One size really does 'fit all' and it can save you money as well as provide you with a better riding horse experience
As I sit and write this the sun is shining (at last !) and it's the Spring Equinox so Spring is officially on the way. Now, while that is a cause for celebration it's also the signal for many horse owners to consider if their saddle still fits their horse properly now that it starts to eat that nice grass again - for now we'll leave aside the risk of laminitis that goes with that and the benefits of horse track living both of which I'm happy to write further articles about. Horses change shape throughout the year. Sometimes this is diet related and sometimes it's due to the addition of muscle changes due to being ridden more or being readied for competing. This poses enormous problems for horse owners and saddle fit.
The Total Contact Saddle (TCS) is a treeless saddle that wraps around the horse over a padding solution that is appropriate for the needs of the horse. As such it has no distinct shape (it's delivered flat to you) and it adopts the shape of the horse - all year, in all conditions, all breeds and conformations. This makes it a unique saddlery choice as even traditional treeless saddles have some 'horsey shape' to them and often needs shims to make them fit properly. It also places the rider in a position where increased rapport with the horse is possible and so the horse can feel the rider easier, making aids softer, and the rider can feel the horse more, meaning that they can understand what's happening under them better. It has no flocking to worry about and doesn't need saddle fitter call outs to check it or to alter it in any way.
From Shetland to ....
A traditional saddle fitter will recommend that each saddle is checked a minimum of twice yearly due to changes of shape/fit due to diet and exercise regime. They'll be looking for even sweat marks across the horse's back to see that it's fitting as it should and if not they'll effect some sort of alteration to it. In any case they will recommend that a new saddle is checked by them within six months of purchase (Your Horse Magazine, Feb 2017). Now all of this is good advice and is done for the welfare of your horse but it costs you on top of the saddle cost, in the case of a new purchase, and is an on-going cost in the case of trying to ensure a good fit most of the time. The Horse and Hound (2016) suggests that the cost of all of this will range from £25 to £90 just for a minor flocking amendment (to incl call out) and a saddlers call out costs may be anything from £45 to £90 in some cases. With the TCS there is no further action needed and so no call out costs. Of course you need to make sure that the padding solution you've chosen is still right for the needs of your horse and, that may be something as simple as a nummnah to a full sheepskin pad to a Western pad to a reindeer skin pad in some cases, but then you'd need those with a traditional saddle wouldn't you.
The concern with not getting traditional saddles checked, and pay for the visit/amendment, is that it will be an ill fitting saddle that may cause damage to the horse's back and possibly cause limb lameness as well. The Horse.com (Feb, 2017) discussed a 2015 study on fit of 50 traditional saddles where only 24% of them were correctly fitted to the horse (46% were too wide, 12% were bridging, 10% were too narrow, 6% needed to be re-flocked and 2% had panels that curved too much). You don't get any of those problems with a TCS; it just fits all the time ! Of the above horses 40% had sore backs, 10 had behavourial issues and 2% were lame when ridden. The TCS has been seen by a wide range of 'body workers' incl chiros, equine physios, osteopaths, Bowen and massage practitioners and all have been happy with it. Some are now clients and some recommend the saddle to others. It's even been used with success on a horse recovering from KS surgery as part of his rehab and on those with previous behavioural issues. It's even been seen by some clients with their own back and pelvis issues as helping them !
.... to Shire
The TCS is a versatile saddle that clients have shown a 96% satisfaction rate in during our annual client survey and are happy to recommend it to others. Horses react well to it as do humans. It's been purchased by clients in over 16 countries worldwide now and it's being used on a very wide range of breeds, shapes and disciplines incl trail riding, endurance racing and long distance hacking across The Peak District in the UK. It fits all year round and can be considered as a one off cost with only simple padding solution checks needed by you. So, it saves you money, your horse will love it and it will make your whole riding experience a better one. What's not to love ? Give it a go ....