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Choosing the Right SaddleSo you’re going to make the change. Going treeless! You’ll find it totally different to riding in a treed saddle. Let me see if I can help make it easy for you. I love to talk to all my clients. I want to know all about you and your horse. Then together we will look at and analyze your saddle choices. Also, the pad for the saddle has lots of options, too. We are able to replace the foam inside with thinner or thicker foam if needed. It is very easy to place shims in, too.
Fitting Your Horse(s) and Fitting You, the RiderAlongside information for fitting you to the saddle, I need to have information about your horse, to find the right saddle for you both.
1. Give me a description of your horse’s size and type.
2. Send these photos with horse SQUARE on all 4 legs on LEVEL ground:
3. Any fitting issues now or in the past with this horse?
4. Any health issues with your horse? Back issues we need to address?
5. Your weight and height.
6. Type of riding that you do.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT FITTING with Freeform saddles.
Perfect Fit with the Panel System
In the past few years Freeform with the help of Brita, owner of Dynamic Equine Saddle Fitting in NC came up with the panel system. This was developed for many different reasons. Fitting (shoulder and wither issues), weight distribution, long distance riding, to name a few.
The panels have a Velcro opening along the top. This allows for easy access for fillers. The panel then will be placed through the gullet of the saddle. Please see photos for more panel placement help. You will need a tight 3 fingers in between your 2 panels in the gullet area. Adjustment to the panels from the stirrup area to the pommel of the saddle can vary for your horse’s needs. In other words most horses have two very different shoulders so with the panels you may place them where they are needed… Up or down, whatever works.
You are able to use whatever material or materials you need inside the panel for fitting and comfort. Anything from foam to wool… even Poron. The panels come with 2 different materials in them. These are good starting points to play around with. Assess what your needs are. You may want to start with one of the filler materials in the panel, place the saddle with the panel on the horse with the pad and see how the fit goes. Remember your horse’s back changes as you ride. You may need to then add both fillers or remove the panel from your saddle pad. I have one horse with panels on his saddle and no panel in his pad for the right fit. I have another horse that needs both a panel in his pad and Poron in this panel. Each horse’s back is very different, and that is why these saddles and panels are so effective. They really DO work! You will need to take a few short rides to find the right fit. Then the magic begins. Patience practiced through the few adjustments in the beginning will pay off. Trust me on that. Call me if you need guidance. I’m always here to help.
Poron. This is the ticket, folks, for panel filler. I’m having great success in fitting saddles and weight distribution with Poron. Unbelievable computerized saddle scans show TOTALLY EVEN weight distribution! Yes even under the stirrup Velcro area. I’m currently competing 2 horses in endurance and Vetting through with all A’s … this mean my guys' backs are in great shape. Yippee. Finally I can say with no doubt that we can truly get a great fit with Freeform treeless saddles. NOTE: The Poron that I’m able to carry right now is pricy. I’m working hard on finding another source so it will be more affordable. This may take some time. Freeform panels Opening at top of panel for inserts. Placing the panel on the saddle. Start at the cantle end of the saddle and work forward. Start with a four finger gullet and adjust out from there. The panels will move slightly when you mount the horse. We want to create an air channel over the spine while keeping the saddle off the spine. The pen marks the approximate attachment point on the opposite side of the stirrup leather Velcro. This point is about 1/3 of the distance from the pommel to the cantle. Keep at least a 4 finger width separation behind this point. It can go as wide as 6 fingers. Forward of this point, it is possible to adjust the panel placement to accommodate the shoulder and wither area. You may have one side of the panels further down the saddle than the other, depending on the shape of the horse, but be careful not to unbalance the saddle.
New Girthing SystemNew girthing option (above) comes standard for all Freeform Classic (all purpose) and Enduro/Trail saddles from Saddle Up. This girthing was designed by Paulita Neff and Amy Sumrall because they wanted their saddles to have options to fit many different horses. With the three D rings will able you to find the position for the girth that is right for your horse. Dryback Saddle Pad for the Freeform. Dryback is an Equalizer Saddle Pad by SKITO that is constructed to release heat and moisture from the large back muscle to the atmosphere. Air flows between the saddle and saddle pad thanks to the addition of the 3M Nomad matting to the top of the saddle pad. Simply put, the exclusive SKITO wool efficiently wicks the heat laden perspiration to the open cell foam inserts, which acts as a dense sponge pulling moisture and heat away from the horse to the surface of the pad. “Foam density is a key in regards to comfort, support and durability. Working with Skito we have developed a laminated foam with felt configuration to provide better support and comfort for you and your equine partner. For the treeless saddle advocate, all of our foam inserts are beveled to eliminate pressure points and allow your leg to lay closer to the animal. “We have a nice selection of shims to insure the correct fit. “We have designed a center pommel tie and cantle tie to attach your pad to your saddle securely and to create an air channel down the spine.”
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Trying Out Your New SaddleAfter the saddle has arrived and you’re ready to saddle up, take a few minutes to look at the saddle and the adjustments you can make. Your seat is movable and so are your stirrup leathers/fenders. To get started, place your saddle on your pad and place them both on the horse’s back so that you will be sitting where you would if you were riding bareback. It may be a little more forward than you are used to. The saddle may move slightly depending on horse conformation and movement, once you are mounted and riding, and that’s OK. Pull the pad up into the cutback part of the saddle to create an air channel over the spine. Girthing buckles should be about 1 inch higher than the elbow. See more about cinches and girths below. You do not want your leathers to be placed within 1” of the cutback of the saddle or on the withers of the horses if no cutback.
Then the adjustments begin. You will need to tweak your saddle seat and leathers in ¼” increments to find your best balance. This may take a few rides. When it all comes together you’ll be in balance and in tune with your horse and the horse’s movement. It’s way too cool. If you feel a bit forward in your seat you may need to move your stirrup leathers a bit forward and your seat a bit back. Or you may need a bigger size seat.
I may ask you for photos of you on your horse to help you out. Remember that I’m here to help. One of the great things about these saddles is all the wonderful adjustments we can make. When trying your new saddle out remember that this is a treeless saddle and you’ll likely be sitting totally differently than you are used too. You will be much more balanced and in tune with your horse. You will be using different muscles and may feel a little sore for your first few rides. This is normal. Once your body gets used to riding in a new position you’ll be fine. It is magical! When you are riding in your new saddle please take small 20 minute rides at first. Make sure it is adjusted to both you and your horse before you take off on a long ride. Please call me, Paulita Neff, with any question 540 830 2713
Is Your Cinch Too Long?by Richard Sacks Can the length of your cinch/girth affect your horse’s performance, your saddle’s fit and your enjoyment of your ride? Absolutely! We have all seen cinchy horses where they turn to bite you when you saddle them up. We have also seen people adjusting their saddle when riding down the trail or in the arena, swinging the saddle back into position with their rear ends. Worse, we have all seen saddles slide when we put our foot in the stirrup to mount. All of these issues are caused by a cinch or girth that is too long. Wait, you say, I have always used this length cinch and I’ve got a horse that is 16 hands. He’s a big boy. Take a look at the horse in this picture. He has a heart girth of 88". That means he measures 88" around his body at his girth groove. He is 15.3 hands and weighs 1200 pounds. HE IS A BIG BOY! Yet, he is ridden in a 24" cinch. How can this be! From the front all horses have the same basic shape, high withered or no withers. The widest part of their body is at the apex of the curve of their rib cage. If your cinch or girth ends are above this point, no matter how tight you pull the cinch/girth, you will never get enough grip. The body of the horse is sloping inwards towards the spine above this point. Your saddle will slide forward and back, your cinch/girth will slide down towards the widest portion of the horse (the apex of the curve of the rib cage) and your saddle will slide from side to side, if not under the belly of the horse. The worst thing is you are choking your horse as you pull tighter and tighter. All horses breathe. Yes they do, and when they breathe they expand their rib cage (chest) to allow their lungs to take in air. Imagine if you were going out for a run and someone tied a rope tightly around your chest. It would be difficult for you to breathe and you would most likely find this to be very annoying. I’ll bet you your horse feels the same way. In fact, he probably tells you he doesn’t like this when he turns his head and tries to bite you when you saddle him up. If you’re female and wear a bra (all you wild child’s from the sixties and men will have to imagine this) you have experienced the same feeling. When you breathe in, your chest expands and the wire foundation digs into your chest. That’s why they invented sports bras. If the cinch/girth is below the apex of the curve of the rib cage, you won’t have these problems. The body of the horse is sloping out towards the cinch. You don’t have to pull as hard to tighten the cinch/girth. You will get immediate grip so your saddle won’t slide back and forth. The cinch can’t slide from side to side either since you are already at a widening portion of the horse’s body. Most importantly, your horse can breathe. The cinch/girth won’t constrict the expansion of the rib cage when the horse breathes in air. The horse will be more comfortable and will be less likely to bite you. So how do you really know what size cinch/girth is right for your horse. We have all seen articles in some flashy magazine that says if your horse is 14 hands you need a small size and if you horse is 15 hands then you need this size. If you horse is 16 hands or more, you can’t go wrong with the biggest size available, they’ll say. Obviously, these folks have never seen my 4 foot tall grandmother who was 5 feet wide. There was no way a 20" belt was going to fit around that woman’s waist. Not a very scientific way to approach this subject. What is purported to be a more scientific approach fails to be accurate as well. The "Golden Rule", where you measure the horse’s heart girth, divided by 2, and then subtract 3", is supposed to give you the correct cinch size for your horse. If we use the gray horse, in the photo at the top, we can see that this doesn’t work. This horse’s heart girth is 88". Divide by 2 will result in 44" and then subtract 3" and you get a cinch size of 41". I don’t think so! There is only one way to measure the size cinch/girth that is correct for your horse. The buckles of the cinch must be clear of the elbow and yet still be below the apex of the curve of the rib cage. Looking at this closer look of the horse’s front leg, we can see where the elbow is. We can also see where the shoulder and the point of the shoulder is. This is not where the cinch/girth should be. The lowest point it can be is about 3-4" above the elbow. This will allow for clearance when your horse brings his leg back. There will be no interference at this point. If you take a string and hold it on one side of the horse at a point 3-4" above the elbow, and then run it under your horse to the opposite side at the same point (3-4" above the elbow) you will have measured the length of the cinch/girth you horse needs. Simply place the string against a yard stick or tape measure and you will have the exact length. May people who use 30"-34" cinches/girths will be very surprised by what they find. The length for most horses will be between 24-26" no matter how tall, big, or type of confirmation. Some horses will be less. I know this sounds different, maybe even strange. But try it. Measure your horse or borrow a smaller cinch/girth from someone you know and give it a try. Your saddle will be more stable. It won’t move from side to side or front to back. Your horse will take a deep breath and a sigh of relief.
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Demo Program InformationWe are happy to have a demo program to help you choose your saddle. I know the issues out there with buying a new saddle, and I want everyone to be happy with their new saddle. So saying that, I’d like to go over Saddle Up’s guidelines for our Demo Program: From the date you receive your newly-purchased saddle: You have 7 calendar days to give it a try. Remember to adjust your seat and stirrups leathers. Sometimes it is a small adjustment of ¼” that makes all the difference. This can take several rides to find the right placement, then it’s magical. Please call me with any questions. I’m here for you! Keep the saddle’s tags in place. Keep the saddle in like-new condition, clean, free from hair and dirt. I do understand that riding can be a dirty venture, but if you do decide to return it the next person will want a new saddle, too. If we receive it and it’s not “like new” than we’ll have to discount it to the next person and this means we’ll have to discount the amount returned to you. Sorry. This also applies to pads. Please call before returning the saddle to get info on how we’d like it shipped and insured. If you return without phoning and getting approval then a 15% restocking fee will be charged to you. When returning the saddle you are responsible for the shipping both ways, plus there is a $59 fee for returning shipped saddles or $85 for returning saddles which required personal, on-site fitting. When the saddle is received and gone over, a credit will be issued to you right away, minus the above-mentioned fee.
About Freeform SaddlesFreeform provides superior quality in every aspect of treeless saddles: remarkable versatility for the serious rider, whether you ride endurance, trail, hunt seat or dressage, made in Italy by craftsmen in consultation with leading equestrians. Freeform saddles combine the qualities of a conventional saddle with the lightness and flexibility of being treeless. As a result of the Freeform foam injection molding process the saddle is suitable for horses with a wide variety of conformations. Its flexibility minimizes interference with the horse’s natural gaits and offers a comfortable, more balanced ride than a traditional saddle, while protecting the horse's back. The Freeform saddle has two main parts: the saddle base and the detachable seat. Other features include an adjustable stirrup attachment, adjustable girthing and a wide choice of leathers and colors. The breathable foam core ensures the saddle's light weight. See technical details and more information below. The flexibility of these saddles allows the horse complete unrestricted freedom of movement, encouraging movement as nature intended, while providing a close-contact feel for the rider. There is excellent weight distribution with all the Freeform saddles. This gives the horse and rider a comfortable, balanced riding experience. The incorporation of “flexi-front” technology, as detailed below, into the front of the seat aids in wither clearance and adjusts automatically with both the movement and shape of the horse. One saddle can fit all of your horses. Plus, as your horse's back changes with age and conditioning, the saddle consistently maintains a good fit. These are saddles you will use for years to come on many different horses if you so choose, confident that the quality of materials and workmanship will last and last. The Freeform saddle has been used by most Tevis Cup winners since 2007. You too will be a winner in your horse’s eyes when you’re riding in a Freeform saddle. We recommend using Skito and Equipedic pads with all our Freeform saddles.
Flexi-frontThe Freeform's detachable seat has a high tensile aluminum bar incorporated into the front of the seat to aid in wither clearance. This bar is very lightweight while providing high flexibility. It will automatically adjust to the movement and shape of your horse. Freeform acts as a totally tree-free saddle with flexibility throughout its entirety, but without collapsing in the pommel arch over time and use. When transferring your saddle from a very wide bodied horse to a narrow horse, just remove the detachable seat, gently squeeze the pommel arch together, and then re-affix the seat to your saddle base. The pommel will automatically adjust to the shape of the horse.
Adjustable Stirrup AttachmentThe stirrup attachment on the Freeform Saddles is completely adjustable. It is designed to allow custom stirrup positions, from jumping position to classical dressage seat. Having an adjustable stirrup attachment allows each individual rider to adjust their stirrup placement so they do not have to fight the forces of nature, allowing each rider to sit easily in the natural hip-shoulder-heel alignment.
Girthing OptionsThe girth straps are stitched on a "Y" system in all Freeform saddles to help make the saddle more secure and spread the pressure of the rider over the whole of the saddle. This design also ensures that the stirrup and girthing arrangement do not attach at the same point, thereby preventing pressure from radiating at one point on the horse's back. The girth straps on all Freeform saddles (except Western models) are made from leather-faced coated nylon and are English style billets that accept an English dressage girth with two buckles. New girthing option (above) comes standard for all Freeform Classic (all purpose) and Enduro/Trail saddles from Saddle Up. This girthing was designed by Paulita Neff and Amy Sumrall because they wanted their saddles to have options to fit many different horses. With the three D rings will able you to find the position for the girth that is right for your horse.
Western Freeform saddles, all models, have big D girthing, as shown above.
Detachable Seat and Seat OptionsMany Different Seat Styles
Sizing and FittingSizing for the Rider Saddle fit for the rider is equally important as saddle fit for the horse. The primary consideration for the rider of a treeless saddle is the seat size. The Freeform Saddles are available in seat size 15” – 19” [English saddle seat sizing]. The following is a guide to help you choose the correct seat size of your new Freeform Saddle. How To Measure Yourself for your Freeform Saddle It is helpful to have someone assist you. Sit on a stool or chair so your thigh lies parallel to the ground. Use a tape measure to measure the length of your upper leg from the back edge of your buttock to the point of knee (see diagram below). From the chart below, check your measurement against those in the left column and match up to the seat sizes in the right column. SEAT SIZES Leg Measurement Up To / Seat Size Required [caption id="attachment_2394" align="alignright" width="143"] Measure from the back edge of your buttock to the point of knee.[/caption] 18” / 15” 20” / 16” 22” / 16 ½” 23" / 17” 24” / 17 ½” Over 24” / 18” Go for the next size up if: You like a roomy seat. You have a horse with a dippy or sway back. Important! These are guidelines only! Sizing for the Horse As a Freeform Saddle has no tree and is flexible, the saddle shapes itself to each individual horse. However, the following are some guidelines: When placing a Freeform saddle on your horse place the saddle seat so that you will be sitting in the saddle seat in the same place you would be sitting if you were riding bareback. The area on the horse's back equipped to carry the rider comfortably is between the 9th and the 13th thoracic vertebrae. With the Freeform saddle, the rider is placed right behind the withers, avoiding pressure beyond the 14th thoracic vertebrae and allowing full range of movement of the shoulder blades. The rider's weight is carried without causing pain, discomfort and damage to the horse's body. The rider weight is wrapped around the horse's center of motion for best support of weight and freedom of movement. Because there is no tree to impede the horse’s shoulder movement it does not matter if the saddle panels touch or lay over the horse’s shoulder. Wither clearance – is necessary but does not need to be the usual 2-3 fingers we have become used to. So long as you can slip a finger under the pommel, this is usually sufficient. High withered horses are the most difficult to fit and often require careful shimming/padding in the saddle pad to allow sufficient clearance. Additionally, cutback saddle design is available for high withered horses. Please call Saddle Up for help with saddle selection, pad selection and shimming options. We at Saddle Up can show you the simple steps to take to ensure correct placement and fitting for your horse as well as advise the correct seat size for the rider. Call us!
Optional Panels AvailableFreeform panels help provide even pressure distribution and good clearance over the spine and are available for all Freeform saddles. The Sympanova material provides a nice additional cushioning effect of the saddle panels. Panel attached to saddle. Suede underside with velcro strips for panel attachment. Easy panel adjustment for various horses' conformations.
Features and Options
FAQsOften when someone is considering changing from something they are used to, like a saddle with a tree, to an unknown, like a saddle without a tree they have many questions. We have tried to answer many of those questions here. If you have other questions, please feel free to call Saddle Up. Why should I consider riding a treeless saddle? What is wrong with a tree? The Freeform Saddles, designed without a tree, are designed to be extremely flexible, comfortable and secure. The flexibility of the Freeform Saddles minimizes interference with the horse's natural gaits and allows full freedom of movement without restriction. As a rider, you will have noticeably greater contact with your horse's motion, giving you more "feel" than you can achieve with a traditional treed saddle. You will also notice that your horse will have easier movement. If there is no solid tree between my seat and my horse's back, am I not sitting directly on the horse's spine? No. The seat bones of the rider are positioned left and right of the horse's vertebrae, so your weight is well distributed. Additionally, Freeform's foam injection molding technology protects both your horse and you from direct pressure points. Where should my Freeform saddle be placed on my horse? When riding in a Freeform Saddle you want your seat to be in the spot where you would naturally sit when riding bareback. Since the Freeform Saddles are flexible and conform to the shape of your horse, the saddle will not be putting undue pressure on the shoulder and will not limit movement of your horse's shoulders. Even if the panel is close to, touching, or even on top of the scapula, there is nothing to impede your horses shoulder movement and the scapula will just move smoothly under the panel. Will I have to ride differently or sit in my Freeform saddle differently than I would my treed saddle? In a Freeform saddle you will sit totally around the natural shape of your horse. Initially you may feel some stretching of the muscles of your inner thighs but they will soon adjust. The Freeform Saddles have an adjustable stirrup attachment designed to allow different stirrup positions from jumping position to a classical dressage seat. This allows you to position your stirrups so you may sit easily in a balanced, natural hip-shoulder-heel alignment. How will my Freeform Saddle feel to my horse? Your horse will be delighted. He will be moving much more freely, especially in the shoulders, and will generally be moving with a bigger stride. The design of the Freeform Saddles moves with the contours of your horse's back in motion. The "Y" girthing system distributes pressure over the whole of the saddle. Since the Freeform Saddles conform to the shape of your horse's back whether at rest or in motion, there is greatly diminished stress to your horse. What fittings and accessories can I use with my Freeform Saddle? Most Freeform Saddles are equipped with dressage billet straps so you can use any regular dressage girth. Western models are equipped with one large D-ring. The front D-rings provide for the use of a standard breast collar. Dressage style stirrup leathers are available to match your Freeform Saddle. The stirrup leathers are a single piece of leather and attach with a buckle at the stirrup bar. This eliminates bulk under your thigh, greatly increasing your comfort and contact with your horse.
Caring for Your Freeform SaddleBasic Leather Care: Routine cleaning is recommended to aid in the longevity of your Freeform saddle. A complete cleaning twice a year, followed by a conditioner and protectant, will maintain the finish and increase durability. Saddle Up recommends the use of Nikwax Leather Cleaner and Nikwax Leather Restorer with your Freeform Saddle. Nikwax WaterBase treatment offers an easy spray-on option. The treatments are more effective than other products requiring less frequent application. Unlike other systems you can’t overdose the leather when using a Nikwax WaterBase formulation. Wet Leather Rescue The solution is to take action before the wet leather completely dries. Remove any dirt or mud from the wet leather with a damp rag. While the leather is still damp and its pores are still open, apply a coat of Nikwax Leather Restorer. As the water evaporates, capillary action will pull the conditioner down between the fibers to take its place. The wet leather needs to absorb conditioner deep within its fibers to replace oils flushed out by the water. Sweat and leather don’t mix Sweat may be good for horses in training but it's bad for your tack. Left to dry, that sweat can damage your leather. Dirty leather becomes not only becomes stiff and dry, but the collective grunge can also irritate your horse's skin. Combined with dirt and accumulated grease from gummy leather care products, sweat becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that eat away at stitching weakening it permanently. Make it easy to clean your tack as soon as possible after riding and you're more likely to tend that tack faithfully. Follow a quick cleaning routine after every ride and schedule a more thorough cleaning at regular intervals. At a minimum, wipe sweat away with clear water, rinsing your tack sponge between swipes and wringing it almost dry before taking the next pass over the leather. Use enough water to flush salty sweat out of the leather's surface pores but don't saturate the leather. To do the best job, use Nikwax Leather Cleaner to dissolve and lift away sweat and dirt . When it's time to clean that tack, squirt or spray the Nikwax Leather Conditioner onto your tack sponge and wipe tack down. Pay particular attention to the undersides to parts that have been against the horse and to stitching lines that can trap sweat. Rinse your sponge frequently (if you set a bucket of water out before your ride, it will be a comfortable temperature when you return) to avoid wiping sweat from one area onto another. Twice a year, take tack apart buckle by buckle and do a thorough cleaning. Use a toothbrush, cotton swabs or even toothpicks to nudge any accumulated dirt from stitching lines, holes, and tooling.
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