Augh! (Saddle innards)

galadriel

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Today I got a good look at the insides of quite a few saddles. Of all the ones we stripped, only the Kieffer had anything at all nice (soft, quality wool) in the flocking. The (probably) India-made saddle was stuffed with disgusting sythetic carpet fiber shreds. The Albion had somewhat less quality wool, and the Steubbens even lesser quality, although still wool.

But of all the saddles I've seen this week (and I've seen a LOT, visiting various training barns and looking at other students' personal saddles) only a County and an Albion had a gullet that wasn't too narrow at the back. Even saddles that started out nice and wide are almost invariably coming almost to a point at the back of the tree.

It's also been astounding how many trees are twisted or even broken. Of those, the reason for the twist in many was evident: either a pattern of wear showing that the rider usually rode crooked, or panels that were not centered causing the rider to be off-balance.

I'm going to go tear open my own Kieffer and see what's in it ;) (It's unfortunately got a twisted tree, so it has to be opened up anyway to see if there's anything that can be done.)
 

makebelieve

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Some saddles today are so cheaply made, I have noticed. I too look at everyone's personal saddles. Most people at my barn have Collegiates or Pessoas or the schooling saddles are Crosby. I find that on some, the leather still is very stiff after tons of oil is applied.

Is it just me, or are saddles today increasing in quantity and reducing in quality (Mass selling typically by machines.)
 

kedwards

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Have you started saddle fitting/repair training, Galadriel? If so, that's wonderful, as the US can certainly use more experts in that area.

I'm very fortunate to have a good saddler not too far from me. In fact, he's the reason the innards of my own saddle are nice, because I had him convert my CC from foam to wool to fit Bud and I saw personally what went in there. He's a big fan of the County saddles too.

I'm sure it's a real eye opener to see the inner workings of various saddles.
 

galadriel

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Originally posted by kedwards
Have you started saddle fitting/repair training, Galadriel?

Yes indeed! This is fascinating.

I am delighted to report that my darling Kieffer Munchen was stuffed with very high-quality wool which was actually pretty smooth considering its age. Bafflingly, it does not look like they ever intended for the panels to be taken off and reflocked; it was partically glued down. Eh well, it was old enough that the glue had become brittle and separated ...easily enough. It is not a spring-tree, but it IS one of the Kieffers made with a synthetic tree.

Apparently the idea behind this tree was that if you apply a heat gun, you can get it soft and mold it to fit any particular horse. Sadly, leaving it in a hot car/garage will also get it kind of soft...and it may then deform, especially if not stored such that it hangs evenly. (Who thinks about the *saddle* melting in the car??)

The other Kieffer that I saw today (the other saddle with the nice flocking) had the exact same twist in the tree that mine does. The happy side of this is that not only is the twist reparable, but I can even take this medium-wide saddle and make it fit Kat. On top of that, it *does* have a nice wide gullet at the back :) so it wouldn't sit on her delicate little spinous processes.

This is the nice stuff I pulled out of my Kieffer:
s-panel-nicestuff.jpg

s-panel-finished.jpg
 

galadriel

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This is the nasty stuff I pulled out of the cheap India saddle:
s-nastystuff.jpg


That saddle also had a tree that was made from a solid chunk of wood; very unyielding. That unyielding chunk of wood was attached to a spring tree. To no one's surprise, that tree was broken.

One of the Steubbens we pulled apart had not only a plastic tree, it had a BRIGHT BLUE plastic tree (you can't see much of it; it wasn't fully removed):
s-bluetree.jpg


A dressage saddle that I brought home to take pics of on a narrow TB:
s-k-dressage-back.jpg

That is sitting *on* her spine. Yet in front that tree is so wide that it sits on her withers:
s-k-dressage-pommel.jpg


You look at the saddle, and it looks like the panels have a nice wide surface and the gullet is nice and wide...but at the back, it sits directly ON the spine, instead of out on the muscles above the ribs. (I am tremendously distressed to report that my Courbette is this way.) Sorrowful.
 

CityGirl

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What really interesting pics. Hmm - I will have to pay close attention to how the saddles fit all the way around now. Gal, please keep posting. I have a feeling I'm going to learn so much from you on this;) :D
 

Wally

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Is the panel top of the Stübben still made out of lots and lots of scrap all sewn together to make one bit of leather?

They always did have an alarming blue plastic tree.

A word to the wise, never take an Indian or Pakistani saddle to bits without a mask and gloves. Some of the things they get stuffed with you don't want to breathe in or touch.
 

katieB

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Ive heard that Stubbens are filled with awful stuff too, my saddler says people would be shocked at the quality of the bits you cant see considering a lot of people think so highly of Stubbens.
It must be a really interesting course youre on Galadriel, you will have to fill us in regularly, what you said about the trees sitting on the spine is shocking :(
 

KarinUS

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Yes, what a super thread. Where are you learning all this stuff?
We all should take pics and post them.
Of course then we all end up $1000 poorer since we'll all need new saddles!
 

tasha

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You'd find the saddlecheck website interesting, Galadriel. I think it's in a link the the right -->

I wouldnt let anyone but Vicki lok at Kal's sadde now, and hopefully if I get the treeless she wont need to!
 

Tootsie4U

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Awesome thread. We, as equine tack consumers, should be made more aware, or become more aware, of these sorts of things!

How'd you get started doing this Gal, I would LOVE to do this!

Please let me know about any conclusions you come to regarding the Courbette brands.
 

nutkin

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those indian saddles are truly not very nice saddles at all. My friend had one which got knocked off of its rack and when it was examined not only had the tree snapped but the metal inside the pommel was very sharp tin and had protruded slightly through the front of the saddle. The tree was made of inferior balsa type wood too.
 

ros

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I wish I could get at the Saddlecheck website but I can't get the b----y thing to come up for some reason. The Indian saddle in the pics was horrendous - tree made of bits of old pallette, nails sticking out everywhere...!

Interestingly, a local saddler brought some 2nd hand saddles out to my friend's place yesterday to try. (Pretty manky and nothing any good.) I was chatting to him afterwards and I asked him if he ever dropped the panels out of the saddles he sells to check them - of course he said no. Somehow the subject of those horrible blocks (the ones some saddlers put under the panels to try to make the saddles balance) - I think he was talking about a particular German make - and he said that kind of thing was "all right". :rolleyes: :( :mad:
 

galadriel

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Ugh. Spent most of today stitching and unstitching and restitching a panel back onto a Kieffer. I was cursing the living daylights out of the Kieffer people by about 2/3 through the day--I was trying to get the panel back on straight using the original sewing holes, but there were a huge number of holes and they were *uneven*.

At about 2/3 through the day, finally finished the pommel side and went around to the cantle...at which point I learned the reason for the terrible stitch spacing. Somebody had opened up this saddle before (wasn't mine, btw) and had stitched it back on, popping their own holes as they went. No wonder the holes didn't match up to anything! They weren't just one set. It was much easier to see on the back, because the two sets of holes were offset towards the inside of the saddle as well as from side to side. I feel better; it wasn't Kieffer's fault.

The master saddler teaching the course tells me that my tree is twisted due to use (which we could see from the uneven wear on the panels). However, he says, the Kieffer synthetic tree is malleable enough that, with even re-flocking, even riding, and conscientious maintenance, the tree will pretty well straighten out on its own (it is a barely visible twist).

Today we opened up a Passier. Wow; the craftsmanship on the Passier far outstrips any of the others. The flocking was nicer; the leather was excellent. The tree was really cool (bamboo! saddler says it's nearly impossible to break them). The tree was also *signed* by (we presume) the crafter who made it. Our master saddler says that he suspects that if that saddle is sent back with a defect, that crafter gets docked some of his pay. Very different from the other saddles we've seen, that look to have been assembled on a line--or the ones that look like they were half assembled by a drunkard, and half assembled by a guy on stimulants & hallucenogens.

The low point of the day was opening up a Collegiate. Let me show you why:
s-collegiate-nail-on-point.jpg
s-collegiate-nail-closeup.jpg

That nail point sticking out was on the *inside* of the points of the saddle. That would dig directly into the horse's shoulder.

Oh, and the tree was cracked too.

Our master saddler says that if he were going to get a saddle (off the rack, not custom), he would get one from County or Passier; he says both have good quality control and are concerned about making a useable product, not just a profit. He also had names of some saddlemakers who will make custom saddles.

On a less serious note, OUCH! I have gouged, scraped, sliced, and cramped my hands in so many ways today.
 
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galadriel

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Originally posted by Wally
Is the panel top of the Stübben still made out of lots and lots of scrap all sewn together to make one bit of leather?

!! I didn't see anything like that, but I wasn't playing directly with those panels. I do know that the three people trying to put Steubbens back together today have all said that they're going to charge extra any time they have to handle one again.

I found this course because it was actually in my area (astonishingly). It's through the same school where I took the equine massage therapy course; they bring in a master saddler to teach saddle fit and reflocking, and introduce saddle repair. Once again, at this school we had people from all over, all of whom (with one exception) had studied equine massage (and thus anatomy) through the school previously. The exception is a woman whose husband attended the equine massage course a year ago; they plan to work as a team. Doesn't that sound terrific?

You know, I had seen the saddlecheck website (I think when it was introduced?) but it's just not the same. Opening these things up and seeing what's inside them really drives it home.
 

ros

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That WAS the main point of the Saddlecheck website, and it was the photos of the saddle innards (loads of them) that I was trying to get (including some close-ups of the nails in the Indian saddle). My ex assured me ages ago that it was just me who couldn't see it - does anyone else have the same problem?
 

galadriel

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I didn't say that very well, I think... What I meant was that seeing the pictures on a website, and then holding the actual pieces in your hands, are two very different experiences for me. Holding the materials, feeling the breaks and the pressure points they make, squeezing the lumpy stuffing...it was one thing to see pictures, and quite another to actually have the saddle innards in front of me.
 

ros

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It's OK - I didn't misunderstand you, I was just annoyed if anything had happened to make the photos inaccessible because some of them were quite good examples of what we're talking about :)

It IS scary, isn't it - all those dinky little straps for saddle-bags that cause pressure points under the panels; tamperings by well-meaning saddlers who think that a block of wood here or a bit of felt there will sort the problem; the unscrupulous manufacturers who build saddles on twisted trees... Doesn't matter how lush it looks from the outside - unless you can be sure it's OK inside you may as well be sitting on a volcano!
 
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