Often it seems a hard-treed saddle fits in the beginning, at least when the horse is standing still. However, the shape of the horse’s back changes not only when he moves and curves his back but also in the long term when he gains or loses muscle or weight. As the panels of a hard-treed saddle gradually flatten, the saddle often becomes ill-fitting. This may be difficult to notice before there’s actually a health problem. A flexible saddle adapts itself according to the changes and therefore fits well.
How problems can be solved or prevented
Examples and solutions
Please note that switching over to a flexible saddle usually won’t heal a sore back in a situation where the right solution would be to stop riding for a while and let the horse recover.
1) The narrowness of a hard-treed saddle
This horse in the photo (below) has had a treed saddle that was too narrow. The tissues around the withers have been under constant pressure which impairs the circulation and causes necrosis. Necrosis can make the hair turn white (as can wounds that a rubbing saddle can cause).
Often the muscles will decline and shrink under the pressure. You can see the flatness and tightness of the tissue around the whole saddle area in this photo. You can also see that this horse’s movement has become short. When a hard, treed saddle presses the wither area, the horse cannot move freely. His posture will gradually collapse. Several big muscles cross each other on the shoulder and should form a round, large, soft and firm hill. Here they have shrinked and become flat and tight.
Often there will be dints around the withers, the size of which is one or two hands. The usual reason is an ill-fitting hard-treed saddle.
To find a treed saddle of exactly the right width is difficult. A treed saddle can also easily be too wide, which makes it lean forward or move and rub the horse.
A Flexible Saddle gives the shoulder freedom of movement and won’t press the horse around the withers. A Flexible Saddle will allow the muscles recover and grow as it flexes and gives way and won’t press them back down like a hard-treed saddle would.