June 2019 - Saddle Fit and Jumping Saddles
Written by by Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE, ©2019 Saddlefit4Life™ All Rights Reserved
Tuesday, 28 May 2019 21:20
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hunterjumper

by Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE, ©2019 Saddlefit4Life™ All Rights Reserved

Approximately a year ago I wrote an article for California Riding Magazine that dealt specifically with the considerations of saddle fit for jumper riders; this then is pretty much a continuation of where that article left off to discuss with you some of the options that you might consider to ensure optimum performance and well-being of your horse in the ring.

The Hunter/Jumper sport is made up of two disciplines: Hunter and Jumper, also known as Show Jumping. Each year more than 1,000 US Equestrian-rated and countless other local Hunter/Jumper competitions take place across the country. Each show offers competition for riders of varying skill levels, and each offers Hunter, Jumper and Equitation classes. While Hunter and Jumper classes judge the horse, Equitation classes judge the rider.  Horse jumping is huge part of the equestrian industry and probably the most popular of the English disciplines. The majority of English sponsorship dollars are spent here, and the purses can be huge. One would think then, that the comfort and continued well-being of the horses involved would be of tantamount importance.

The art and science of saddle fit has become part of the consciousness of the importance of truly caring for your horse; of really working together with every equine professional who is part of the “circle of influence” around horse and rider. Traditionally however, it has been dressage riders and endurance riders who have been the most concerned with having a properly fitting saddle, because these are the disciplines where it seems to really matter how comfortable the horse (and rider) are – because otherwise performance can be visibly impacted.

A variety of gel pads, shims, risers available and used widely by riders.

It would seem necessary – especially in hunter/jumpers, where the ability to move freely in order to jump is key – to have a saddle that can be adjusted over the course of the horse’s life; as he matures and changes conformation over the years. Instead, we find remedial fitting practices using more and more shims and pads, or simply replacing saddle after saddle. Even one of the most prestigious and expensive jumping saddles on the market is (although qualitatively superb) unfortunately not really accommodating to the horse’s requirements – forward facing tree points, narrow gullet channel and panels which cannot be reflocked. Visually beautiful but functionally lacking to ensure protection of the horse’s back and freedom of movement to jump properly. A great example of fashion over function!

 

These diagrams illustrate identical tree angles with various tree widths whereas the three diagrams in the right column illustrate identical tree width, with different tree angles. It is easy to see that all of these factors need to be taken into consideration when fitting a saddle and continuing to ensure proper fit throughout a horse’s career. Diagrams courtesy of Schleese Saddlery created by Michelle J Powell.

 

The three diagrams in the left column illustrate identical tree angles with various tree widths whereas the three diagrams in the right column illustrate identical tree width, with different tree angles. It is easy to see that all of these factors need to be taken into consideration when fitting a saddle and continuing to ensure proper fit throughout a horse’s career. Diagrams courtesy of Schleese Saddlery created by Michelle J Powell.

 

Typical anatomical changes of horses from the ages of 3 to 8 years of age. Clearly using the same saddle without any adjustments for shoulder angle and width would essentially be restricting a horse’s movement and likely compromising comfort.

It has been recognized and noted in numerous scientifically published research articles, that at 4.67 kpa (kilopascal units of pressure) ischemia occurs at the capillary level. This means – over time – damage to the horse’s circulatory system and eventually to the muscles which are supplied with the blood which needs to flow through here. Yet many English saddles that have been tested show values of more than 11 kpas on average (plus often more!). Our new PSI panel has been tested extensively with the MediLogic® pad and shows values of under 3 kpas – the absolute lowest in the industry!

We design our saddles for function rather than fashion, although we recognize that unfortunately sometimes looks are important and do need to be considered. Our new Bi-NateLine™ (BNL) of saddles incorporates the desire for a lighter saddle, a softer seat, improved comfort, and a closer connection to your horse.  The experience of over 40 years in the equestrian industry working with over 150,000 horses and riders, combined with our affiliation to equine professionals all over the world, has allowed us to integrate our state-of-the-art scientific diagnostic tools (including the Seaver Horse girth which monitors all sorts of metrics; the MediLogic® computerized saddle pad to determine pressure distribution; plus a Polar Heart Rate Monitor and thermographic imaging camera) to help determine optimal fit.

The Bi-NateLine™ (BNL) saddles are made on our infinitely adjustable lightweight patented AdapTree® which outperforms any other tree on the market today in its adjustability. This tree offers an industry-changing extreme close contact to the horse, soft-ride seat and an innovative “NW-Twist” – extra narrow twist for riders and at the same time the widest twist for the horse. It also requires fewer adjustments due to the standard PSI panel. By reducing the pressure per square inch to well below-accepted industry standards we are able to accommodate horses with a smaller saddle support area for today’s larger riders. Reducing the pressure per square inch helps maximize the horse’s development and performance while ensuring a pain-free ride.

The innovative double swoosh logo represents the harmony and connection between horse and rider.

Sports psychologist Mario Soto was a popular speaker.

We are well ahead of the industry in our ability to fit all shapes and sizes of horses and riders with a variety of models, fully adjustable trees and various panel configurations. Our panel designs allow us to fit all saddle support areas and wither confirmations, while still ensuring the rider has the appropriate seat size. Accommodating the continuing shortening of the horse’s back (as a result of breeding trends) has made saddle fit a true combination of art and science.