Saddle



Background

A saddle is a seat for the rider of an animal, usually a horse. A well-made saddle gives the horse rider the necessary support, security, and control over the animal. The saddle makes it possible for the rider to keep in balance with the horse by allowing him or her to sit over the horse's point of balance.

The first saddles were simply animal skins or cloths thrown over the backs of horses, offering only a small measure of comfort to the riders. About 2,000 years ago, the Sarmatians, a nomadic tribe who lived around the Black Sea region, designed a saddle based on a shaped wooden foundation, or tree. The tree had front and rear arches joined by wooden bars on each side of the horse's spine. This design, improved upon during the medieval era with the advent of the dip-seated saddle, survives in an adapted form as the Western saddle.

A typical saddle includes a base frame or "tree"; a seat for the rider; skirts, panels, and flaps that protect the horse from the rider's legs and vice versa; a girth that fits around the stomach of the horse and keeps the saddle stable; and stirrups for the rider's feet.

The saddle tree is the frame on which the saddle is built. Its shape determines the shape of the saddle, which varies from the flat-race tree weighing only a few ounces to the modern dip-seated spring tree.

Ideally, the tree should be built to fit the back of the horse for which the saddle is intended. Most of the time, however, saddles are manufactured for certain sizes and shapes and will fit most horses of equivalent sizes and shapes. Trees are usually made in three width fittings: narrow, medium, and broad, and four lengths: 15 inches, 16 inches, 16 1/2 inches and 17 1/2 inches (38.1, 40.64, 41.9, and 44.45 centimeters respectively).

Panels are cushions divided by a channel that gives a comfortable padded surface to the horse's back while raising the tree high enough to give easy clearance of the animal's spine. The panels also disperse the rider's weight over a larger surface, thereby protecting the horse from the weight of the rider. These panels also protect the horse's back from the hardness of the saddle. The purpose of the skirts is to protect the rider's legs from the sweat of the horse, and to cover the girths and girth straps. Saddles also include D-rings, small leather straps with strings attached that can hold canteens, jackets, food pouches, and other items.

Modern horse saddles are divided into two broad categories: the English and Western saddle. Originally designed for show jumping, the English saddle has a deep seat and sloped back. Its design was derived in part from the crouched-forward position adopted by Tod Sloan, an American jockey, and the subsequent Italian design introduced by Caprilli in 1906. Sloan's forward crouch placed the rider's weight forward, thus freeing the horse's loins and hindquarters. Because professional jockeys had previously positioned their weight on the loins and behind the movement of the horse, Sloan's technique revolutionized professional horse racing.

One type of English saddle, the "jumping saddle," is designed to position the rider more forward. It is almost always built on a spring tree and generally has a deep seat. In

The first step in saddle manufacture is treating the leather. This involves soaking the hide in a lime solution to loosen the outer layer of skin and the hair, and then removing the hair. The frame of the saddle is the tree. One typical tree type, the spring tree, is shaped out of thin plywood. Fiberglass material (the fiberglass looks like a white screen mesh) is then stretched over this plywood, and liquid resin is hand-brushed or sprayed on top, resulting in a very strong and durable product.
The first step in saddle manufacture is treating the leather. This involves soaking the hide in a lime solution to loosen the outer layer of skin and the hair, and then removing the hair.
The frame of the saddle is the tree. One typical tree type, the spring tree, is shaped out of thin plywood. Fiberglass material (the fiberglass looks like a white screen mesh) is then stretched over this plywood, and liquid resin is hand-brushed or sprayed on top, resulting in a very strong and durable product.
contrast, the "dressage saddle" is designed to position the rider more to the center of the horse, allowing him or her to use the leg and weight aids with greater precision. Only the sweat flap separates the rider's leg from the horse. Today, English saddles are used for sport and general purposes.

Traditionally, the Western saddle has been used primarily for work. It has a wider and longer panel than the English saddle and disperses more of the rider's weight over the back of the horse. Western saddles also have a roping horn on the pommel to facilitate the roping of cattle, and are equipped with extra D-rings, or tie-downs, to hold ropes and other items.

There are four types of Western saddles. The pleasure or "ranch saddle," which weighs approximately 25 pounds (11.35 kilograms), and the "equitation saddle," weighing about 25 to 30 pounds (11.35 to 13.62 kilograms), are suitable for general riding. The "roping saddle" (about 40 to 50 pounds [18 to 23 kilograms) is designed for use in cattle roping. Because of the comfort it provides, many find it suitable for general riding as well. The "cutting saddle" is slightly lighter, about 30 pounds, and is used in cow cutting competitions. Because its light weight allows for greater movement, some riders also find the cutting saddle suitable for general purposes.

Raw Materials

Flaps, girth straps, and stirrup leathers are typically made from animal skins taken from cattle, pig, sheep, or deer; cowhide is the most common skin used in saddle making. Saddle trees can be composed of several materials, including beech wood, fiberglass, plastic, laminated wood, steel, aluminum, and iron. Seats are usually made from canvas, felt, and wool, while panels can include plastic foam, rubber, and linen.

The Manufacturing
Process

Treating the leather

Making the saddle tree

Stirrups

The seat

Girths

Panels

Byproducts

Byproducts of saddle manufacturing include saddle and bridle accessories such as bit guards, lip straps, leather straps for the nose nets, breastplates, and girth safes, which prevent the buckles from wearing a hole in the panel.

Where To Learn More

Books

Baker, Jennifer. Saddlery and Horse Equipment: A Practical Horse Guide. Arco Publishing, 1982.

Beatie, Russel H. Saddles. University of Oklahoma Press, 1981.

The Complete Book of Riding: A Guide to Saddlery, Care and Management, International Breeds, Riding Techniques and Competitive Riding. Gallery Books, 1989.

Crabtree, Helen K. Saddle Equitation. Doubleday, 1982.

Sherer, Richard L. Horseman's Handbook of Western Saddles. Sherer Custom Saddles, 1988.

Eva Sideman



Also read article about Saddle from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA