|PROPER BRIDGING FOR GOOD FIT WHEN RIDING!
|WITHOUT THIS SPACE YOU'LL NEED BALANCE SHIMS FRONT & REAR!
|BACK IS UP MORE AS REAR END IS ENGAGED !
|GUT TIGHTENED AND CONTACT IS PROVIDED VIA HORSE!
I get call and emails every
day: "My saddle is BRIDGING! My Vet, Trainer, and/or Chiropractor looked at my saddle on my horse
and said, it's Bridging. They showed me where there's space at the low point of the back under my
saddle. They said my horse is sore in the withers and loin, and I have Bridging! When I take off
my pad it's dirty on the ends, but clean in the center! I have Bridging!"
Are you applying the simple logic above in accessing your saddle problems? If you are running out to have your saddle
RE-FLOCKED, or buying a Pad with Shims in the Center, or GETTING A NEW SADDLE THAT FITS DOWN INTO THE CENTER BACK?...DON'T.
NONE OF THE
ABOVE ARE EXAMPLES OF "BRIDGING"!
What I'm going to tell you about saddles is that most of todays beliefs about saddling are INCORRECT. call
it "GROUP THINK" if you'd like! The logical and simple answer everyone in the industry is
using must be the way it is?
of "GROUP THINK": Saddlefitting Gadgets are sold with the ASSUMPTION THAT: the
horse's back is a stationary object. Saddles are often sold and fitted using the same philosophy. It is as
if; the blind are all feeling the stationary horse: by using computer sensor pads, cookie dough blankets,
back/tree gauges, and sample trees for you to set on your horse. What else is there for you to do IF YOUR HORSE
None of these assumptions
or gadgets are based on history, physics, NOR the moving horse with rider and saddle ON!, nor
the ULTIMATE! "SIMPLY PALPATING THE HORSE TO SEE IF HE IS SORE, WHERE, TO WHAT DEGREE AND HOW
LONG." I demonstrated palpating techniques and deep pressure massage for the "sore horse clinics"
I did at: Equine Fairs, for groups of Veterinarians in Europe, at two U.S. University's Veterinary Equine
Sciences Departments, and privately sponsored clinics in the U.S., Canada, and four European Countries. I participated
in these during the late 1980's and 90's. I was also the first to do ads on saddling problems, "SADDLE
FIT" clinics, saddling booklets published by the hundreds of thousands, and I was the first to demand recognition
of the fact that saddles were inherently harmful to horses. I fought the industry at a very high price.
Before the above, a young lady named Lisa Dawes and myself
had first: ridden horseback for 3,000 miles thru 6 western states in 1982 with successful saddling, shoeing, and packing
3 of the 5 horses. This was Non-stop, no support vehicles, living outdoors for 8 months with these animals as our only
transportation. They came home in better shape than they started in. We rode, never did we get off and lead the horses.
Not one lost shoe, no lameness, and all saddling problems fixed in-route
was our claim to success. I was made a member of the American Farrier's Association a year after this trip. I then started
the world's largest custom saddlery with a patented system for protecting the horse. Still disillusionsed with my FLEX
PANEL SYSTEM, after building 25,000 English & Western custom saddles and my own saddletree company over 17years, I shut
down the OrthoFlex Saddle Company Inc. in 2001. (It wasn't worth a chapter 11 Re-organization Bankruptcy) With
my 23 years of experience, I started development of a new system to make saddles work "for the horse" in
2003. This system was seperate of a saddle, replaced the saddlepad, and was designed to work with any saddletree
on any horse.
|THIS Q/H NEEDS MORE GAP YET, FOR THE BACK TO LIFT.
|WHEN RIDING, THE BACK COMES UP 1.5 TO 2.5 INCHES!
|JUST THE GUT TIGHTENING & THE BACK IS UP !
|THIS HORSE'S BACK COMES UP MORE AS SPEED INCREASES!
Incorrectly, I made some of the assumptions
given as examples above in the 1st 10 years of my quest to fix the problems of saddling "for the horse".
One of the things I learned in this journey is:
The best looking FIT is the worst case scenario for the horse. Where-as, the worst
looking FIT of a hundred year old saddle is much better for the horse than what's out there today.
In doing SORE HORSE CLINICS in the 80's and later, I always asked
my audience to please remove the word "FIT" from their vocabulary and replace it with "WORK" when speaking
of horse and saddles at the same time. I disliked the term Saddle-Fit Clinic but that's what people understood
and it was hard to get away from.
it possible to fit a horse with a saddle? Certainly, and there are people out there that try to do this
for a living!
After all my experience, I will
state the following:
"The only way to fit
a western saddle to A HORSE, is to ride the bare tree ON THE HORSE TO BE FITTED". This must be done with 1/2"
to 3/4" of felt cut & glued to bars to simulate later leather & fleece of a finished saddle. There
also should be rigging and stirrup straps attached and the shaped ground seat installed on this tree you are to
After riding you do the following
to get the best results, viewing each change one at a time while riding:
Adjust Rigging position to hold the saddle where desired on the horse, JUST BACK OF
Shape the ground seat to balance
the rider on this given horse. This must be checked while riding. It changes completely because of the horse's back lifting
or rounding when carrying the rider.
the seat and adjust stirrup mounting position for rider comfort, leather shim the bars to give more even pressures
front to rear (that you can only observe when riding).
Cut to shape and glue felt on the bars. It must equal the thickness of your intended pad plus
the skirt's leather thickness in finished saddle. "If this isn't done right at this time, the
finished thicker skirts/padding.. etc. changes the balance of the ground seat that you worked on earlier.
If you see problems with extreme pressure to the horse that you can view
while riding or from small dry spots after, this is the time to re-shape the bars with a shims material such as leather, or
the equivalent, to make the shape work for the horse. These 4 steps are what I did for my 3,000 mile trip saddle
to work. It worked well enough to not have a white hair on my black horse after 8 months of continual riding. (I
also included making the skirts a full 5/8ths inch thick and mounting them with the Tie strings). That let them swivel
to change angle as the hose moved.) I later skived those skirts thin where they contacted the gullet of the fork. That
slopped the pressure line hurting my horse that I didn't find until 800 miles of riding.
5. If you can't do the above sucessfully for rider and horse to
be fitted, then you get a different tree that you think will be better and start the process all over
NO ONE has made the traditional saddle
work for the horse! I base this claim on studying 1400 years of history and 26 years of the following experience:
Making and modifying 4 saddles for a 3000 mi horseback trek with 5
horses in 1982. Designing the Ortho-Flex systems and building the company into a $6 Million a year business. All of this was
about trying to make saddles "WORK". for the horse. After 3 saddle patents & 25,000 saddles, I finally
gave up on the Flex Panel system & saddle in 2001. I went about designing a device separate of the saddle
to make any saddle work on any horse or Mule. I now build and market the result; a device called "The CorrecTOR".
Now let's start with the MAJOR
MISCONCEPTIONS about SADDLING:
|Riders see this and think they have BRIDGING? NO..
| BACK UP! MOVEMENT ON ENDS DROPPING WITH PRESSURE IN FRONT, TIMBERLINE PANELS DID THIS!
|GAITED HORSE>BACK UP SADDLE ROCKING, FRICTION !
|HORSE BECOMES PISSY AFTER FEW DAYS OF THIS. FLEX PANELS CAUSE IT TOO!
|THIS ROCKING TREE WILL BE TWICE AS BAD WHEN RIDING
|ORTHO TREES ARE DESIGNED TO ALLOW ROOM FOR PANELS TO MOVE, COPIED BY TREEMAKERS AS GAITED TREES, ETC
1. Bridging is
the most common of these and is based on having a dry middle of the horse's back while the very front and rear area of
the animal are sweated up and sensitive to the touch. Often a roaning of white in the wither / shoulder area shows up later
on. Simple logic tells the Rider that they have "too much Pressure" front and rear and
not enough contact in the middle of the back. They think their saddle is BRIDGING! The real problem
is just the opposite. A DRY AREA IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BACK IS NOT LACK OF CONTACT!
Riders and saddlers look at the saddle on the horse while standing and see this pressure
at the front of the bars. With the rider aboard it shows pressure at front and rear of the tree bars (as it should). When
the horse starts to walk, with the rider onboard, the back comes up 1 to 2 inches in the middle and the contact is then transferred
to the middle of the back.
With most of
today's saddles, the bars are quite curved and/or flared, thus causing a "Rocking Chair' effect
when riding the horse. You should see sweat at the front and rear of the horse or pad after riding for short
periods. These are the areas of most movement under saddle and the friction creates heat and sweat, then dirt follows. Reading
clean pads or a test sheet after riding only tells you where the horse is moving most! (that tells nothing about saddle-fit)
Today's Saddles are too wide when used behind the shoulders. Therefore they tend to drop down in front and tilt the rider
forward as the back comes up. Double padding raises the saddle 50% more in front than rear but brings with it pinching
at withers or rolling on a round back. The endeavor of trying to pad up a saddle that doesn't "WORK" is a CATCH
22. You are dammed if you do, and dammed if you don't!
A LACK OF CONTACT TO THE SADDLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HORSE'S BACK ONLY OCCURS MOMENTARILY
when RIDING at speed or bending & turning. BRIDGING IS A MYTH THAT SELLS MILLIONS
IN NEW SADDLES THAT ARE WORSE FOR THE HORSE THAN THE ONES THEY REPLACED.
Regular riding with a too-curved saddle and the horse's behavior deteriorates
after a couple of weeks. This type of Soring is rarely visible in the middle of the back, but can be detected by palpating
slowly with firm pressure. When I was saddling police horses around the world, every saddle fitted, via a mold, for a dropped
back was returned within 30 days to have the tree bar's center shims removed because of soring in the middle of
the horse's back.
The behavior from this is
what I term "Pissy"; wringing of the tail, dancing around, head tossing, silly or bad behavior in general that wasn't
there before the new "wonder saddle". Police departments knew there was a problem, they knew their horses.
After enough of these custom fitted to a mold, curved bar trees, I had the Police department
that thought they had-to-have a special cuved bar tree to call a departement that had already been
thru this "Logical Saddling Error". I never did any more shimming of the tree in the center
while I owned OrthoFlex Saddle Co. Inc.
|THIS SADDLE IS A ROCKING CHAIR BEFORE RIDING!
|IT TOOK FRONT & REAR SHIMS TO LET THIS HORSE LIFT IT'S BACK. BARS TOO CURVED!
|DRY SPOT THAT'S NOT GOOD; SADDLE TOO FAR FORWARD!
|SMALL ENOUGH TO BE HIGH PRESSURE, AREA OF BARS BEHIND FORK.
2. DRY SPOTS mean I have pressure
points and show ILL FIT ? I have seen customers more concerned about eliminating Dry SPOTS than anything else.
DRY SPOTS DO NOT ALWAYS MEAN YOU HAVE PRESSURE POINTS ! The lowest point of the back behind the withers is
at Thoracic Vertebrae 7&8. This is the part of the back with most up and down movement. Side-to-side movement of
the vertebral column increases as you move away from this center of movement.
The back lifts most at this point and comes up to the saddle if not locked down
due to severe contraction of the back from direct pain. Unless riding at speed, DRY spots
the size of your open hand or larger, on either side of T/7&8, is an indication of good saddling and riding.
Large dry spots are areas of firm contact and no movement and are most often a positive sign.
Getting back to basics: Figure
Pounds Per Square Inch and you'll know a person isn't heavy enough to cause pressure sores over an area this large.
A dry spot on one side of the wither is
the horse dropping the saddle to his NON-LEAD SIDE, not a crooked saddle or rider! (Read page 6 on thecorrector.net to learn
about this indepth.)
Once skin is repeatedly damaged
do not expect dry areas to immediately start sweating just because you removed the pressure at that spot.
Those dry spots on the withers may be permanent or not sweat for months after rectifying
the initial saddling problems. AS I SAY ON MY WEBSITE: "BRING ALONG A CRYSTAL BALL IF YOU ARE
INTO READING DRY SPOTS". Dry spots 4 inches or smaller on both sides of the withers is a good
indication of EXCESS tree bar PRESSURE............RECCOMMENDATION: Palpate your horse for soreness every
time before you saddle up and forget chasing every dry spot.
|DRY SPOT IS OLD DAMAGE! WON'T GO AWAY SOON.
|A LEVEL BACK SADDLES USED TO FORWARD, NOT SORE! OLD DAMAGE.
|FLARED BAR TREE CAUSED THIS WHITE HAIR !~
|GAITED & OTHER TREES COPIED OFF OLD ORTH-FLEXES CAUSE ROCKING AS ON THIS HORSE!
3. White HAIR OR ROANING OF
WHITE IS A PRESSURE PROBLEM? White roaning is a history of fluid under the skin. Solid white hair
is where it was slipped in more serious galling and pressure. Roaning of white is not a pressure problem, 1st it
is one of movement, 2nd it is mild pressure. Enough heat from friction and said pressure causes fluid
under the skin. That is where you see roaning. This roaning can disappear with a coat change if you make
necessary changes in saddling. Stirrup strap swing can cause white hair if the saddle isn't constructed properly to protect
from friction to the horse in the upper strap area. Narrow straps also add to this problem as do riders that stand the stirrups
or swing their legs. Some Endurance riders & most Competitive trail riders ride Two Point and they still
brag about it. (The detrimental effects of such to the horse takes most of a book.) When high pressures happen under
a saddle for a long enough time, you won't see white hair. The skin will slough off and you'll have an open sore
on your horse. If your horse has pink skin be sure to keep it protected from the UV's as it is healing. Bacon Grease
is great for keeping flies out and healing while toughtening the skin. Seldom is pressure isolated from friction under a saddle
on a moving horse's back. Mainly the sides of the withers is where pressure alone can do the damage. Then infection
often sets in. If it runs under the scapula, it is life threatening "FISTULA".
|ANY CONTACT WILL CAUSE THIS EVEN THRU PADDING!
|IF YOU HAVE CLEARANCE WHEN RIDING, YOU'LL NOT HAVE THIS! RUN LATIGO STRAP UNDER GULLET TO CHECK!
4. You must have 3 FINGERS
CLEARANCE above the WITHERS? As John Lyons once pointed out to me when fitting ZIP with his first OrthoFlex tree,
"A 1/4" or quarter mile, it's all AIR". This 2 or 3 fingers clearance thing started by someone writing
a magazine article. (The well known standard in saddling: "1.5 lbs P.S.I. or more causes
damage deep in a horse's muscle tissue!", was started the same way by the medical editor of Equus in an article on
saddling. When cornered by another writer he admitted to "Pulling the figure out of the Air". Welcome to the all
helpful world of horse magazines and unedited and unsubstanciated world of equine experts
If the saddle
is not touching the top of the withers, or pad on them, when riding, YOU HAVE NO PROBLEM.
This mandated clearance has nothing to do with saddle Balance or "FIT".
On the other hand, BALANCE OF THE SEAT FOR THE RIDER IS VERY IMPORTANT! NOTHING WILL FUNCTION FOR THE HORSE WITHOUT A BALANCED
SEAT FOR THE RIDER. YOU CAN ONLY CHECK BALANCE WHILE RIDING and by FEEL. Throw away your
level that some saddlefitting articles tell you to use to "Balance your saddle" while the horse is standing
still. It all changes when the back comes up as you are riding.
|TALK ABOUT WHITE HAIR, NOW ABOUT TREELESS!
|YOU CAN'T BALANCE RIDER IN A TREELESS SADDLE! RIDER TOO FORWARD, WHITE SHOWS FLUID UNDER SKIN!
5. TREELESS or FLEXTREE SADDLES will solve my saddling
problems? Both of these concepts are hundreds to thousands of years old. The Treeless saddle ridden by the American
Indians was a leather pad with Panels stuffed with hair or whatever was handy. They prevented contact to the horse's
spine. Stirrups were attached to the leather flap and were only used when riding at a walk to rest the feet. When riding at
speed they leaned forward and picked up their stirrups and held them back with their moccasined toes. There was
no pressure in the stirrup at speed nor any strap pressure across the spine. A breast collar and crupper were used as well
as a girth to stabilize the saddle. These were better for the horse than the way treeless are made and ridden
The ZENITH of Saddling was reached in England with the FLEXTREE ENGLISH SADDLE. My friend,
the historian and Master Saddler, Barry Swain told me how these saddles were made. Nothing has been built like them
since. Firm generous Stuffed Panels and a hand stuffed seat were in these saddles. The tree's seat could flex concave or convex
and allowed the horse to round his back. Pressure was not carried throughout the tree because of the flexible bars in the
seat area. A riding style called "THE CHAIR SEAT" was used to keep Stirrup pressure down and protect the
horse by making the rider move with the horse and stay in the seat.
It never worked well for jumping. Caprilli and later his student Count
Elias Toptani, who won major jumping events with the Forward style jumping Seat changed English Saddling
Forever. The first Toptani type saddles were made with the webbed seat and rigid trees like saddles still in
production today. It made a rigid tree and a cheaper saddle. The modern style English saddle was born as well as
people riding saddles too far forward. This forward seat turned into a "forward saddle". Not
intended by Caprilli or Toptani his student. They never put the saddle up over the horse's shoulders as has been done
ever since. A few Europeans don't do this when jumping, Americans are the worst. (Now even their western saddles
are made to ride over the horse's shoulders.)
6. Any pressure over 1&1/2
pounds per square inch will cause tissue damage in my horse? This figure was taken as fact after published
in a respected horse magazine in an article written by a Veterianrian on staff in the 1980's. later when confronted he
addmitted to my wife' "pulling that figure out of the AIR". (he made it up) Computer sensor pads and a small
industry was developed on this HOT AIR. There are no figures or studies that have determined what pressure it takes, or for
how long it has to be present, to cause deep tissue damage in the muscles of the horse's back. I have shown that
pressures over 12 P.S.I. at a gallop caused no discomfort to my Grey in his wither/shouder area.
to know how to test pressures per square inch under your saddle? You can't
do much with a $20,000 computer sensor pad. They only measure pressures accurately up to 4 psi. That's according to the
original inventor of the sensor pad. The knockoff's from Canada claim to measure higher but I don't believe that horseshoer
for a minute.
I've had both
unit's put under Ortho-Flex. I couldn't tell you anything from the limited data available. Only that in most
cases the info was manipulated by the operator. The first time pressures were measured by the inventor and they showed good.
That was stationary. One lady vet did it in a clinic and they were manipulated just to make her "dog & pony show" look
good. We have solid evidence of such.
measure pressures get some bubble wrap, preferrably large bubbles. Get a board that is 1" X 1". Get a scale, bathroom will do, and slowly press the board onto a bubble. Watch the pressure
at which the bubble breaks. You'll find the different colors of bubble wrap will break at different pressures:
2/3, 6/7, 10/12, Pounds per square inch.
Then get some spray adhesive at Wally world. It works like a sticky note adhesive if you get the right kind. Spray
the Bubble Wrap and then a 1/2" thick felt pad, stick together and you have a Pressure sensor pad
better than the Cookie Dough or Computer pads! This pad has normal pad thicknes which compares apples to apples. PUT
THE BUBBLE WRAP AGAINST THE HORSE. It gives you air channels and a real AIR PAD. You can now track pressures, better than the "experts", and at
what gaits or speeds those pressures occur. That's because you can hear the bubbles break
while you're riding. Then palpate your horse where the bubbles broke after removing your new Pressure
Sensor test pad. Riding this pad has done what? It has relieved the highest areas of pressure so it is reduced
in that area. I tried to sell these to the horseworld in the mid 1990's. Few sold, so I dropped it. Just
make your own if you want. The Cookie dough pad tells you almost nothing. IN ALL OF THIS, PALPATING YOUR HORSE THE
NEXT DAY IS THE ONLY WAY TO DETERMINE IF YOUR SADDLE IS WORKING !! Regards, Len
|THIS TREE IS GOOD COMPARED TO MOST, THEY ROCK BIG
|THE BACK IS UP & YOU ROCK & ROLL DOWN THE TRAIL.
|A COMBO OF PRESSURE AND FRICTION, ONE RIDE!
|SAM TAYLOR OF COLEMAN TX. HAD SORES HEAL WHILE USING CORRECTOR!
7. A wide tree will STOP PINCHING
at my horse's WITHERS? Only a few custom Western saddle makers ACTUALLY make a WIDE TREE. Most,
like the Full-Quarter-Horse-Bar TREES, and all English "WIDE" Trees, are just flattened in the angle of the bars.
Only the lower points of the Bars are widened. They are turned out by adjusting the angle of the fork mating surface. English
trees are not bent as sharply at the head when manufactured.
If the point or foot of the bar doesn't carry weight below the horse's
withers, on the upper ribcage, IT'S ALL PINCH (ABOVE), at the TOP OF THE BARS OR PANELS!
This is one of> THE MOST PREVALENT PROBLEMS IN SADDLING TODAY!
When these bars are turned out.... the curve front-to-rear is simultaneously increased and you're back to "ROCKING"
as well as pinching as I mentioned at the first fo this article.
WHY ARE MOST SADDLES BUILT THIS WAY? Manufacturers are doing this
to keep from having to make NEW: fork patterns, ground seat patterns, cantle patterns, and
all new Leather patterns for the saddle. (Welcome to the Saddle World.) In other words, they are too CHEAP to make
a wide saddle in most instances. Unless a more expensive type of tree is used, the riders seat would be wider as the tree
is widened. Riders don't like that, so nobody mention that wide saddles aren't really wide saddles, please.
A wide tree or flared bar tree
has to be well up over the shoudlers to keep from tilting the rider's seat downhill. Saddles don't WORK for
the horse when used with the shoudlers grinding away under the bars. Moving a saddle behind the shoulders an inch or so requires
a narrower Fork to prevent excess pressure on the sides of the withers. Built....JUST LIKE THE SADDLES OF A HUNDRED
YEARS AGO; that the SATURDAY NIGHT COWBOYS ABANDONED IN THE 1960s & on.
Build a Short saddle with Narrow gullet, straight bars, with short flare, little rise to the seat, a 3/4ths rigging and most
of the saddling problems you see today would disappear.
thin pads can be used with the SADDLE of YESTERDAY that I just described. Even then, 7 horses per cowboy were necessary for
a CATTLE DRIVE. Changing horses everyday let them ride a few hundred miles to get the cattle to market in Kansas. Saddling
problems never allowed for just one or two horses per cowboy.
The first saddle I made let me rider over 3000 miles thru 6 states in 1982
without one white hair on my black horse. He still wasn't really comfortable until I went beyond typical saddle construction
after that trip. It's been a long journey. First 25,000 saddles and now thousands of The Corrector devices, all just to
overcome the 1400 year old problem of "SADDLE-FIT".
Regards, Len Brown
|TYPICAL WEST SADDLE POSITIONING, 4" OVER SHOULDERS
|TIE-DOWN TO TIGHT, TREE TOO WIDE & WAY FORWARD THEN DOUBLE PADDED: ALL TO BALANCE RIDER!
|THE "WATSON PANEL PINCH" WRONG ANGLE & WIDE TREE!
|ANY SADDLE OR SYSTEM CAN PINCH WHEN THE WIDTH & ANGLE DON'T MATCH THE HORSE!