HILL VIEW FARMS LLC
"Proven Products for Horse and Rider"
By: Cathy Sheets Tauer - B.S. Animal Science, E.S.M.T
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What is the purpose of a saddle? A saddle is designed to offer the rider support and to distribute the riders weight over a large surface area, while allowing the horse to move freely.
will have your saddle for a lifetime, but not your horse. So does your
saddle fit more than one horse properly?
No saddle will fit every horse but a flex-panel system will come as close as you can to doing so.
The moving parts of the body were created and intended to move through a specified range of motion freely, easily and completely. When for any number of reasons they lose the ability to do this there will be a problem....
Muscular problems are most common to horses which are engaged in some form of competition. Athletics, horse or human, produce a situation unique to all sports. The amount of strain and exertion require to achieve maximum performance. What is maximum? How do you know when you have reached it? You don't...
Muscles can be an entire cause or a reflection of a deeper cause. It is always proper to eliminate a deeper cause first. This is veterinarian expertise. The proper therapy for a muscle problem could be the improper one for a deeper cause...
Before I begin any saddle fit or work as a Sports Massage Therapist, I always perform an evaluation on the equine. The following is a very light overview of what I do to uncover areas of concern. Realizing that muscle represents 60% of the entire body, massage makes so much sense. Massage is a practical, hands-on, non-invasive therapy for equines, enabling them to reach their full potential. Massage is most effective as a preventive measure and is not a substitute for veterinary medicine. Massage increases the range of motion, flexibility and circulation. It releases tension and improves the horse’s disposition. Equines love massage. How do we know if our equine friends have pain? They cannot talk, but do communicate non-verbally. Resistance in training or increased agitation resulting in poor performance and bad behavior are symptoms that something is wrong. Proper fitting equipment and massage address the cause of such trouble.
"Putting the Horse First" lets us know that they are enjoying our company as much as we enjoy theirs. Horses no longer are a beast of burden for man but a partner in a leisure activity that everyone can enjoy. As for equipment, there is no question as to what our equine friends should be saddled in: a properly fitted Delrin panel saddle. This saddling system allows the horse to move freely, bending and flexing. It’s orthopedic. Since as a rider we will never know how it feels to be saddled, doesn’t it make sense to get a saddle that feels as good to your horse as it does to you? If your current saddle fits correctly and your horse can move freely and is not in pain (as determined by physical palpation) then you have no reason to change your saddle. But how can you be sure?
Looking at the figure below, the circled areas are pressure spots, the cross hatch marks are where you run your thumb or finger tips in a smooth flowing fashion, observing areas of concern. When you begin, use 10-15 pounds of pressure. Along the top of the spine you should use 20# of pressure. (You should have NO reaction but if you do, contact a veterinarian or other professional for further advice.) Use a bathroom scale to judge your pressure and test on yourself first.
When you are near the
equines face, watch for teeth. There is a pressure point on the cheek
where you can place your thumb and effectively
prevent him from tuning toward you. It is not necessary to dig your
thumb into the pressure point, just simply rest it on the surface. This
action will dissuade any biting response. Also, as you work your way
past the shoulder, keep your eye on the hind leg nearest you. Inspired
by the fact that a horse is capable of kicking a fly off his ear, you
are cautioned to place your free hand or fist, with elbow locked, near
the stifle joint both as a warning and as a preventative for you, and a
reminder for your client.
Discover What a Saddle Should Be
purpose of a saddle is to offer the rider support and to distribute the
rider’s weight - efficiently over a large surface area.
How to specifically test your saddle for fit on your horse
My horse has never had a sore back... How do you know?
Use physical palpation to
determine if a saddle is potentially causing back and performance
If you are certain your horse does (or does not) have a sore back you can confirm your convictions by making clear non-biased evaluations. You will need to observe physical traits that indicate back soreness, record behaviors in your horse, which are common to sore-backed horses and then palpate the muscles. (Do this before riding and again 8 to 24 hours after riding.)
Once you have ruled out dentistry and shoeing as possible causes of bad behavior and performance, the following acts of disobedience are usually directly linked to saddling pain or the anticipation of it.
Test for soreness in the "check point" muscles
There are three important muscles that can let you know instantly if your horse is suffering pain due to his saddle even if there is no pathology visible on the back. Most riders use enough padding and rest their horses just enough to prevent bruising of the back from becoming visible. But their horses are hurting and they respond to the pain by tensing the muscles which are being pressed. This tension flows to all connected muscle groups. The horse operates in a tense and unnatural form and this places stress on other parts of his body, hard to believe a saddle could affect so many parts of the body.
Three major check point muscles are: The semimembranosis (on either side of the tail - in the hind quarters), the brachiocephalicus (following the lower half of the neck from poll to shoulder) and the triceps at the elbow. Many other muscles could also be probed, but these three, combined with your other findings, are all you need to make a trustworthy diagnosis. You will probe these muscles quickly and sharply with the ends of three fingers or your thumb held stiff. Remember, any force of the bite of kick your horse is likely to receive in the herd environment is far greater than any force you could possibly exert by using the ends of your fingers, however sharply. You will not injure your horse in any way by this probing, but you may discover that your horse's muscles jump violently when probed. Most novices probe too softly to illicit a reaction from their horse and are left with the impression their horse is not sore. TTEAM therapy inventor, Linda Tellington Jones, once stated that one must probe as firmly as necessary to get a reaction to see if the horse is sore. She sometimes probes very strongly, in fact. If there is no soreness, there will be little or no reaction.
YOUR HORSE'S REACTION-WHAT IS
NORMAL AND WHAT IS NOT
Checkpoint 1: Semimembranosis (either side of the base of the tail). This muscle originates on either side of the root of the tail. This is a long and rather narrow muscle which runs down the back of the hindquarters beside the tail and attaches five to eight inches above the horse hock. Standing to the side of the horse's rear, not directly behind, probe sharply as described with the tips of your first three fingers in to the muscle's origin beside the base of the tail. The muscle should feel loose and relaxed-technically, "quiescent". The horse should react by slightly tucking his hindquarters and slightly raising his back - both natural reflexes. But if he is tense from soreness, he will "hump" his back and tuck his hind quarters violently and he may even hop with both hind legs. If so, he may have a great deal of trouble directly under his saddle.
Checkpoint 2: Brachiocephalicus (from the poll to the shoulder covering the lower half of the side of the neck). Probe the base of the neck in front of the shoulder blade about five inches above the point of the shoulder. If your horse is sore, this muscle will jerk visibly and the horse will probably try to step away from you or turn his head toward you, curving his neck away. He may even bend away while many related and attached muscles jerk throughout his neck and shoulder. This muscle helps pull the humerous forward, extending the foreleg.
Checkpoint 3: Triceps (muscle forming a wedge shape from the shoulder blade rearward to the elbow). You'll feel this muscle as the fleshy area just to the rear of the bony ridge, which runs the length of the shoulder blade. Probe just above the bony elbow. This is a wedge shaped muscle that is from the shoulder blade to the elbow. If your horse is sore, he will jerk, move away and may bend his knee, all in varying degrees, indicating a sore back. How violent the reaction depends on how sore and how much spasm his back is in. You can also determine if your horse has been made sore by girth interference.
Confirm your findings with palpation of the saddle area
There are three types of soreness to look for when palpating your horse's back. 1) Deep muscle soreness caused by excess pressure in a concentrated area; 2) Friction soreness caused by movement of the horse under the saddle and/or by stirrup straps; 3) Spondylosis or impingement of the spinal processes caused by jumping, rider concussion and the horse's traveling with his back muscles in contraction.
What to watch for: When palpating look for your horse to react in one or more of the following ways. He may raise his head, dip his back , flatten his croup, step away from you , toss his head, pin his ears, or flick his hide where you are palpating him as if he is ridding himself of a fly. (termed here fly-jerk). He may tense the muscles around your fingers, and his muscles may shudder in the area you are probing. Remember to study his face as you are working. He may only tighten his lips, clench his teeth or have a steely expression about his eyes. From the time they are young horses are taught how to operate with saddle pain. Many "old pros" will not readily admit they are hurting. That is why you must palpate properly, know the natural reflex points and always keep an eye on the horse's face.
Remember what Mary Schriber of Equissage says: When you are near the equines face, watch for teeth. There is a pressure point on the cheek where you can place your thumb and efficiently prevent him from tuning toward you. It is not necessary to dig your thumb into the pressure point, just simply rest it on the surface. This action will dissuade any biting response. Also, as you work your way past the shoulder, keep your eye on the hind leg nearest you. Inspired by the fact that a horse is capable of kicking a fly off his ear, you are cautioned to place your free hand or fist, with elbow locked, near the stifle joint, both as a warning and as a preventative for you and a reminder for your client.
Regardless, you should be able to get some kind of reaction from your horse as you palpate him. If after studying this method carefully and applying it, you cannot illicit any response from your horse, even when probing his natural reflex points, you can be sure your horse has severe long-term saddling problems.
Natural reflex vs.
Probe gently but firmly:
Where to Begin: Start where the arch of your saddle rests on either side of the withers. This is the trapezius muscle. If your saddle rests farther back, it will be at the area where the trapezius meets the longissimus dorsi. If you position the points of the tree of your saddle directly on top of the shoulder blade, begin probing there. If a fly-jerk which continues longer than three seconds, the horse is bruised. If your horse is very sore, he will initially give the fly-jerk reaction and then step away, dip his back noticeably, bend his knees or toss his head. He may literally go down under sustained pressure. The horse is severely bruised if he does any of these things. If he is not bruised, the fly-jerk will dissipate and he will probably relax and go on munching hay for instance, while you continue to hold pressure. (Fig. #4 Rhomboid muscles, under the trapezius muscles and fig. #5 Trapezius muscles covering the rhomboids).
Continue down the length of the horse's back: Probe your horse's back this way anywhere the saddle rests to locate sore areas. Very few horses ridden extensively with any saddle will not be sore where the fork rests. Some will also be sore under the middle of the bars or panels and some also under the rear of the saddle tree near the loins. Probing either side of the spine, moving down the length of the back, the sore horse's reaction will be slight; if very sore his back will drop sharply.
Probing the loins: When probing the loin area be on the lookout for friction soreness which will cause the horse to flatten his croup or drop his back. With deep bruising the horse will continue to show pain when pressure is applied longer than 15 seconds. So, If he continues to show pain or steps away from you, he has deeper damage. If, on the other hand, it is only friction soreness ( the palpation technique for which is explained below) then the reaction doesn't normally last any longer than the count of 5.
Palpating for friction soreness: Friction soreness is easily spotted and frequently called "ticklishness," because horses react to it when being brushed or touched lightly. (This maybe the case, but you must test to see if indeed, your horse has true friction soreness.) Since riders may not see shaved hair, sores, or swelling, they deduce that their horses are ticklish. It is also the most overrated type of soreness because most veterinarians at endurance races and competitive trail rides can easily spot it while missing deep muscle bruising, which is far more serious. To palpate for friction soreness, spread apart your fingers and curve them as if you are about to play the piano. With about three pounds of pressure run your fingers down the horse’s back from the front to the rear, beginning on either side of the spine and alternating your way downward until all saddle contact areas have been covered. The sore horse will dip his back or flatten his croup or step away when you pass over a sore area. (Fig. #6.)
Detecting spondylosis: Spondylosis deformans goes largely undetected in many horses suffering from it. It is characterized by irritation, pain, swelling or degeneration of the periosteum (surface) of the dorsal spinal processes. This occurs when the articulation surfaces of the vertebrae or tops of the spinal processes rub together (impinge) when the horse’s back hollows excessively. The impingement usually happens between the 10th and 17th thorasic vertebrae when caused by improper saddling and riding. It is very common in distance racing horses, who are allowed to travel great distances with hollow backs and heads up. It is also common in jumping horses who suffer vertebral impingement by the propulsion created by the hind quarters when starting the jump with all the back muscles contracted at the same time. The test for spondylosis is simple.
How to check for Spondylosis: Beginning at the base of the wither, with three or four fingertips in line with the middle of the spine, press downward and hold. While maintaining a minimum of 10-20 lbs of pressure, slide your fingers toward the croup. No matter how hard you press, there should be no reaction! If the horse raises his head noticeably, dips his back or tries to drop to the ground, he is suffering. A very sore horse will be able to tolerate only light pressure here before dropping his back or bending his knees. Spondylosis is extremely painful and use of the horse must be stopped immediately as it can create a very unpredictable and sometimes explosive animal. With continued use, the body will form false joints of calcification between the spinal processes. Next, the vertebrae fuse in a condition called ankylosis, nature’s way of alleviating pain, which also results in a stiffer, nonathletic horse. If you do experience any reaction from palpating your horse’s spine, contact a veterinarian for medical treatment and consultation, for you may not have spondylosis but other issues that will need to be resolved before you ride your animal again.
Always extend the foreleg to probe the rear edge of the scapula
Another important point to probe
for bruising is often missed by veterinarians and therapists and
unknown by horsemen: the rear process of the scapula called the
"cartilage of prolongation".
How to: Have a helper stand in front of the horse and elevate the front hoof (leg straight) to normal extension, such as during extended trot or gait. Firmly probe the rear of the shoulder blade now. Often, horses which showed no soreness when standing square, nearly go to the ground when probed on this otherwise hidden cartilage of prolongation.
Find rear edge of the scapula with your fingertips
Trace around the scapula with a piece of chalk or spit on your finger and wipe the wetness onto the shoulder for a visual outline
Have a helper elevate and extend the foreleg and again find the rear of the scapula, tracing around it. Notice how far the scapula has rotated to the rear. Be sure your saddle doesn't interfere with this rotation.
The arrow points to the "cartilage of prolongation"
Conclusion: If, after studying these methods carefully and applying them and you cannot illicit any response from your horse, even when probing his natural reflex points, you can be sure your horse has severe long-term issues. He is locked up and is blocking all stimuli. Therefore, contact a professional for further assistance.
Will this saddle fit different shape backs?
Allow me to share with you a few of our riding horses that we ride. You can see how different their withers are, how wide their shoulders are, how dippy their backs are, how long/short their backs are, how fast the croup rises up. As you look at the following photos, you can see that not just any saddle will work, nor will that saddle allow for a custom fit, giving the horse complete and free movement. You can ONLY achieve this with a Delrin Panel saddle with the most advanced system.
Tito, Peruvain, 15 hands
Mister, Fox trotter, 15.1 hands
Joya, Peruvian, 14.2 hands
Arnosa, Peruvian, 14.2 hands
Ave, Peruvian, 14.3 hands
Stuart, Quarter horse, 15 hands
Princess, Peruvian, 13.3 hands
Henry, Peruvian, 14.3 hands
Colina, Peruvian, 15 hands at age 3
Click here to see this horse after 5 months riding & how her back changed. Incredible.
Remember, here at Hill View Farms, we thoroughly test all of our products. Every year we put 1000 miles of real horseback riding miles on our horses. We test and then use only the best products and put our money where our mouth is. We RIDE.
The photos to the left are that of a System X saddle on my dinning room table, (and remember that this saddle was NOT designed to fit a dinning room table). But, I just had to show you how the panels can mash flat for a flat back or mutton-withered horse and then curve up to fit a real 'A' frame horse. Now THAT is a saddle that can really fit a wide variety of back shapes with no additional adjusting by you, the customer. Now you know why we LOVE our saddles and so do our horses!
To check saddle fit you need TWO people. Begin saddling by using a thin pillowcase or no pad at all. Check for clearance between the tree and spine of the horse. One person can now mount up. The other will re-check for spine clearance as well as clearance between the tree and the panels. The person on the ground will slide their hand under the front middle and rear of the saddle (both sides), checking for even pressure as the horse is moved in a figure 8 pattern. Notice that the saddle without a rider sits uneven, as the panels in a natural state will be straight. It is ONLY when weight is in the saddle that the panels will conform to the horses back. For details saddle fitting and palpation purchase the all about saddling video - located under books in the index.
Prince has a sway back. One of Sue's veterinarians said that this horse should be put down as he would never be able to be ridden. We and other professionals proved wrong!
Prince has a 5 inch dip
We fit the saddle bare with no pad, Sue mounted up and we looked for clearance between the tree and the panels. Perfect. So we put the pad on.
Remember you need TWO people to check fit. One who is in the saddle and the other on the ground LOOKING.
Here Prince, an Arabian who is 19 years old, that Sue adopted from a rescue, is perfectly fitted. However we discovered later we could have used a crupper too.
Sue is very happy, took the photo of her right before the big smile as she was really amazed at the results of our testing ride in the hilly country of Southeastern MN.
Just because someone or a horse has a different conformation DOES NOT mean that they can not be useful and happy. With the right equipment and a devoted owner. Prince can now enjoy trail riding as much as Sue does.
An even sweat pattern tells it all. We did some serious hill climbing and the saddle did not move back as we had a breast collar, but the saddle did move forward, so next time a crupper will be used. This saddle was a Perfect fit, with dry down the center offering all the clearance needed for fit.
RETURN TO INDEX or to place an order Order Form Have questions or to order by phone: Toll Free in US dial 866-723-5937 Out of country dial 507-723-5937
© 2015 Web Master - Cathy Sheets Tauer
What do the various different back shapes of a horse look like? Click here
What do customers have to say about these saddles? click here
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