Friday, July 13, 2012

July 12, 2012


The July, 2012 issue of USDF Magazine includes an article authored by Dr. Hillary Clayton com
paring pressure measurements on horse’s backs from a treed and a treeless saddle. We think the article contains several fallacies and inaccuracies.

Please remember: There are treed saddles, there are treeless saddles and there are Ansur® saddles.

We offer our distributors the following thoughts about any claims or conclusions derived from any test purporting to demonstrate rider pressure transmitted through a saddle on to the horse’s back.

1. Question the use of the term "pressure":

If we don’t want any pressure on our horse’s backs, we shouldn’t ride them. We do need to recognize the difference between acceptable pressure from a rider’s equally distributed weight and unacceptable pressure points caused by a rigid structure in treed saddles. A properly conducted test of a centered rider’s pressure (weight) on a moving horse transmitted through an Ansur® saddle will show the outline of the rider’s seat and thighs. This pressure cannot be considered "bad" unless there is agreement that people shouldn’t sit on horses.

On the other hand, the same test will often show transmission of pressure points from treed saddles, most particularly when the horse turns, changes direction or speed, launches or lands on the downstride. It is these pressure points (usually from one or more corners of the rigid tree) that horses react so badly to and which can cause them major back pain. It is impossible to "fit" a rigid frame or tree inside a saddle to a moving horse.

To fit a moving horse, the saddle must be able to flex and bend with the horse’s movements – not remain rigid and static. A rigid, static frame in a saddle will either slide over or poke into the moving horse’s back.
2. Be skeptical of testing reports that over generalize:

A) "My treeless test saddle is just like all other treeless saddles and
B) My treeless saddle tested positive for pressure points on my horse’s backs, therefore
C) all treeless saddles create pressure points on all horse’s backs."

The fallacy here is obvious – not all saddles are alike. There are treed saddles, there are treeless saddles and there are Ansur® saddles. Ansur® saddles are the only "treeless" saddles with a patented FlexCore internal structure that protects the horses back while supporting the rider. A properly conducted pressure test on any Ansur® saddle will show the pressure outline of the rider’s seat and thighs, not the painful pressure points caused by the four corners of a treed saddle.

In the fifteen years of our making "no tree" fully flexible saddles and with thousands of our saddles in use around the world, we have not found one documented case of our saddles hurting a horse’s back.

Riders who overtighten girths and cinches on our saddles just as they were used to doing with their old treed saddles will cause their horses discomfort. As with any saddle, the saddle pad under an Ansur® needs to be properly sized to extend a few inches in front and behind the saddle.

3. Really???

Always question saddle pressure testing claims when there is no detailed description or documentation describing test procedures, controls, and methodology. Proper documentation will ensure thorough testing of a variety of saddles in a full range of horse gaits and maneuvers. All the tack used in the test including saddle pads and girths needs to be described as well as the pad placement and tightness of the girths. Merely trotting a few horses in a straight line under one or two saddles will not in our opinion produce any valid test results.

The testing equipment used for the pressure tests should be identified and calibration settings
revealed. The breeds and performance level of horses, skill level of riders, test area footing and riding movements of test horses are also significant pieces of test documentation.

4. Question the purpose or motive of the tester.

Is it to prove a preconceived outcome or belief? Many in the equestrian field are firmly locked in to their own set of beliefs and will find test results or anecdotal evidence to prove their point. There are fervent and strongly held beliefs in the horse world that cannot be changed with any amount of new information. One of these notions is that saddles must have rigid trees in them to "distribute the weight." If that is the case, why do horses almost always free up their stride, round up their backs and bring their hindquarters further under them when their rigid tree saddle is replaced with an Ansurョ saddle?

We firmly maintain no rigid frame or tree in a horse saddle can be made to "fit" a moving horse.

It can only fit when the horse is standing square, level and equally weighted on all four legs. But what about a horse that is bending, jumping, landing or going around barrels, and other obstacles? How will a treed saddle bend, flex and conform to the horse’s changing back shape and spinal column in a dressage pirouette or "shoulder in"? It can’t!

A rigid internal frame (tree) inside a saddle always maintains its straight, rigid shape while transferring the rider’s weight (pressure) toward one or more corners (pressure points) of the tree as the horse changes direction, speed or alignment. This rigid characteristic is what causes horses discomfort and restriction of their movement.

That is why observers often see horses moving with hollow backs, heads up and hindquarters strung out behind in an effort to protect themselves from treed saddle pain. 

5. Question the significance of the test results.

Are the findings and conclusions of the reported test really important? Do they translate into anything meaningful for your horse or you? The word "pressure" often raises red flags of concern when in fact we know there will be pressure on the horse’s back if we sit there. The significant issues are whether there is normal seated rider pressure or something abnormal that will cause the horse discomfort or injury.


Trust and listen to your horse! If the animal shows signs of discomfort, unwillingness to move forward or perform normal and ordinary movements, look for a problem. If not, don’t allow the latest findings from self‐proclaimed experts or alleged scientific studies force you to fix things that aren’t broken!

We again emphasize that in the fifteen years of Ansur® saddle usage; there are no documented cases of injury or damage caused to horses’ backs by our properly placed and girthed saddles.

Yours Truly For The Horse’s Health
And The Rider’s Enjoyment,

Carole Weidner, President

Ansur® Saddlery Northwest, LLC

800 987 1545


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