Inexplicable lamenesses, vices and resistances, back pain - saddle issues have many faces!
Without any doubt, the distribution of the rider's weight is an essential element when designing, fitting and checking a saddle.
The distribution of the rider's weight crucially depends on the size and shape of the panels. They must fit to the shape of the horse back. Furthermore, thinking of conventional stiff treed saddles the rock of the saddle must fit to the horse's back line. As this line changes when the horse lifts the back it is almost impossible to make this happen.
A leathertree saddle is flexible and adapts by itself while riding. This can effectively avoid hot spots which can be caused by conventional stiff treed saddles. At the same time a well-fitted leathertree saddle is strong and stable enough to avoid too much pressure under the stirrup bar which is a common problem with treeless saddles.
There are several options how to check the weight distribution. Popular because of being cheap and easy to do is the Carola pad.
A more precise assessment is possible using thermography. This method can show if an area gets more pressure than another by showing the temperature differences.
Leathertree saddles - examples
The combination of the strong leathertree with correctly fitting and well-positioned panels ensure a very even and homogenous distribution of the rider's weight. The panels lay evenly on the horse back which can be seen in the picture by the evenly colors. The temperature is consistent all over the panels.
The thermography pictures show evenly white areas which proves the outstanding weight distribution of the leathertree saddles.
Another interesting part it the red area directly at the wither. It shows that there is less pressure at the wither which allows the wither more clearance to move in ridden work.
Saddle trees made of wood, steal, carbon or PU have one thing in common: They are stiff. Because of this these trees are not able to adapts to the tridimensionally moving system "horse back".
Thermography images show how un-evenly the rider's weight is distributed by far too many conventional saddles.
Our first example shows a saddle which causes a lot of pressure in the rear area (dark red with white patches compared to yellow colors at the front). On the right top side (top left area in the image) more pressure is caused in the channel to the wither than on the other side. Therefore there is more pressure in the left rear part. Most likely this saddle slides to the left side and a balance pointed to far back.
The second image shows a saddle which causes a lot of pressure directly under the rider. The yellow patches have less pressure, while the white patches indicate "hot spots" with high pressure. The rock of the saddle is probably to curved for the horse.
The third example shows a saddle which is strongly one-sided. The panels are very narrow so that the area where the weight can be distributed is very small. The most intensive pressure for the horse is at the right rear end of the saddle.
Our forth example shows a saddle with a lot of pressure in the front. The white lines on both sides result from a far to narrow channel which creates a painfull pressure on the horse's spine.
Saddles with conventional trees - examples