion.
On top of that, they are expected to be obedient and docile whilst wearing contraptions that we'd never wear ourselves.
A Look at a Horse in Motion
In the video, watch the back, shoulders and croup, see how the muscles ripple under the skin as the horse moves?
Notice that the horse is traveling on that circle with its entire body slightly bent from poll to tail.
Now look at the diagram below and notice what our typical fixed tree saddle, be it English or Western sit on both the stationary and the moving and bending body of the horse.
Saddler fitters do their best to help a moving body cope with an immovable object that carries weight while they are moving and bending.
There is only so much one can do when you can't fit the horse while they are moving.
People ride better and feel more secure in a rigid tree. Horses prefer a saddle that doesn't poke pinch and restrict their movement.
Will a Compromise Need to be Made?
Watching a transition from the trot to the walk in the video above you can see how much the hind end comes under to carry the body through the transition and settle into the walk.
Imagine that same transition with a rider in an saddle ill fitting or fitted the best that it can be while the horse is standing still.
It is impossible for a saddle that is fitted to a horse while the horse is standing will still fit throughout that transition. That is a fact.
So what can we as riders do about this?
Is there even something that we can do to help are equine companions carry us better, longer and more comfortably?
Without their shoulder blades being pinched, girth galls appearing, or a soft bump forming on their spine just behind the saddle every time you ride?
Only to watch it fade when you don't ride and see it reappear again after a ride.
Discovering when you palpate your horse's topline that they are sore in multiple spots, yet showed no signs of soreness while grooming prior to your ride.
For a while Treeless saddles were all the rage, it did away with that rigid fixed tree and a molded seat of leather was fairly secure.
This offered no spine relief for the horse, basically placing the rider directly on the horse's spine, causing another myriad of back issues from poorly balanced riders.
Then came the panel saddles, whose broad panels promised a more even distribution of the weight of the rider.
While sitting on their secure feeling rigid tree, the panels would fit a wider range of horses, and would provide the spine relief that that is required.
Effectively lifting the whole saddle up off the horse. These saddles were the beginning of the evolution to what we have now at Evolutionary Saddles.
Taking the panel saddle to the next level with movable panels that will move and flex with the horse's back as they move.
The sturdy but very flexible panel provides a better weight distribution spread over the entire panel.
Eliminating the appearance white hairs and pressure points along the spine that we see so often with rigid tree saddles.
The Panel's Motion
The way the panel is layered, the hardware is placed on the panel and subsequently the panel is mounted to the tree.
This is what allows the full range of motion needed for the panels to perform optimally.
Accommodating the rocker, flare and twist of the way a horse's back moves and changes throughout every gait and as they grow and change shape.
The Evolutionary Saddle has considered the horse in motion with the rider, leading to the rigid tree with the mounted flexible panels.
Providing a closeness that is surprisingly close even though the rider is no more than 3/4" above the panels.