"Proven Products for Horse and Rider"

By: Cathy Sheets Tauer - B.S. Animal Science, E.S.M.T


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E-Mail  or  Hillview@newulmtel.net

"The older I get the less I feel I know, and the minute I think I know it all is the day I stop learning! So with that I will continue to pass on and find answers to your many great and wonderful questions." ~ Cathy

As of 12/22/13 I have personally sold over 1,840 flexible, Delrin panel saddles from over six different manufacturers.  I also have addressed countless questions from people who were referred to me by other manufacturers and their representatives within the saddling industry. I do my best to remain objective, helping the consumer while keeping the horses’ best interest at heart. My sincere and deepest thanks to all of the DR’s, DVM’s and professors that I have questioned through the years regarding my quest for answers confirming my hypotheses in field study.

These are questions people most frequently ask divided into three categories: Horses, Tack and People.


What does it mean when I see white hair? What happened? White hair means that the hair follicle has been compromised. (The pigment is gone; this may or may not be temporary). Hair follicle damage has several potential causes:

  • · The skin is under too much pressure, which restricts blood flow and possibly forms a hematoma and scar tissue.

  • · The skin is too cold, which kills tissue, e.g., freeze branding.

  • · The skin is too hot, which kills tissue.

  • · Something is causing friction. Constant rubbing, brushing, or movement, evidenced by patches of white hair on the head of a horse who wears a halter constantly, or in areas rubbed by an improperly adjusted breast collar, saddle, pad or crupper.

  • What causes dry spots? Any of the following could play a role:

    • · Something is applying too much pressure, which doesn’t allow the skin to function normally. This is the case with a saddle that is too narrow, has bars that are too straight, rocks too much or is cinched too tightly.

    • · The horse is not thoroughly sweated up. The first place a horse sweats generally is the ear area and the last is the top of the rump muscles (gluteals). When the horse’s rump show sweat, you can safely say he is sweated up.

    • · The saddle is not making contact with the horse (saddle bridging), so the airflow is drying the hair. The saddle bars are too straight, so they dig into the shoulders and bridge the horse’s back.

    • · The area has damaged tissue, possibly from an old injury. Old injuries from saddle pressure or a bite will not allow proper skin function. An area with an injury such as this may take up to 6 months to regain its function, providing that the tissue has not been damaged permanently.

    Why are some horses "cinchy"? Cinchiness simply means that your horse is reacting to being girthed up. Several things may cause cinchiness.

    •  Pinched Trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle is the resting place for the rigid arch of English saddles and the front edges of the tree bars of western saddles. This muscle is called the "saddling muscle" by old timers. When this muscle is pinched (during girthing) the horse’s natural response is to dip his back, raise his head, turn, nip, switch his tail and possibly rear. When the trapezius muscle  is in spasm the tension indirectly flows to the surrounding muscles (think about the old song, "the head bone is connected to the …"), eventually affecting the serratus muscles on the side of the horse’s trunk. The girth passes over these muscles, creating additional pressure and spasm. Palpation will uncover the source of the trouble.

    •  Irritated Large Tricep. Extended leg movement / rotation or a narrow girthing area will cause the girth to rub or dig into the tricep muscle. This is the muscle just above the elbow (elbow muscle). Again you will need to palpate the area to determine if this muscle is sore. If it is, you may need to invest in the contoured soft leather girth. You also might be able to correct the problem by setting your rigging back, if possible. However, the girth eventually will follow the path of least resistance and move to the narrowest part of the horse’s barrel.

    •  Spasms Between the Intercostal Muscles. Some horses have a predisposition to spasms. You will have to palpate the muscle by running your thumb across the ribs in the girthing area to determine this. If you get that fly-has-landed jerk reaction or worse, you will need to massage out those spasms before girthing. This procedure is outlined in the massage books. By working out these muscles before girthing, you will not create a spasm when girthing up. Also the soft leather contoured girth is excellent for these horses because the pull is coming from the sternum and not the horses sides.

    • Muscle Memory. If your horse has had an issue with an ill-fitting girth or saddle, the horse will retain that memory and react even if he currently is not uncomfortable. Time and patience should allow the horse to forget. Massaging the area before and during saddling, backing several steps between stages of girthing, and then removing and re-saddling several times before you actually ride may help. If your horse is relatively young, he should get over this behavior, but if he is over 10, this behavior may have become habit. Just make sure that this behavior is a memory issue and not caused by any of the previously mentioned three conditions. Palpation is the only way to determine if your horse is sore.

    What is loin rubbing and what causes it? Loin rubbing is a condition where the hair is rubbed off or individual hairs are broken off over the horse’s back. Friction rubbing is a similar condition occurring from the shoulders along the back to the loins. As with "scrub marks", these conditions can make the horse sensitive. You also may see white or roaning hair associated with this. Rubbing is caused by constant rubbing, brushing, or movement, which can occur from any of the following conditions.

    1) The Sloshing Saddle. A long strung-out walk ridden for more than a few hours is harder on a horse’s back than any other type of riding. The saddle may move forward and back 2 inches or more with every stride! It’s easy to see how this can cause sensitivity all over the back, but it’s usually most noticeable over the loins at the rear of the panels or skirts of the saddle. The sloshing saddle syndrome is accentuated by a loose girth. All that’s necessary to correct the problem is a little natural collection, contact with the bit, and enough leg contact that your horse knows he should ‘look alive’ and step under himself enough to bring his back up. Using a breast collar and crupper also will help this problem. Your horse’s conformation and way of going may be hard to change, and if you have done all that you can do to stop the sloshing saddle with no significant change, you will need to purchase a Tacky Tack pad. The properties and design of this pad help alleviate this condition or even eliminate it altogether. To use this pad alone or as an under pad, make sure that you pull it up between your saddle’s panels so you don’t bind your horse’s spine.

    2) Lack of Saddle Contact in the Rear. When you stand in the stirrups over long distances, particularly if you brace yourself on the pommel or fork, the saddle’s arch or fork locks into the horse’s shoulders. This usually pinches the trapezius muscle and the horse will drop his back. At the same time the rear of the saddle pops up. When the horse hollows his back he stops using it correctly and he will begin to do a swinging ‘cha-cha-cha’ with his hindquarters. The added weight of the rider concentrated over the forehand of the horse causes him to overbalance forward producing the "power trot" many distance riders are so proud of. As with the long swinging walk, the horse is strung out and uncollected. The hindquarters shift dramatically under the saddle, quickly causing friction and soreness. The answer, of course, is to sit down. Learn to half-post and ask for moderate amount of natural collection at all times, and if your saddle has the adjustable rigging, try tightening down the rear strap.

    3) Upward Swoop to the Croup or a Swayback. Some horses have loins that swoop upward toward the croup more than average. This type of confirmation is often seen in lines of Quarter horses that have been bred to be rump-high and have a downhill slope to their backs. The skirts of western saddles often run into the loins of horses with this downhill conformation. Traditionally, western saddle skirts are laced together in the rear. The rear of the saddle saws back and forth with each stride, instead of moving with the horse. These laces also can create enough pressure to bruise the spinal processes beneath them, causing a very painful bump on the top of the spine. This bruising is serious because once the spine has been bruised, any pressure at a later time will cause the injury to flare up quickly, as attested by anyone who has injured a horse with a harness. Therefore, on traditional saddles used for training, trail and pleasure, the lacing between the skirts should be removed to allow the saddle to move up and down alternately as the horse’s loins shift, to remove the pressure. One solution may be to try a shorter saddle or a round-skirted saddle. On flexible panel saddles, rear shims set in about 1 to 1 ½ inches from the rear edge of the saddle might help; a fleece wool pad could help as well. If you have a saddle with the adjustable System IV, raise the front of your saddle so that you are level with the croup/loins. You also might have panels that are too long and curve up so far that they actually touch or "bottom out on" the rear of the saddle tree. It this is the case, you might be able to solve the problem by using rear shims. If that doesn’t work, you will need to change saddles. Also if your mount is sway- backed, you will need to add center shims, bringing up the center and allowing the panel ends to move freely.

    4) Biannual Coat change. When a horse sheds, the hair comes off more rapidly in areas that are being rubbed. This is why people complain of loin rubbing in the spring, and notice that it mysteriously goes away by early summer. This type of rubbing usually has no sores connected with it. Any rubbing that occurs during seasonal coat change is magnified. According to one respected English saddler, every Spring he and his colleagues are besieged by complaints about ill-fitting saddles. The annual coat change causes extra skin sensitivity in many horses. One well-known German dressage competitor rests his horses during their coat change in spring and fall, believing that shedding requires energy. Unfortunately, the early spring is just when endurance and competitive trail riders are asking the most of their horses. If an incorrect riding stance or other rubbing factors are added to the mix, real soreness results. I have also found that by using COWBOY MAGIC applied ONLY on the rub area makes and allows for the pad to slide as if on oil across this area thus actually alleviating or even eliminating this condition.  Only apply this product to this area, for if it goes off the target area you and your saddle will slide off of your horse.

    5) An Ill-Fitting Breast Collar or Crupper. To properly fit the breast collar, adjust the breast collar so it can be pulled away from the horse’s shoulder on one side 3-4 inches. This allows the animals shoulder to move freely forward. Use the neck tug (the strap that goes over the horses withers) to adjust the height of the "arms" that lie along the shoulder slope, offering a comfortable fit and maximum support. These arms come together in the center of the chest and are connected to the center strap that connects the breast collar to the to the girth, between the horses front legs. This center strap will keep the breast collar from moving up and choking the horse and will allow your horse to eat and drink comfortably. Correctly fit, the strap should hang no more than 1 to 2 inches when the horse is standing. To properly adjust the crupper, fit it on a standing animal, adjusting it so you can rise it off the animals rump 3-4 inches.

    6) A Pad that Binds the Horse’s Spine or Shoulders. To properly fit a saddle pad you must bring the pad up off of the horse’s spine, especially in the withers area, so that when you are sitting in the saddle you can easily slip 2 fingers between the saddles pad and the animal’s spine.

    7) Scrub or Rub Marks on the Shoulders. More often than not, these marks are caused by the saddle being too far forward. Move the saddle back a bit.

    I have white and or roaning hair under my flexible panel saddle, what do I check for? White hair means that the hair follicle has been compromised. Review the question on loin rubbing on this page. For other potential causes, check the following:

  •  Is one side of your horse larger than the other? If so you will need to balance your saddle.

  •  Is the saddle pad consistently dirty, or damp, or wet?

  •  Is the saddle the right size for the rider? The panels are designed for the body weight of the rider that will fit accordingly into that saddle’s seat size. Therefore a larger seat size means that larger panels are used to properly distribute the rider’s weight. If the rider weights over 200 pounds and is not riding in a large enough saddle, the panels may not be large enough to properly distribute the rider’s weight, causing excessive pressure. Make sure that the rider is not too heavy for the horse and that the saddle is the correct size for the rider.

  •  Has debris worked its way into the saddle pad? If you are using saddle sox, booties or an easy pad, remove it and look inside. There may be rocks, gravel, sticks or other form of foreign matter that is creating an uneven surface against the horse’s back.

  •  Does the horse have a very flat back? This is more often seen in mules and donkeys than in horses. This flat back conformation may cause the panel to remain completely flat and not move away from the saddle tree in a concave-convex manner that follows the horse’s motion. Adjust the System IV panels out so that the panel moves away from the saddle tree giving the necessary clearance for the panels to function properly.

  •  Have you performed a saddle safety check? To learn how to do this look  for "how to perform a safety check" under the "person related" questions on this page.

  •  The white hair my horse had before I bought an delrin panel saddle went away during the summer with my new saddle, then came back in the fall, in the same pattern as before, why? Although rare, this can happen. When you see white hair, it simply means that the melanin producing cells in the hair follicle have been shut down. As you know, this may or may not be permanent. With animals that have a hair coat, hair follicles are not all the same. With horses, different hair follicles are active during different times of the year and are stimulated by hormones that are triggered by temperature and the length of daylight. Some hair follicles produce longer guard hairs, some produce a softer downy undercoat and some are in-between. What you are seeing is the "winter" hair follicles (for lack of a better word) being triggered into production by temperature and daylight, and those follicles were the ones that were damaged by your old saddle. Hopefully with each season this will get less and less.

    What are the bumps I see on my horse, and what causes them? Two types of bumps seem to be related to tack. The first is edema; the second is hematoma.

  •  Edema is fluid under the skin. Pressing your finger on the bump identifies it. The bump will depress and when you remove your finger the fluid returns. This fluid is the body’s natural reaction to a rub or pressure that is damaging the tissue underneath. This fluid will be reabsorbed after about 24 hours, only to return if the problem is not corrected. If the problem continues, a hematoma may develop.

  •  A hematoma is most often associated with white hair. When you feel this area you will feel tissue lumps. If caught early enough and the source of the problem is eliminated, the tissue will be reabsorbed, but the process may take up to a year. If the hematoma was not caught early enough the tissue underneath may be so severely damaged that the hematoma will evolve into scar tissue. If this happens you may be faced with surgery to remove the lump, because when your horse’s tack has been correctly fitted and the atrophied muscles return to normal, the scar tissue will be a bump on the skin’s surface and subject to rubbing. The white hair associated with any of these conditions should return to normal if permanent damage has not occurred.

  • How do you measure a horse’s back? Stand the horse square. Feel for the back edge of his shoulder blade. This is located near his withers and down off the side of the spine about 2 inches. Then measure from the back edge of his shoulder to his point of hip. From this measurement deduct 7 to 8 inches, 4 inches for the shoulder rotation and 3 to 4 inches surrounding the hip. This is your horse’s back length. Many saddle makers request this information and may take their measurements differently so let them know how you measured your horse’s back. Remember, when looking at the Delrin System V, VII, IX and X panel saddle, the panel can overlap the horses scapula up to 3 inches. They are designed this way; this is what makes this panel design unique. When looking for a saddle for a short-backed horse, deduct 4 inches from all the System V, VII, IX and X panel saddles; that will give you the length that will work on your horse’s back for a square skirted saddle. For example, if a Delrin panel saddle is 23 inches long, deduct 4 inches, giving you a 19-inch length for a saddle to fit on a horse’s back. If the saddle is still too long, you will need to select a contoured-skirted saddle in order to give the necessary clearance. Some manufacturers automatically deduct 4-6 inches in their literature when the panels actually are 4 to 6 inches longer.

    I have been visiting your website and have found it very interesting. I am convinced that my saddle doesn't fit correctly. The part I really don't like about it is when it’s placed on his back it's twisted. I feel twisted when I ride in it also. The guy fitting the saddle thinks it fits but doesn't see the twisting like I do. One side fits great the other side doesn't even look like it’s his saddle. It must be because he is asymmetrical and if so, how do they get this way? Just like us, about 10% of the horses are right or left sided and canter using one lead so predominately, that it affects their conformation. Even the size and shape of the foot may be different when comparing the two front feet. The horse may also not flex his neck as well to the larger side. At a canter they may not like taking the lead on the weaker/smaller side. They may not like to canter in a round pen/on a longe-line the direction that requires them to use the weaker/smaller side, and may counter- canter as a result. You may also have difficulty posting off of the weaker side.

    Having a saddle that is NOT fitted for each side of the horse will cause discomfort and may continue to make the situation worse. Therefore you must have a saddle that properly fits and one which will allow your horse’s shape to change. To start changing his shape, you must begin by exercising the weaker side. At the trot, post off of the weaker diagonal, do not allow the horse to counter-canter and encourage him to pick-up the correct lead. (If he can not hold that lead very long, even if it is for only a few strides, then that is fine, at least you gotten that far and can build later off of that.) Also under saddle, try to get him to pick up the lead on the weaker side and ride the canter heavily-with your seat. Lastly get the correct trimming on the foot that is off and lower the heel.

    Years ago, I had a 3-year-old horse with this same issue and by the end of the summer her front feet were the same size, as was her conformation from side to side. Before I started training and riding, her one foot was an entire shoe size larger. Ruby was also horribly different in the shoulder when viewed from the rear. So misshapen she was, I figure that NO WAY could this deformed horse ever get balanced. She bucked when I asked her for her correct lead at the canter (the weaker side) and she would not lounge-at all, when asked to canter in the direction of her weaker side. So, all summer I posted and posted off of that weak side and built her up. Slowly she began to take the canter on the correct lead and hold it without objection. She HAD changed her shape completely. By end of the summer she was fantastic and to this day she is an incredible horse. I was very happy that I did not have any saddle issues for my saddle accommodated her comfortably as she was developing in all directions. Even though Ruby was a young horse with a pre-existing condition, older horses can also have an asymmetrical shape if the rider continues to only post off of one diagonal or only canters the horse using one lead. So the rider must be kept aware of their riding skills and that of their horse’s build.

    What do the various different back shapes of a horse look like? Click here

    My saddle is too tight over horse’s shoulders. If you find that your saddle is too tight over the shoulder/wither area, or slips forward when riding on level ground, you either have the saddle positioned too far forward or the rigging is not properly adjusted. To properly adjust the rigging you will need move the saddle back - causing the front edge of the panel to over-lap very slightly or not at all, over the back edge of the scapula. The System V, VII, IX and X  panels are designed for this. Adjust the saddle’s rigging by letting it out (lengthening it), so that the girth moves forward into the heart girth area keeping the saddle in the correct position.

    How can you tell if your horse has a sore back or is just being difficult? Does your horse not tolerate saddling, cinching or mounting, buck, run away, nip, sidestep, toss his head, rear when girthed, refuse jumps, stumble frequently, quit working mid-season, behave well for first portion of ride then act up, tack-up better on one side than the other? Is your horse hollow-backed or cold-backed, showing dry spots under a wet blanket, hard to catch? Does your horse travel downhill badly or have difficulty walking calmly? Does his gait appear uneven? These are just a few symptoms to indicate that your horse may be suffering from a sore back. To determine if your horse is sore you need to palpate. Use 5-10 pounds of pressure (use your bathroom scale to judge the amount of pressure). For further information on "how to palpate" go to (saddling basics)

    I would like to have a copy of your work sheet - the one you use for the yearly horse’s vaccinations. Yes, here it is, just open up the link and print it off.  Form

    I have high readings from saddle fitting scans, what does that mean? Is my horse really sore? The only way to determine if your horse truly is sore is by physical palpation. Any number of equipment readings or scans can register heat or pressure, but who’s to say those readings indicate that your equipment is soring or will sore your horse? Some people bruise easily; some do not, so remember those readings are just readings, supplying you with information. It is up to you to determine if those readings correlate to muscular or skeletal pain, injury, or lack of performance. The only way to determine if your horse is sore is to physically palpate the muscle tissue. Go to (saddling basic) to learn how to do this.

    I am getting gall rubs from my neoprene tack. Why? There could be several reasons, but the reason in 90 percent of the cases is this: contrary to what you’ve been told, neoprene does wear out. The cheap stuff wears out very quickly in fact sometimes almost before it gets sold off the shelves at the tack store! Check your neoprene tack for cracks; if it’s cracked, replace it. Check the "skin" of the neoprene. Neoprene has a surface that when wet is slippery; if this skin wears away you are left with a raw rubber surface that literally will wear a hole through your horse’s hide. If you purchase top-quality neoprene (and I do not mean the highest priced stuff), your tack will last many, many years. Now for the other 10 percent: the neoprene girth may be too bulky for your horse. As your horse’s leg passes by or over the girth, the thickness of the girth may be what is catching his skin. If this is the case, you need a thinner girth. Your girth may also be too wide for his armpit. If so, you can get a cutout or a contoured girth, or you can try adjusting your saddle’s rigging back. Your horse’s movement may also be to blame. Does he kick up sand and grit? Is the underside of your girth covered with sand when you take it off or is there is sand between it and the horse? This sand is abrasive and will contribute to wearing off of the neoprene’s "skin" as well as damaging your horse’s skin. Lastly, is your horse just getting chafed? There may be too much loose skin, heat and sweat, just like with our human rear ends- (I know - too much information here). You need to "lube-up". So try Preparation H, Destin Ointment (or any baby diaper rash ointment-but this gets gooey and is good for healing already damaged skin), or KY Jelly or Vaseline applied in the armpit area; it will do the trick.

    After riding what rinse do you use? After we are done riding and have pulled the saddles, we wash the horses with a hose  – scrubbing off the mud and dirt chunks. Then we use a pail with water combined with a couple of cups - or more –of white vinegar added and sponge them down. This softens the hair coat, offers mild bug protection while neutralizes the salty sweat.

    Why do you put blankets on your horses when camping? We love blankets when camping for several reasons. The heavier blankets we use when the temperature drops into the low 40 and 30’s. The blankets keep the horses warm and when they lie down and they do not get dirty from the manure or wet ground. The lighter blankets we use as coolers and during the summer months to keep the bugs/mosquitoes off and to keep them clean. (Somehow now matter how clean you keep the area under the picket/high line, some horses just love to poop / pee beneath themselves and wallow in it!). Both types of blankets keep the horses cleaner and will make the grooming job easier the next morning.

    How do you adjust and fit a bit correctly? The width of a bit should allow a finger width on either side of the horse’s lips. The height of the bit in the mouth should be where the bit will make a wrinkle in the corner of the horse’s mouth. The bit should have a cavesson/flash (to hold the mouth shut, thus engaging the bit) or a chin/lip strap. The chin/lip strap should be adjusted so that you can slip one or two fingers between it and the horse’s chin groove. Always undo this strap when removing the bit from the horse’s mouth to avoid banging the bit against the horse’s teeth causing him to rear or pull back. When testing new bits always have your old one handy and test new bits in a controlled area. To engage a horse’s mouth (get him on the bit) gather up the reins slowly in your hands while the horse is standing still. Walk your hands up the reins until the horse takes one step back/raises head/or collects. This is the point where you are on the horse’s mouth communicating with him. Remember to check your horse's teeth yearly.

    What is casting? Casting is when a horse lies down and cannot get up for he is stuck in a cast position and is unable to get his legs under his body. He may be cast against a wall, under a fence or like our gelding in a snow bank. Stuart, our quarter horse gelding, went for a roll in a snow bank and got cast! We watched from the window as all the horse went for a snow bath- it was fun watching from the window. But when Stuart tired to get up, he could not, he laid his head back down, and he tried again and again. Was he just resting? Then what seemed an eternity, we realized that he was truly cast, because as the rest of the herd moved on, leaving him behind, he just laid there. We dashed out of the house and across the pasture, got to him and dug him out! I shutter to think if we had not been watching the horses…. How long would he have lasted? He would have frozen to death – cast in the snow bank. That day we closed off that pasture for the winter and kept them in a dry-lot until spring. Horses can get cast under fences, against walls, in stalls, in brush and even in snow banks. If they stay cast for several hours you run a high risk of internal injury, colic and if cast longer, death.  That is why in some stalls you see a board or pipe 3-foot off of the floor nailed to the wall all the way around. This is so the thrashing horse can catch a leg against the wall and push himself over and get up. You may also see barns that have bedding banked up against the walls so much so, that the stall looks like a bird’s nest – with the horse in the center. For safety, make sure you have the right size stall for your horse. The average size for a stall is 12 x 12. If you have a small horse/pony a 10 x 10 will work.

    Cathy what is your opinion on having a veterinarian do a pre-purchase exam on a prospective horse?  I strongly recommend it.  I have seen horses who were purchased and taken home with strangles (that is death to older and young horses alike) and other contagious diseases, which can lead to very expensive treatment programs.  I have seen horses who were drugged, lame, or ill sold as healthy, whose problems would have been uncovered by a pre-purchase exam.  On the other hand, a pre-purchase exam will not tell you how a horse will hold up under use.  I have seen horses pass a pre-purchase exam turn up three-legged lame the day after a one- to three-hour ride.  Remember, these tests are just a snapshot, a view of the horse’s condition at the moment of the x-ray or ultrasound or whatever.  I have found the best way to test for soundness is to ride the horse for a good time, 5 to 20 miles or more per day for three days straight (naturally with proper fitting tack and hoof care).  This test of endurance and soundness, I can assure you, will uncover any issues that relate directly to future performance, at least in the near term and assuming that the horse has proper care throughout his life.  Again—this is just a three-day test and does not account for proper hoof trimming and or shoeing.  That, in itself, can open a another can of worms. Also, when you bring home newly purchased stock, always quarantine the animal for at least 10 days to make sure he isn’t incubating a disease that he could pass to your other animals.  This means that the quarantined animal does not share a water bucket, stall, paddock or any grooming products with any other animal and that he is not close enough to the other animals to rub noses or pass airborne pathogens.

    Should my horse be barefoot or have shoes? I get this question a lot. all of those who say barefoot is the only way to go, they are wrong, for it may work on some horses and not for others. Horses in the wild travel an average of 20-50 miles a day; they live in harsh and drier conditions than our domesticated (pet) horses. The time a stallion is able to acquire a harem of mares is about the age of 5. Stallions that survive to this age pass on their good feet genes, and if not are taken out of the genetic pool fairly young by natural selection. Horses in the wild are the products of this natural selection and only those with good feet survive to breeding age. Those with thin walls and soles or those who cannot grow a foot fast enough to keep up with the herd are contributors to the food chain. Horses that survive, have feet like iron and grow FAST. Ask any farrier who has worked on a mustang’s foot and they will tell you that taking a horse from that environment to a soft, lush, cushy pasture with no natural rocks, stones, gravel and sand to down the hoof, requires a weekly trim. We do not put down our horse "pets" that we love, breed, raise, and buy just because they have thin hoof walls or soft soles. Nor can we control the weather where they live. Dry climates tend to cause harder feet and cracks, wet climates softer feet and thrush. Horse’s hooves are much like our own fingernails –some of us have thick, thin, hard or soft nails – we are all different. We have to work with what we have. I have horses that have thick walls and soles that grow fast! If I put shoes on my little mare, she will be lame in 3 weeks with puffy tendons due to the strain of a long toe. She can grow a ¾ of inch of hoof that fast. So I leave her barefoot and can ride her in the roughest terrain. My other mare has good sole, but thin hoof walls. I cannot put a shoe on because the wall is just too thin and the nailing drives her nuts. When barefoot on pasture she is great, but on the gravel road she looks like I would look walking barefoot over sharp rocks, yeow! So I use the Boa horse boots on her and they are wonderful. I have other horses that have shoes on and they wear them well. (I have my horses hot shod, which means that the iron shoe is heated, to give the metal extra strength and to make shoe last longer; however they are also more slippery. I hot shoe my horses because I wear out the keg shoes (those that are not heated), faster than my horses can grow enough hoof to put the new nails into.) Yes, I ride that much. My horses’ feet vary widely, yet all of my horses are in the same environment receiving the same care and feed. The difference is in their genes. My horses have a soft pasture in the low areas that is moist – sometimes muddy – and then in the same pasture there are sandy/rocky hills where the horses stand catching a summer breeze. They have free walking over 20 acres of pasture. They have to walk though a low, muddy and always damp ditch (allowing moisture to be absorbed into the hoof), in order to get to the automatic water fountain, which is located on a rough cement pad, under the lean-to and the huge squirrel cage fan. It is in this area during the heat of the day the horses hang out, stomping around, hardening and filing their feet. So when trying to decide to shoe, go barefoot or use horse boots consider your environmental conditions, your horse’s genetic make-up, your activity level with your animal, where you are riding, availability of a good farrier, and manage your horses’ feet accordingly.  On a closing note, the horse’s hoof is a pump for the horse’s leg, and must be allowed to expand and contract with each step. We always pull our shoes in the fall and leave the horses barefoot over the winter. The most growth on a hoof is in the spring and summer and it takes a complete year for a hoof to grow completely out. When trimming and looking at diet or environment changes you can look at the growth rings/lines on the horses hoof, tell a story.

    Why do horses roll? Should I let my horse roll? Is it good for them? Rolling is good for your horse. Let them roll. Horses roll to dry off, when itchy –especially when shedding out –to remove biting bugs and after being ridden. They roll in water to get cool or in mud for a protective layer against biting insects. Horses roll to relieve internal distress - rolling does not cause colic. They roll to give themselves a dust bath in summer and a snow bath in wither. It is wonderful for them! The only exception is if they are kicking at their belles and are in severe abdominal distress. If they are kicking at their bellies (not flies!) and keep going down to roll, you need to monitor their condition and consult your veterinarian.

    What can I use to keep gnats out of my horses ears?  Wipe them out with Avon Skin so Soft oil.  It conditions the ear and repels gnats.

    What do I look for when purchasing a horse? When looking for a horse review the following questions.

    The price of the horse can vary based on the answers to these questions and on the horse’s age. When planning to purchase a horse, tell the seller of the horse that you want to see them load and unload the horse from a trailer. Have them catch the horse, bring it in, groom and saddle it. Have them ride the horse first. Ask them to remove the saddle and ride the horse bareback– if they can –as well as ride the horse with just a halter. Then have them saddle the horse and let you ride -with a helmet and with covered stirrups or with toestoppers on. A good test to perform to see if the horse is a safe and secure horse is to kick him in the hind shin – or ask the seller to do it!  A calm, secure and steady horse – regardless of age, will not move or move very little. A horse that is not, will jump, stomp, kick back or become highly skittish. If the horse has passed the kick and riding test, now you can review the level of training the horse has had and what he has accomplished for his age. Let the price of the horse with the questions below be your guide when purchasing a companion or performance horse.

    • What price do you put on your safety – your life?

    • How old are you?

    • What level of rider are you, beginner, intermediate, advanced?

    • At what age did you start riding?

    • Have you ridden bareback?

    • How often do you ride?

    • Do you train horses, yours and/or outside horses coming in?

    • Are you a timid person?

    • Are you afraid of getting hurt?

    • What type of riding will you be doing?

    I am confused about the names of the different gaits among the various gaited horse breeds, can you help me? Yes, Click here

    My Horse is Colicking and /or Tying up. What is the difference and what do I do? After years of sitting back and keeping my mouth shut on this controversial topic I am coming forward and adding my two cents worth! Something that I witnesses in 2002 was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. So, let us begin our lesson. Please note: I am not a veterinarian. I have a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in animal science, I have taken advanced courses in medical studies, and I am a certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. I have over 30 years of field experience and have consulted countless veterinarians on this topic. The following are my field observations and personal opinions. Please consult your veterinarian for information about your individual animal’s care. Have him or her show you how to take your animal’s pulse and temperature, how to listen for bowel sounds, and how to test for capillary refill and dehydration. Knowing these vital signs will help you identify your horse’s condition. Remember your veterinarian could save your animal’s life. So get to know your vet well!

    What is Colic: Colic is basically indigestion, abdominal pain, a bellyache. This intestinal distress, if not properly addressed, may lead to death.

    What causes Colic? Ninety percent are caused by parasite infections, so worm your horses regularly. The other 10 percent are tied mostly to feed consumption and occasionally to exercise, including lack of exercise. If you change your feed do so gradually over a 7 to 10 day period. Other factors that contribute to colic are as follows:

    1.  Bad teeth may make it difficult for your horse to chew properly, so have his teeth floated once a year.

    2.  Bolting food (eating too fast) or fine textured feed. Try putting softball-size rocks in the feeder to slow his pace down.

    3.  Overfeeding, so do not overfeed.

    4.  Moldy feed

    5.  Lack of water, a 1000 pound animal drinks 9-15 gallons of water a day, and if working hard or if the temperature is over 80 ° F will drink 20 percent more, so make sure your horse has plenty of fresh water. In winter, supply cool - not cold - water. If the water temperature is near freezing, a horse will not drink enough.

    6.  Constipation, sometimes caused by lack of water or lack of roughage.

    7.  Excessive eating of bedding. If your animal has this condition and you have tried everything else, try using dried reed canary grass. It makes great bedding and they can eat it.

    8.  Feeding too much too infrequently. Horses are grazing animals designed to eat small frequent meals. Feed horses at least twice a day.

    9.  Feeding while horse is too hot (puffing) or before working hard. Wait 15 to 30 minutes for the horse to cool down to water or feed and 30 to 60 minutes after feeding before working hard.

    10.  Old age.

    11.  Stalled horses not getting enough water or exercise.

    12.  Feeding horses on ground where the can ingest sand or small stones. (Sand colic).

    13.  Wood chewing.

    14.  Kidney colic (kidney stones) and foaling colic in mares.

    What are the symptoms of colic? No fever, rapid pulse, sweating, marked pain, heavy breathing, refusing feed and water, kicking at belly, getting up and down frequently, standing in a stretched out "saw horse" position, rolling. With severe pain the horse will sweat and can go into shock; movements will be quite violent.

    What are the forms of colic: The three forms of colic are flatulence or gas, torsion or twist and an obstruction. The symptoms and treatment are different for in each type.

    1. Flatulence or gas: This can be caused by a fresh pasture or change in feed. Symptoms will include, a pulse (measures heart rate) of 50 beats per minute, periodic pain, abdominal sounds of gassy pings. Treatment: Walk the horse, administer a mild relaxant or sedative, and administer a liter of 7-Up. This is what "old timers" used to give to help get the gas out, although I’m sure any carbonated beverage would work. This is what I was told to use. Massage the back and belly; call your veterinarian if symptoms continue for more than 30 minutes.

    2. Obstruction: This is caused by a blockage of food or foreign materials, engorgement or impaction. Symptoms include, pulse of 60 per minute, and no gut sounds. The onset is more gradual than with gas colic, with continued pain. If after 30 minutes the horse’s condition has not improved, call a veterinarian immediately. The animal will require a rectal exam and may go into shock from pain or dehydration and could require IV infusion of large quantities of liquid. To treat, administer 1 gallon of mineral oil via a stomach tube to aid in moving the blockage and decrease the absorption of toxins that will be released from the gut if huge quantities of grain were ingested. These toxins are what lead to a secondary condition of founder. Administer massage techniques but only if the horse is not going into shock. Give medication for relaxation and pain, and to calm a cramping stomach. Walk the horse if it is not going into shock. Shock is identified by a reduction in circulation (check capillary refill time), rapid breathing and pulse, and weakness. Shock can be brought about by hemorrhage, heat exhaustion and severe pain. Call the vet immediately. Do not move or excite the horse. Do not massage. If shock is not addressed and treated quickly, the horse will die. Drugs are used to combat shock, but they are no good if the horse is dead.

    3. Torsion or twist: Torsion colic is usually fatal. Symptoms include rapid pulse (100 to 120 per minute), continuous severe pain, rolling, sweating and shivers from the pain, no gut sounds, onset of shock-like symptoms or shock with violent movements. The onset is sudden. Treatment: Call your veterinarian, who will perform a rectal exam. Keep the horse walking, because thrashing can lead to a ruptured bowel and/or injury to the his head. The veterinarian will administer a sedative and meperidine or morphine IV to relieve serious pain. The veterinarian can help you determine if surgery is an option.

  • Shock: The state of collapse caused by acute or progressive failure of blood flow to body tissues. It can be triggered by many forms of serious distress, including cardiac failure, hemorrhage, burns, overwhelming infections, intestinal obstructions, heat exhaustion, severe pain and dehydration. It is identified by reduced circulation (check for capillary refill time in the horse’s gums), rapid breathing, rapid pulse of 100, clammy skin, violent movements, and weakness. Treatment: Call the vet immediately. Do not move or excite the horse. Do not massage. The vet will administer an electrolyte solution. The goal is to return blood volume and pressure to normal. If shock is not addressed and treated quickly it becomes irreversible and death soon follows. Drugs are available to combat shock but they are no good if the horse is dead.

  • Dehydration: A fluid and electrolyte imbalance caused by a deficit of water intake, caused by neglect, heat stress, respiratory disease, fever, and /or diarrhea. Dehydration can lead to shock. If not treated promptly dehydration will reach a critical point where cellular death occurs. When you ride in hot weather or on very long rides, your horse can lose up to 50 pounds of body weight in sweat. This liquid needs to be replaced! Horses can colic, go into shock, and die from dehydration.

  • Hyperthermia: Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and sunstroke, all of which can show colic-like symptoms. Your horse may have the following symptoms: Panting, rapid pulse, body temperature of 109 degrees. Treatment: Move your horse to a shady area. Lower his body temperature by running water on his legs from the knee down. For severe high temperature, give a rectal enema. The animal will need electrolytes in an IV solution. Offer water and or fresh moist grass to help re-hydrate the horse.

  • Azoturia (Tying up) also called Monday morning sickness and black water disease. Symptoms include, lameness, rigidity of the muscles over the loin, sitting or lying down on side, and coffee-colored urine, which is caused by the myoglobin that is released from the damaged cells. There may be blood in the urine, which indicates kidney damage. In severe cases, the animal refuses to move. Treatment: Massage over back and loins, reduce grain intake, and walk animal out. Contact your vet for additional suggestions about treatment or the use of supplements such as vitamin E and selenium, etc.

  • Preventive tips to use on the trail: Have on hand a stethoscope, a watch with a second hand, and a thermometer with a string attached. Know how to take your horse’s pulse, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. Know how to check for dehydration with a skin pinch, how to check for capillary refill time by pressing on your horse’s gums, and how to listen for gut sounds. Know your horse’s normal pulse, heart and respiration rates, temperature and capillary refill time. If you don’t know what’s normal you might not recognize a problem as it begins. Have buckets and big sponges so that you can cool your horse down quickly. If your horse is hot and puffing wait 15 minutes before watering him. If he still is puffing, give him a gallon or so, then wait another 15 minutes, then allow him to drink freely. Allow your horse to eat grass on the trail - it is 80 percent moisture and has essential microelements. Have and give electrolytes but only if the horse is properly hydrated and drinking well. Give and have your horse drink enough water. Remember, a resting animal will consume an average of 10 gallons of water a day, 15 gallons if trail riding and then increase that amount for hot weather. Also remember that a horse cannot reach the bottom of one of those white 5 gallon buckets, so if you water your horse with this bucket and he does not drink it all, he may just be unable to get his head into the bucket to finish the water. This is why we use that big water tub to water our horses. They can have free movement of their head and the bucket holds 15 gallons so they can drink and drink. In cool weather, have a light or cooling-out blanket to put on to keep the muscles warm, so the horse cools out gradually and does not chill. Most of all, use common sense. Put yourself in your horse’s shoes. Would you want to carry your big butt up and down hills for miles on end? Especially if your equipment is not the best fitting or even hurting? Would you enjoy not being allowed to catch your breath, eat or drink along the way? Think smart; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Average equine vital signs at rest: Pulse Rate: 36 to 57 beats per min. Rectal Temperature: 99.5 to 101.5 degrees Respiratory Rate: 12 to 20 breaths per minute Capillary refill: 2 seconds. Consult with your veterinarian for your animals individual rate.

    Do you have any references to body conditioning or scoring?  YES, click here.

    Please share your first aid and tips for health on the trail and issues regarding health care when horse camping.  I have been asked repeatedly to write about what to do for certain health conditions that arise during horse camping.  These are the remedies that work for me.  Please consult your veterinarian before administering any of the following treatments, as I will not be held liable.
    Cathy’s 101-field treatment begins before administering any medications of any kind.  First, I take the horse’s temperature, listen for gut sounds, and check for dehydration by checking for capillary refill.  This gives an idea of the horse’s current condition and helps to decide how to treat the horse.  These checks require the use of a thermometer, a stethoscope, and a watch with a second hand.  The thermometer and stethoscope should be part of your first aid kit.  Practice with them at home before going out into the wilderness.  That way you know how to use the equipment. You will also know what is normal for your particular animal and your animal will be accustomed to the procedure.
    How to use a thermometer.  Make sure your thermometer has a string and clothespin attached, so you can clip the thermometer to the animal’s tail.  (This keeps the thermometer from getting sucked into and lost in the animal’s rectum).  Before inserting the thermometer, shake down the indicator fluid and put a glob of petroleum jelly on the end.  Insert the thermometer into the rectum, following the rectum wall so you don’t insert it into a fecal ball.  The fecal ball will give an inaccurate reading.  Leave the thermometer for 3 minutes. The normal temperature of an adult horse is about 101.5.  (It might be helpful to store a pair of reading glasses with your thermometer.)
    How to use a stethoscope.  Learn how and where to listen for gut sounds and heartbeat.  (You can hear gut sounds with just your ear, but not heartbeats).  For gut sounds, listen from the last rib backward into the belly and flanks.  You should hear loud gurgles.  No sound or very small sounds can mean dehydration leading to colic.  To listen for a heartbeat, place the stethoscope on the animal’s near side in the armpit area.  You can also check his heart rate by placing your fingertips against the artery that runs along the underside of his inner jaw and feeling for the pulse.  A normal resting heart rate is 30 to 40 beats per minute.
    How to check his respiration rate.  Watch his flanks.  They move in and out with each breath.   A normal resting respiration rate on an adult horse is 8 to 15 breaths per minute.  Also check your animal’s eyes.  They should be bright and clear, not half closed, blinking, or sunken in.  You can also tap the eyelid for blinking reaction.
    How to test for dehydration and shock (capillary refill).  On the neck above the shoulder, pinch a fold of skin between your forefinger and thumb.  If the skin stays tented for 1 second, the horse is getting dehydrated, if it stays for 2 or more second, he is very dehydrated.  Confirm his condition by looking at his gums.  Are they pink, moist, and slippery?  If not he is dehydrated.  To check capillary refill on the gums, press hard with your thumb or finger.  The gum color should turn from pink to white.  When you let go, they should return to a healthy pink color.  If they are white, yellow, red, blue or purple, you have a big problem.  Call a vet.  Check anal tone as well.  Make sure the rectum is fully closed and normally pinched and tucked in, not droopy.  To prevent dehydration, make sure your horse at rest drinks at least 10 gallons a day per 1,000 pounds.  Do not give electrolytes if the horse has not been drinking.  I like to give electrolytes before long trailer hauls, when the horse is at home and comfortable, or the day before a big event so that he is already properly hydrated.  Also allow your animal to eat as much grass as possible as grass is 90% moisture.  You can also wet down hay, hay cubes, and beet pulp, if you feed it.  Have caution feeding too much beet pulp, as it may not provide enough roughage/bulk, increasing the propensity for obstruction colic.  Have on hand electrolytes with calcium and a way to administer them—a 60 cc syringe with graduated tip is ideal.  You can also monitor the fecal out put of your animal.  A nice moist, juicy deposit is perfect, dry and hard without a glistening sheen of moisture is warning to take notice.  The occasional cow pies – or liquid projectile is not normal but may happen due to nerves or an event anticipation  Continued loose stools  over a 12 hour period will lead to dehydration.
     Galls, friction and heat abrasions.  Carry petroleum and K-Y® jelly, as well as Preparation H™.  If your horse gets a bad gall, wrap your girth in cellophane and cover this with K-Y or petroleum jelly.  This will allow the girth to slide over the skin.  This means that you must also have a roll of plastic wrap along.  If you use a rear cinch, you can use that on top of your latigo by hooking it in the girth buckle and tightening it up, pulling the girth back from the gall.
    Crusty spots.  Carry athlete’s foot cream and some Blu-Kote® (gentian violet).  Both these products are super for fungal infections.  They work super on any superficial crusty spots on the horse’s hide, which many times are fungal in origin such as ring worm.  Gentian violet is great for thrush and hoof issues, the athlete’s foot cream is wonderful on scratches, greasy heal, pastern dermatitis, mud fever, etc., where you want to keep the skin moist to avoid cracking.  (To treat these conditions clip feathering and wash down area with a Betadine solution and pat dry, then apply ointment.)  If swelling occurs, you may have to use a DMSO/ nitrofurazone solution as well (see below).  Also have Destine diaper rash ointment on hand.  This is super for healing any wound and encourages healing along with hair growth.  Use this on all areas that are raw and rubbed.  If your horse has warts on his face or muzzle, pinch them off.  You can use pair of hemostats or pliers.  Pinch them until they bleed.  This will release the virus and kick in the horse’s immune system and his own body will rid him of the warts. 
     Bad abrasions, kicks, twists, sprains, open scuffs, leg or body trauma, swellings.  Carry a tub of nitrofurazone and a bottle (I prefer a spay bottle) of DMSO.  (Wear surgical rubber gloves when handling this product at it has been linked to cancer in women.)  Using rubber gloves, place three finger-full scoops of furazone in the mixing tub (I use an empty cottage cheese container).  Add enough DMSO to make a three parts furazone – one part DMSO mixture (one or two squirts).  Mix until it reaches the consistency of melted butter or ice cream.  Apply this mixture to the injured area.  This will aid in healing and pull out swelling.  Do not use any other liniment with this or apply this over any other liniment because the DMSO will blister your horse and all of his hide will come off!  If the skin is not broken, you can spray and rub down the area lightly with DMSO.  You can also wrap the leg in plastic wrap, followed by cotton batting and a cloth leg wrap.  You can use Vet Wrap®, but make sure you do not stretch it when wrapping the leg.  You must change this wrap every 24 hours.  Carry plenty of leg wraps and Vet Wrap® along with Telfa® or other nonstick pads and medical tape, along with a sharp pair of bandage scissors.
    Over work and stress.  Horses that are out of condition can develop a calcium imbalance if they are short of legumes in their diet (e.g., alfalfa, clover, and vetch).  Lack of calcium will cause a horse to develop thumps.  This is a condition where the diaphragm contractions are out of synchronization with the heart.  I always make sure that my horses have alfalfa hay cubes when out camping and working hard.  Make sure your horse is introduced to any new feed at home.  Many of the heavier muscled breeds of horses may develop a condition called azutoria (tying up).  Their urine may exhibit reddish color and they may become colicky.  Make sure you limit grain and sugar when riding hard.  If you do grain, do so a least 1 hour, preferably 2, before riding.  Consult your veterinarian for other remedies, including selenium and Vitamin E injections.  Have a pail for soaking feet or for use in cooling down your horse.  The handiest size is the 14-liter (3-gallon) flexible Tubtrug® bucket.  Keep in mind that the quickest way to cool down your animal is from the knees and hocks down because the blood vessels are close to the surface.  Also, wait until the horse is cooled down before hitting the heavy muscled areas with cold water because these muscles can go into spasm if cooled too quickly.  Always give your horse every opportunity to drink when out on the trail.  Dehydration is the number one concern and cause of distress when out riding.  Make sure you have farrier tools along, as well as horse boots.  You do not want to sit back in camp as your friends are out riding because your horse got sore or lost a shoe.  Also have blankets, both light and heavy, to help cool down your horse and to keep the cold ground-chill off when he lies down after a hard day of riding.  Muscle spasms can do a lot of harm if not attended.
     Bugs and insects.  Another area of irritation for the horse is bugs, along with allergies to them.  You can keep ticks off by spraying any product containing DEET from the knees and hocks down and the bottom of the tail.  The treatment lasts 8 hours and works great.  For gnats, wipe around eyes and in ears with Avon Skin So Soft® or baby oil.  For face and deer flies, use a mask.  For mosquitoes, use a DEET or some organophosphate product as well as, various all-natural products. For udder, belly, and back horseflies, flysheets work well.  Also provide a good rolling area.  Always carry a gallon of white vinegar as wash.  A wash of one part vinegar to four parts water is great for stopping itching.  Use after riding or when bugs are out of control and your horse is crawling out of his skin.  Use it on yourself if you get into poison ivy.  Use both antihistamines and cortisone if necessary to treat bites.
    Veterinarian-dispensed medications.  Consult your veterinarian for use of the following products.  Also, make sure to check with your veterinarian to help outfit your first aid kit.  I use antibiotics that are stable (do not require refrigeration), such as Naxcel and tetracycline in capsule or tablet form to treat for tick or blood sucking vectors that carry ehrilichiosis (Potomac horse fever [Equine ehrlichial colitis]) and equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis (similar to Lyme disease in dogs or humans), both of which can debilitate your horse.  Being able to use a field application of tetracycline is very important until you can seek the proper medical treatment.  Phenylbutazone (bute) reduces swelling and pain, Banamine (flu-nix, flunixin megllumine) reduces fever and pain and relaxes muscles, Lidocaine is a local anesthetic.  Have tranquilizers on hand, such as Acepromazine (Ace), Xylazine (Rompin), Torbugesic, Dormosedan, for use in many applications and are great when used in combination.  Also make sure you have injection needles and syringes in a variety of sizes (10 and 20 cc are most used with 18-gauge, 1 ½-in. needles), suture needles and sutures, again in a variety of sizes.  If you decide to carry injectable drugs you may need to consult your veterinarian regarding the use of epinephrine, but this requires refrigeration as it ages quickly.  Also carry topical scrubs/antiseptic washes/solutions, such as Xenodine, Povidone iodine, or chlorhexidine and a bag of saline solution for rinsing/flushing open wounds along with 200 cc of sterile water.  Carry antihistamines such as Tripellenamine and cortisone (Dexamethasone) for situations that will allow you to get home.  Lastly, make sure you have emergency numbers with you at all times, along with your veterinarian's after-hours number.  Play smart and use common sense.

    Question: "I get fluid-filled bumps on my horse's back when no tack at all touches that area. Why?"  For over 14 years I have received 1 to 2 inquiries a year regarding this question.  I have consulted veterinarians from around the country, other professionals in the field as well as questioning owners to no avail. This seems to occur with both rigid and flexible tree saddles (but more so with flexible saddles -which allow greater back movement). This occurs with no plausible explanation and therefore has remained a mystery until summer of 2010. At last, I solved this case.  A client called, stating that after 9 months of riding her new saddle she was just now getting fluid filled spinal bumps.  (The same story that I have heard throughout the years, of soft fluid filled bumps that are not hot, warm or tender to the touch, with the horse passing all palpation tests perfectly and that go away within 24 hours.) Naturally, the client’s saddle passed the inspection test.  So what is different?  Medications?  Vaccinations?  What?  The different joint supplement!  That is what was changed.  It took 30 days for the new joint supplement to take full effect.  I asked the customer to stop using it and see what happens.  Within one month no bumps were present. No one had ever thought of asking for changes 30 days past. With something acute, such as spinal bumps, one looks for sudden changes, so the answer to this question laid dormant all these years.   I cannot disclose the manufacturer of the supplement.  But keep in mind that many products used for livestock are not subject to FDA regulations and thus tests that would normally uncover undesirable side effects are not done. In conclusion:  When changing your horse's diet/medications, give the change 30 days to evaluate if it is the right for your horse.

    Sweat patterns and pad material:  Before addressing this topic, keep in mind that sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself.  The sweat evaporates thus cooling the body.  In order for this process to work, moisture must be exposed to air to evaporate.  So begins this lesson:  Sweat patterns will differ depending upon the pad material that is used.

    1)      Neoprene, rubber or latex based pads deliver the fastest sweat pattern (similar to you – if you were wearing rubber underwear you would start getting hot right away). 

    2)      Pads that have wool or felt type covering over an open or closed cell neoprene or foam will also deliver a quick sweat pattern.

     With both of the above pads (1 & 2) you will (when the horse is thoroughly worked up) see globs of sweat running from under the pad as he is literally wearing a sweat suit.

     3)      Synthetic fleece pads will deliver a slower sweat pattern compared to the above two pads. 

    4)      Felt wool pads, as well as cotton, deliver an initial sweat pattern similar to that of a synthetic fleece pad, but will actually begin to keep the back cooler. This happens as the wool or cotton (both being natural products) begin to allow wicking action to absorb the sweat. Then air can move in and evaporate moisture, cooling the back. With either a wool or cotton pad you will see less sweat running from under the pad compared to pads 1, 2, and 3.

    5)      Wool fleece offers the most cooling as the fibers are loose and open allowing excellent air and moisture exchange.  Due to this exchange, wool fleece will not show an immediate sweat pattern compared to the other pads. Thus, it can be difficult to determine uneven sweat patterns unless the horse has been worked hard enough for sweat to be running from his ears and rump. Even then, when you remove the pad you will see that the wool has wicked away much of the moisture and you may just have a pattern of dampness or compression.   

    In conclusion, material makes a difference in how the horse's back is cooled, and how quickly sweat patterns are formed. 

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    What is a saddle designed to do? A saddle is designed to distribute the rider’s weight over the largest surface area possible, and to offer the rider support.

    Saddle Fitting? Important message to all saddle fitters, massage therapists and veterinarians. Do not just set the saddle on the horse’s back to determine fit, but cinch or girth it down tightly (remember to set the saddle] on the horse’s bare –no blanket or pad - back). Then check the saddle fit. Many saddles now use Delrin panels, gel or air, etc., that require a downward force to achieve fit which can only be done by cinching the saddle down tightly and/or having someone sit in the saddle.  You can then re-check fit by sliding your hand under the saddle, feeling just what the horse feels. You can then finalize your initial fitting with the rider in the saddle and the horse in motion. If the saddle requires a corrective pad in order to achieve a good fit, remember to shim away from pressure and to check the horse’s conformation prior to any saddle fitting. You do this by squaring the horse up and looking over his rump, viewing his shoulder and wither area.

    How do you measure a saddle’s seat? For English saddles (including cutbacks): measure from the head pin to the center of the cantle, but this may not accurately portray the saddle’s seat size. Many saddles are now being sloped back at the front of the tree and will give you a false measurement of the actual seat area for the rider, so a smaller measurement will actually indicate a larger seat size. (Yes, the available seat area is actually bigger than the measurement.) For Western saddles (including endurance models with a fork): measure from the back of the fork to the center of the cantle. Many of these saddles are being constructed with soft swells for your thigh that cut back into the seat, so your measurement will be larger than your actual seat size.

    How do I keep my fenders and blevins buckles from rubbing on my saddles rigging?  Fender Rotation

    On saddles (System V, VII, IX and X ), the panels sit a bit further forward than the saddletree itself (where the horse’s withers are). So where should the saddle be placed on the horse’s back? The saddle is designed so that the soft Delrin panels can overlap the horse’s scapula by 1 to 3 inches. * Please Note* On some horses, with very long backs or a very steep shoulder slope, the saddle does not overlap the scapula at all, but when you place your saddle in the saddling "sweet spot" the panel is actually an inch or so behind the scapula. Not to worry, the soft flexible front edges of the panel will allow for your horse’s shoulder to move effortlessly under the panel without injury. You will however need to adjust the saddle’s rigging so your girth falls into your horse’s heart girth area (the correct location for the girth). To find the scapula, square your horse up so that his front legs are in line with each other. Then, by the withers and down from the spine 4 to 5 inches, palpate your horse’s shoulder, feeling for the point where the back edge of the scapula drops off into the back. Mark that area in your mind’s eye, then place the saddle so the panel overlaps the scapula by 1 to 3 inches (the higher figure if a western saddle) or not at all, depending on the horse’s length of back. The horse’s shoulders can now move freely under the panels. Remember a horse can have up to a 4-inch backward rotation of the scapula and with the advanced panel design, he is now free in his shoulder and back. A rigid-tree saddle does not move with the horse. Those saddles need to be set 3 to 4 inches (or a hand width) behind the horse’s scapula due to the fact that horses have a 3-4 inch shoulder extension with rotation backward. This fitting might work with an English saddle, because it has a shorter tree to begin with. But these saddles are not really practical if the rider needs a larger seat or if the horse has a short back and setting it that far back may also position the rider behind the horse’s center of gravity and the weight bearing area.  These panels allow a softer fit in the shoulder area; however you can achieve even a softer fit by tightening up the saddles rear rigging, which will pull the saddle down in the rear, freeing up the wither area slightly more. These incredible panels not only provide the "flair," the opening needed for free shoulder movement, but they can "twist" from the horse’s wither area to the flat of its back, yet still have the ability to curve down to "rocker" into the horse’s back, or go straight depending on the horse’s shape. The panels can do all that, while providing the maximum amount of surface area for distributing the rider’s weight on a moving object: your horse!

    My saddle is bouncy. Can you help me?  Several things can cause bounciness on a Delrin panel saddle. First, never, ever, use a girth that has elastic in it. The panels on these saddles have the right amount of spring and flex so the horse can move freely under them. If you use a girth that gives you more spring you will feel like one of those balls attached to an elastic string hitting the paddle. Second, the girth could be too loose. You need to "over tighten" the girth just a bit on the ground. Tighten just enough so that you cannot get your fingers under the girth. When you mount up, the saddle’s panels will mold into the horse’s back, loosening the girth. To see if the fit is right , have someone on the ground check it. If they can get their hand under the girth it is just right; if they can pull it away from the horse’s body more than an inch, it is too loose. If your saddle has a rear rigging, use it and tighten it down, so that when you are riding it will hang no more than one inch below the horse’s belly. Third, you could be using the wrong pad. Do not use a pad more than 1/2 inch thick. Do not use a neoprene or foam pad. These will just add more bulk, heat and more bounce. The Delrin panels have all the cushion and bounce you and your horse need. Any more and you will be "bouncing" all over the place. Fourth, if your saddle has adjustable rigging, check it, because you may need to tighten up the rear-rigging strap. Fifth:  Your saddle maybe too far forward, try moving it back. Sixth: Check your horse's conformation - he may be built down hill and you may need forward shims to balance your saddle.

    The adjustable system on the front mounts of my American-flex saddle does not stay where I adjust it. If you find that adjustment you desire does not stay in position, try applying a few drops of Loctite Blue® - found in any automotive store. To apply this, adjust the mount to its farthest outward position, wipe away any oily residue, then apply a few drops of "loctite blue" and reset the mount to the position desired. Remember that the rear of the saddle DOES NOT have the adjustable system. DO NOT even think of adjusting the rear. If you do, YOU WILL damage your saddle.

    How do I properly fit a saddle to my horse’s back?  Go to: saddling basic

    Do you sell used saddles? No, we do not sell used saddles, but post all brands of Delrin panel saddles that are for sale by their owners on our web site at no charge. Go to  trading post.

    On my western saddle the fenders don’t swing very freely or I have a very long "neck" on the fender that interferes with my boot. What can I do? Western fenders are hung on the saddle tree, either over the saddle bar, through a slot in the bar, or on a hanger attached to the bar. The ideal attachment is to have the fender hung over the bar. This is the only way to have maximum strength and greater versatility in adjusting your fender for the length desired, providing the manufacturer has not riveted or laced the fender closed. To adjust the fender to the correct length, grab either side of the fender (front and back) and pull either down or up using opposite directions to rotate the fender on the saddle. This way you can achieve greater swing or less neck at the area above your stirrup.

    In what order do I put my tack on, and in what order do I take it off? What I tell my students is this: 1) The saddle and cinch it on. 2) Rear or flank strap, if you have one. 3) Breast collar if you have one. 4) Crupper if you have one. 5) Bridle. I bridle last because if I have a problem in the saddling process, I have the horse by the halter and am not pulling with the bridle. Take the equipment off in almost the reverse order. 1) Bridle 2) Breast collar 3) Crupper 4) Rear strap 5) Girth (saddle).

    I was told that I need to get a special saddle for my gaited horse. A "gaited horse saddle" do you have any? Oh my, I do get this question a lot. For starters, a gaited horse is NO DIFFERENT in conformation than a trotting horse. The ONLY difference is the timing of the footfalls. This timing is what we spend big money for, what gives us a smooth ride, and the reason why we ride gaited horses. To achieve this timing we do not want anything to impair the horse’s movement, affecting foot-falls. We need to have a saddle that will allow freedom of movement, especially in the shoulder area. This is why the System VII panels are so wonderful. These saddles are not only great for gaited horses, but for all horses! What the people who say that you need a gaited horse saddle are really trying to tell you, is that you need to have a saddle that does not interfere with the horse’s shoulder movement. Many "rigid tree-gaited horse saddles" are very short in length allowing the shoulder more room, but with a short tree comes excessive pressure. The saddle may also offer too much flair in the shoulder area, which can cause the saddle to ride on the horse’s spine! Yikes! So remember, regardless what horse you ride, make sure that they have complete freedom movement in order to perform to their potential.

    How do I adjust the English leathers and use the coverlet on the am-f saddles? Here is the proper way to attach the stirrups and the closing of the leather with the coverlet. Notice that the tongue of the buckle is on the inside as is the tail of the leather. If you find that the "tail" is too long, you can cut off what you do not need. After the leather is adjusted to the proper length, slide the coverlet down over the buckle until it is completely hidden. (Photo to right shows process with the coverlet that still needs to be pulled down over the buckle). Click here for photo

    What are those odd pieces of leather on western saddles up by the fork, the ones that have the horizontal and vertical splits in them? And for English saddles, what is that leather tab in the rear with holes in it? Good question. On the western saddles, those are the keepers for either your cinch or latigo strap. The keeper with the vertical slit, on the off side (the side you do not mount the horse from) is to hook your cinch when you are done riding. You buckle your girth into that piece of leather and it will hold the cinch up so does not drag when you are carrying the saddle. The other piece of leather with the horizontal slot, located on the near side (the side you mount up from), holds the tail of your latigo strap when you are done cinching up. Many English saddles have a leather tab with holes in it, on the "off side" toward the rear of the saddle. This is a girth keeper, used to attach the girth when putting your saddle away.

    How do I properly cinch up my western saddle? Do I tie a latigo knot? You do not tie a latigo knot. That will create bulk under your leg and make a bulge against the horse's side. Instead, take the latigo strap from the saddle, run it down through the back of the D-ring on the cinch then back up through the front of the D-ring on the saddle, then back down through the D-ring on the cinch. Then give your saddle a bit of a push to the off side (side you do not mount up from). Place your left hand on the horse's side or shoulder area, then with your right hand pull the latigo strap hard, straight out towards your waist, pulling the cinch across the horse's underside, not just up on one side (The same as, for example, a drawstring on your pants: if you just pull on one side, that side will pull on your waist harder, but if you pull out to the side and then around you will have a more even and comfortable fit.) Some saddles will actually have latigo rigging on both sides, so that the pull will be exactly equal, but giving that saddle a bit of a shove to the off side will give you the same results as an even pull. Don't tighten down the saddle yet. Look everything over and let the horse breathe. Now go back and tighten the saddle down. Pull up firmly on the near side, then put the tongue of the cinch buckle in the hole of the latigo strap and pull back up on the latgio strap until the buckle is firmly in place. Next, thread the tail of the latigo through the slit in the latigo keeper located below the fork or swells of the saddle. The cinch should be tight, because when you get on, it will loosen some. It's a good idea to have someone on the ground check your cinch while you're in the saddle. If your helper can pull the cinch more than an inch away from the horse's body, it's too loose. He should be able to comfortably slide his hand under the cinch, but not pull it away from the horse’s body. Remember too, when you ride in hot weather or on very long rides, your horse can lose up to 50 pounds of body weight in sweat, so check your girth. You will be amazed at how loose it can become.

    How do I use Shims? Shims come in sets of three for each side; they can be purchased for the front of the saddle, the center or the rear, each designed to help certain conditions. The front shims are designed to allow you to raise the front of your saddle (if your horse is rump high), to fill in a hole behind the shoulder blade, or to balance your saddle from right to left. How do you do this? First get yourself a helper. Next, square your horse up. Have your helper hold him, squaring him up with his front feet even. Have your helper move his mane out of the way so you can clearly see his shape. Then stand behind your horse and look over his rump to his shoulder and withers area. Look at his shoulders. Is one side significantly larger than the other? If so, you need to put front shims in on the smaller side. While your helper holds them (the largest shim always towards the horse), you will have to sculpt the low side to match the high side. Now that you know he has a weak side you will need to post off of that diagonal, encourage him to take that lead and longe him in the direction to use his weak side, building up that shoulder muscle. You also will need to check him monthly, because his shape will change, especially if you are riding him in a flex-system saddle. If you don’t check his conformation, you won’t know when he no longer needs the shims. You could be adding bulk where it isn’t needed and cause dry spots and white hair. If your horse has a hollow behind the shoulder, you will need to fill that in to make a level saddling area. The flex-panel system saddles will flex and will "fall" into that hole and the panel will be flexed up so that it is "bottoming" out on the hard saddle tree itself. If this happens, all of your saddle’s suspension has been used up (similar to filling the back of your trunk with concrete blocks and bottoming out the shock absorbers). You will need to fill in that hollow behind the shoulder so that does not happen. The hollow usually is caused by muscle atrophy; as I mentioned earlier, his shape will change so you need to check his body monthly. If you do not, you will could more harm than good. The center shims are used to fill in the dip on a sway-backed horse. Lastly, the rear shims are used in raising the rear of the saddle or in eliminating loin rubbing. For more on loin rubbing go to the horse-related questions that were answered earlier. * Note: I recently discovered that many of the new saddles that are being marketed with the Delrin panels are not constructed to fit a wide range of back shapes, (excluding the System 7, 9 and 10 flex-panel saddles.) I have seen and fitted these saddles. The simple act of girthing up the saddle on the horse will bottom out the panels due to the saddle tree construction. You must check this while someone is in the saddle. Walk your horse around slowly and observe the panels. They should NOT be banging or hitting the bottom part of the saddle. If so, you will need a special pad that has a "full length" pocket, using shims to help restore your saddle’s suspension or you may need to get an entirely different saddle. Do not ride in a saddle that has no suspension. You may sore your horse.  For more on shimming including photo's and on line video click here.

    Why do the buckles on my stirrup leathers move? If you are riding in a saddle that has biothane leathers with a cam buckle, and find that the buckle is riding up your leg (which will sore your leg terribly), you will need to reposition that buckle to the other side of the stirrup. To do this, rotate the biothane leather (through the tree) so that you can place the stirrup on the other side of the buckle then rotate the biothane so that buckle is sitting on top of the stirrup. Then slide the coverlet over the buckle. This will solve your migrating buckle problem.

    How do I perform a safety check on flexible panel system saddles? How often should I do this? You should perform a safety check twice a year. In the following procedures, you will be comparing one side of the saddle with the other. Turn your saddle over on its back. Take off any pads that the saddle may have on it.

    1) First look at your panel spacing: If you have a System I, II, III, V, VI or the license- there should be at least 1 to 2 inches of space between the front panels (under the gullet area). If you have system VII, IX or X this spacing can be as little as a-half inch.

    2) Next wiggle the panel on the front mounting, comparing the two sides. Do they wiggle the same? They should. Try pulling the panels away from the saddle. Do both move out the same? They should. During either of these tests, are the panels excessively loose? They should not be. Do the panels move freely during this procedure? They should.

    3) Next check the back mounting pedestals. Do the same tests as for the front panels, but the rear panels should move more freely than the front, if your saddle has the System II, III, V, VI, or VII. The panel has a little slot that allows for this extra freedom. Is your panel moving freely in the slot? Can you pull on the center of your panel and see the panel sliding on the rear mount? The panels should slide freely.

    4) If the panels are not adjusted correctly, that is, if one side is freer than the other, you will need to have your panels reset. I strongly (!!!!!!!) recommend that you send your saddle in to the nearest service representative to do this. However, if you must do it yourself, here is how you go about it. If you decide to "fix" your saddle yourself and mess it up, you may void your warranty. With that in mind, for all saddles except the System IV, V, VII, IX and X panels, get a large Phillips screwdriver. For the System IV, V, VII, IX and X use the adjuster tool or an Allen wrench. Find the hole in the panel where the pedestal is located. Starting with the front mounts, carefully remove the screw from the mount. If the saddle has the adjustable System IV, you need to turn the adjuster out 1/2 inch, then hold the mount with hex nut wrench or pliers while turning with the adjuster tool to break the Loctite. Be careful not to damage the threads on the adjuster mount and do not lose any of the washers! (Please note that the washers on some of the saddles are beveled and so the beveled side must be against the cone part of the saddle’s insert-mount). For the rear of the saddle, you must take great care to find the hole in the backer layer to unscrew the panel. You must slide your panel forward and back until you find the hole that your adjuster tool will fit into. If you do not do this carefully and very gently, you will break or crack your backer layer and will have a bigger problem than misadjusted panels. After your panels are loose, add a few drops of "Loctite Red ® " (located at any auto department; it bonds metal to metal). Then screw the panel back on with all washers in place, starting with the rear panels. Tighten firmly, as if you were to putting a lid on a jar to put back in your refrigerator, but not as tight as you would if you were shipping the jar. Once done, back the screw out one revolution for System I, II, III, and VI. For the System V and VII, back the screw out ¾ of a revolution. Then put the panel on the front mounts, adding a few drops of "Loctite Red ®." Allow the glue to set for the time specified on the Loctite directions. For any other concerns please call and I will be happy to assist or direct you to those saddle makers that can repair the flexible panel system saddles.

    5) Place your hand on the underside of the panel over the area where the panel is mounted to the tree, push with your fingers and palm of your hand. You SHOULD NOT feel any lump or bulge. If you do, do not ride your saddle and contact the nearest repair center.

    6) The mountings on the saddles are steel; on the advanced systems - hardened steel. In both cases you need to keep them rust free so use WD-40 as a solvent very sparingly and only for this purpose. You also will need to need to oil your mounts and washers (the washers that slide and work against the Delrin panels need to be lubricated). Use 3-In-One Household Oil. As a second option, you can also use white lithium grease sold in spray cans with a straw, but you will need to use this heavily. Drip this well into and around the mounts located directly under the saddle tree and above the topside of the panel. Do this monthly.

    7) If your saddle has been in a wreck, and you hear clicking and cracking, your Delrin panels may be cracked or the rivets used in the building process.

    8) As time passes and your saddle becomes very used you may hear a clicking from under the mounts. This sound may be the mount and washer assembly. The clicking is that "joint" catching on the washers. The washers may be dirty or rusty. If this is the case you can use WD-40 to remove the rust. Then OIL with 3-In-One Household Oil. If you can still hear the clicking and you have put on between 7,000 and 13,000 miles or for the advanced systems double that amount, you may find that your mounts are worn and need replacing. For a video of a real life safety check click Here

    How do I use the adjustable System IV? This system allows for the adjustment in distance of the panel away from the saddle tree of up to one inch. This allows the user to optimally balance the saddle, for the rider and for the horse with truly unusual conformation challenges, such as one shoulder significantly larger than the other, or a rump-high horse. This adjustment can be made easily and quickly with the use of an Allen wrench "adjuster tool". To adjust, insert the adjuster tool in the small slot on the underside of the panel, located under the front mount. Wiggle it around gently - until you find the "sweet spot," then turn the handle of your adjuster tool and customize your saddle’s height. If you find that the adjustment of your saddle does not "stick" in place, maintaining position, apply a few drops of loctite blue (found in any automotive department store). To apply this, adjust the mount to it’s farthest outward position, wipe away any oily residue, then apply a few drops of "locite blue" and re-set the mount to the position desired. Click here for photo's

    Why have I not heard about lubricating these panel saddles before? That is a darn good question! If you think about this, any moving part needs lubrication. Take your car’s engine for example; it will not last long if you do not change or add oil. The philosophy of not telling customers the whole truth is exactly what many manufacturers are counting on, to make even more money off of you! The repair and the saddle pad business is BIG.) It was not until 2002 that we learned of this ourselves, and, like many of you, we learned the hard way. No matter what saddle you have, if is has a moving part, keep it lubricated and your saddle investment will last a very long time.

    How do I clean and care for my saddle and tack? Click

    What is a Trophy Saddle? Funny you should ask, because we too were unfamiliar with this term, when on our travels to the over half a dozen saddle manufacturing plants across the county, we uncovered the true meaning, function and purpose of a trophy saddle. A trophy saddle replaces a trophy that one would win at an event. A trophy saddle is made from the cheapest saddle trees and leather (the heavy dry kind) and is highlighted with a black indelible marker. It is flashy; hand-tooled by laborers, and not meant to fit a horse, but to be used as a trophy for your home, show room or barn. The owner of one company told us that they sold approximately 12,000 trophy saddles a year to clubs and various organizations, which represents over 90% of their business. Also selling this type of saddle is easy and very profitable as there are no returns or saddling fitting issues (because the saddles are NOT intended to be used for riding). He then told us a story of how one recipient who won a trophy saddle, called to complain that the saddle was crooked and did not fit her horse and "would they replace or fix the saddle." He told her, "Ma’am it is a trophy saddle." "We don’t make trophy saddles to fit horses." Boy did we feel silly as we too had no idea that those prizes were intended for decoration purposes and if you got lucky, maybe, just maybe you could find a horse that it would fit. Now this may not be true for all trophy saddles, but this is what we uncovered.

    Why does my saddle "pad" (ie. blanket / booties / easy pad / saddle sox / riding cloth / numnah have more hair and dirt on both the front and rear ends? Good question and I get this one a lot. Under the flexible panel saddle your horse can move more. More movement means that the panels are working and the pad is doing its job. Put your hand in the center of your back (about the area of your middle waist) and twist your upper and lower body in opposite direction. Notice that the area does not move but acts as a pivot for the upper and lower portion of your back. Your horse’s back works the same way. With the flexible system, he will be able to bend and flex in both directions and the farther out you move to either end the greater the swing. This extra movement releases more dirt and hair that collects on your pad. You do need to launder your pad regularly so it doesn’t dry hard and stiff and perhaps cause abrasions on your horse’s back. Maintain your saddle pads, and carrying an extra pad is a great idea, especially in the spring and fall when your horse is shedding.

    My leg is getting pinched under the leathers, biothane or leather. Why? This is caused primarily by the rider not carrying enough weight in the stirrup and/or too much leg movement (your leg could be getting tired). Wearing half or full chaps, full britches with leather or suede leggings, wearing full-length boots, or, alternatively, covering that biothane or leather strap with the Merino lambs wool leg comforters as shown in the  "treasures" part of our website will solve the problem.

    Why is my saddle slipping? Saddles can slip in two directions, side to side and forward and back. To figure out why your saddle is slipping answer the following questions:

    Is your girth too long and you can’t get it tight enough? If so you need a shorter girth. Is your girth too short? Is it more than 6 inches away from the D rings of your western saddle or on a English saddle is it on the lower third of the billets? If so, you need a longer girth.

    Is your girth or rear cinch off center? Both sides need to reach the same place on the horse’s body. Is your girth too long and you can’t get it tight enough? If so you need a shorter girth.

    • If your saddle has this option, is your adjustable rigging set the same on both sides? If your rigging is fixed, is it the same on both sides?

    • Is your girth or rear cinch off center? Both sides need to reach the same place on the horse’s body. Is your girth too big; you can’t get it tight enough? If so you need a smaller girth.

    • Are you using a girth with elastic? This is a big no-no. The flex in the panels added to that of the girth will make your saddle bouncy and less secure, and will cause slipping.

    • Are you giving your saddle a bit of a push to the off side before you begin to girth up? You need to do this, so you bring your saddle back to center when you tighten the girth or mount up.

    • Is your saddle pad binding your horse’s spine? If so, your saddle can’t "lock" down. Make sure you draw your pad up between the panels, but not so much that you jam it between the panels, keeping them from flexing properly.

    Check your horse’s conformation.  One shoulder could be larger than the other causing your saddle to slip off to one side. Or your horse could be rump high causing the saddle to slip forward. Follow the instructions for shimming, to help with this situation or select a saddle with the adjustable System IV.

    • If you saddle has the adjustable rigging, check to make sure that on both sides, top and bottom are the same.

    • Are your saddle panels on Systems, I, II, III or any of the modified systems, touching in the center and not able to flex down? If so you need to send your saddle in for repair. Also perform a safety check on your saddle.

    • Are you using two pads under your saddle? Unless you have a real good reason (and keeping your pad clean is not one), you should use only one thin pad.

    Is your horse shaped like a football or beach ball? Round, rotund horses are hard to fit. You might consider switching to a contoured leather girth and using a breast collar and crupper. You might also consider trying a Tacky Tack Pad, by Hill View Farms â, to be used under an already thin pad or alone under your saddle. If you do this you must make sure that you draw the pad up between the panels so as NOT to bind the horse’s spine. All of these will help stabilize your saddle. For saddles that do not have the advance System you will need to select saddle models with wider trees, since the panels are limited by the saddle tree they are on. Or select saddles that have Systems beyond VII.  

    • The panel saddles are designed to move with the horse and to not "dig in" behind the shoulder blades. Because of this, your saddle may slip forward when going down steep hills. I have some horses with "perfect" saddle fitting backs and our saddles do not move but an inch, going down a hill where the horses are sitting on their butts! I have others with very broad shoulders, where the shoulder and back are level with each other, but they have nice withers. With those horses I have to use a crupper. The panel saddles on these horses do not curve down into their backs and, if I do not have a crupper, my saddle slips forward and I’m literally on my horse’s neck whispering in his ears! Use a crupper in this situation and if you are bounding up those steep hills you also will need to use a breast collar. Adjust both these pieces of equipment as described on saddling basics.

    • Are you mounting up in such a way that you are pulling the saddle over? If so, you may need to use a mounting block when mounting your horse. Also make sure you grab a bit of mane and not the saddle when mounting.

    • I know this is obvious, but it has happened - are your stirrups (fenders and/or leathers) the same length? Double check and measure.

    How do I make a pattern for a saddle sox or saddle pad? Cut a solid sheet of paper (the back of gift wrapping paper works great) the length of the panel or skirt. Set the saddle on a stand and have a helper lift up the saddle so you can slide the paper under the panel or skirt (we only need one side, so trace only one side). We also recommend that you use a blanket or pad under the paper (over the stand) making tracing easier. Then use a fine-tip "Sharpie ®"-type marker and trace the outline exactly. We will allow for seam allowances and movement room. Cut out the pattern and fit it to the panel or skirt to check fit. You MUST also locate both panel-mounting pedestals on the pattern and mark with an X; also write the saddle’s serial number and seat size on the pattern, along with your name, address, email and phone number before sending it to us.
    How to trace a western saddle:
    Trace the skirt/panel, lifting up drop yoke rigging. Then drop the rigging and trace around that, including the "D" ring, but stopping there. The area that will give you the most difficulty is tracing down the center of the saddle. Do your best, you will have to guess how the skirt panel flows (the center does not fit into a pocket like the back and front, so DON’T let your guess stress you out). This is your template and your saddle sox will be made exactly the way you submit your pattern.
    How to trace an English or endurance saddle:
    Trace the panel, lifting up the flap. Then drop the flap and trace around that. The area that will give you the most difficulty is tracing down the center of the saddle. Do your best; you will have to guess how the panel flows (the center does not fit into a pocket like the back and front, so DON’T let your guess stress you out). This is your template and your saddle sox will be made exactly as you submit your pattern.

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    Cathy, what issues have you experienced horse camping? Golly, that is a loaded question with a huge answer.  And it depends on what you mean by “issues.”  First. let me make clear that when I mention trail riding, I mean that we are out or gone for 3 to 10 + days and have to make do. Secondly, remember that what is addressed here are things that can happen and not all of the fun and adventure we have had over lots of years and many, many miles with no mishaps or “issues”.  So with that said, as of spring 2009, here are the areas I address:

    People:  We all have been bucked off or fallen off of horses, everyone has had bee stings, Kelly had a bicycle accident that required stitches, Sonia broke some teeth, Don fractured his finger, and I fractured five ribs, my arm and a bone in my foot.  We always continued with our plans and took the injuries all in stride.  Whether you keep going or abort the trip depends, of course, on how badly the person in your party is injured and how he or she feels about continuing.

    Horses:  The horses haven’t come out of our adventures unscathed either.  All the horses have had some type of scrape, kick, bite, and some form of rope burn and nearly all have needed stitches at one time or other—and all were stitched up in camp,  For example, Colina was nearly disemboweled when a stick flipped up and ripped open her udder.  Rhya fell on the trail and dislocated her shoulder; I cranked the leg around and back in place and we managed to get back to camp, loaded up, and to the vet.  Stuart, our muscle-bound quarter horse has had repeated bouts of azutoria (also known as tying up or Monday morning sickness). He also got shin splints that later had to have surgery for removal and then a face laceration that needed sewing up.  Denny suffered an impacted caecum, a kick that needed stitches, and numerous bouts with asthma/allergies and once required an immediate injection of epinephrine; Dakota got moon blindness; Joya caught West Nile Virus, even though she’d been vaccinated. Henry got the thumps after 2 weeks on the road – barely made the 5 hour drive to the vet, where an IV that included 500 cc of Calcium saved his life. Princess had an internal muscle cramping – cause unknown - that I treated with muscle relaxants, then drove 6 hours for a veterinarian consultation. I have had three cases of Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia equi), the tick-borne fever or Lymes as the human population call it. Anaplasma is similar to Potomac horse fever (Ehrlichia risticii) but does not include diarrhea and laminitis. Both diseases need to be treated with Tetracycline  (that I carry with me at all times) within 24-48 hours for easy outcomes. (We also vaccinate against Potomac but as of yet there is no approved vaccination for Lymes).  Unfortunately, not all the adventures had such successful outcomes.  Mister fractured a sesamoid bone 10 hours from home and had to be put down, Tito got plural pneumonia on our Montana trip and continued on until we got home, where he was hospitalized for a month with a drain tube before having to be put down. Basically, anything that can happen to a horse at home (which that list is double from the above listed) can happen on the trail or in camp.  The only difference is that you’re usually miles from home and the vet.  This means you need a comprehensive horse first-aid kit and you need to know how to use it.  It also means that you need to know your horse well enough to recognize when he’s in distress before an issue becomes life threatening.  And, of course, you need to make sure that you’ve taken all the preventive measures that you can—like making sure your horse is fit enough for the ride you’re planning and has all his vaccinations.

    Equipment:  Once I ripped the fuel tank off the truck as I was turning around in the pitch dark in a horse pasture with a stump that the owner forgot to tell me about.  That mishap also blew a tire that was mounted on a split rim—a nasty mess.  Twice the bearings on the engine fan went out, sending the fan blades through the radiator 2 hours from home.  Once the transmission on the truck went out 11 hours from home.  And, of course we’ve had numerous flat tires on trailers and vehicles.  Once we had five flats in 4 weeks, two of which happened within 6 miles of each other!  (Now, I change all the tires every 2 years—regardless of wear.) On one trip we lost a complete trailer wheel, including the rim, 3 hours from home.  On another the RV windshield blew in 4 hours from home, but we continued on slowly.  We backed into a tree and smashed the ladder of the RV, drove up onto a cement barrier, and smashed the side of the RV, hooked a picnic table and bent the bumper of the RV.  Obviously visibility is an issue when driving these rigs.  Over time the RV frame cracked because it was not strong enough to handle the load it was pulling.  On one trip, the RV awning blew open and part of it ripped off going 65 miles per hour down the freeway.  Wheel bearings have gone out on the horse trailer – that only will happen once – now we grease and repack yearly.  Brakes failed on the RV because it had almost no brake fluid.  Many times belts have broken and engines overheated, so now we always check the oil, transmission fluid, and brake fluid, belts, and water levels before each trip.  Again, preventive measures make all the difference.

    All to often, as we all know, Murphy’s Law comes into play—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  So, anyway, that is roughly what has happened so far and you can be sure that more is still to come!  I believe that stuff happens whether you stay at home or venture out on the trail.  I also believe in living life and not letting it go by.  So I say to you … buck up and go for it, ’cause if you don’t you’ll never know what you’re missing.  Embrace every moment.  Live life as if today were your last.

    Who else has used these panel saddles? What do they have to say? (click)

    What is under mounted mean?  Under mounted is when you have a horse that is not strong or big enough to carry you.  You and your saddle should not exceed 20% of the horse’s weight.  If your weight greater than 200 lbs., it is doubly important to make sure you have a saddle that adequately distributes your weight.  Remember a saddle must do two things: 1) distribute the riders weight evenly and 2) offer the rider support.  In the photos below you can see that this horse dances and jigs in an attempt to avoid pressure. When stopped he stretches out in order to avoid pressure.  He also carries his head high thus hollowing out his back in an attempt to avoid excessive pressure. (When horse carries his head / nose high it makes it difficult for the rider to control his mount, thus the rider puts a tie-down on this horse in-order to hold his head down.)  Please note that when a horse is under this type of stress he will be subject to colic and heat exhaustion.  To avoid all of this make sure you are not under mounted and have proper fitting tack.  Also, please do not be too quick to judge this rider for we are all on this life’s path of learning together. 

    What do I look for when purchasing a used Flexible Panel saddle? Click here

    What are the various methods of restraining your equine at horse camps and parks?  (click here)

    Concerns for horse campers: Using fixed high line or picket line and keeping your horses safe. or  Clean up your manure or  Making room for your rig.  or  Concrete curbs or Considerations when using fixed corrals or A corral suggestion or High line height or Making more out of a "one only"  high line.

    Who really is Hill View Farms â? Click here

     Hill View Farms â, do you have any of your horses for sale and do you take outside horses in for training? No, we do not take outside horses in for training and yes, occasionally we do have horses for sale. Click here

    Tip: For those of you who have natural dirt or sandy/clay arena flooring you may notice that this gets dusty when riding. You may already be spraying it down with water, but it still remains dusty and may even get dustier. Here is the fix. If you wet down your arena by spraying, add sodium chloride (salt) to the water. Or better yet, go to the store and get water softener granules and sprinkle this over your entire arena. The first time will take several bags, but after this is it just simple maintenance. Just a sprinkle here and there and ta-da, no more dust!

    Tip: If you have your horses picketed for several days in the same area and find that the ground is becoming nasty from the manure/urine and is attracting flies. Using a coffee cup, sprinkle a little barn lime over those spots. The lime dries up the area making a nice solid surface repelling flies. Note; on barn lime, a small bag (the size of a 10-pound flour bag) will weigh 50 lbs.!

    What do you recommend for keeping mice out of your horse trailer and /or RV during winter storage? In-side, moth balls kept in old nylon stockings or socks work great, but we found that the RV has to air out for a week or longer before we can stay in it without dying from the residual fumes. Then we discovered Bounce ® dryer sheets. They are wonderful, smell great, and the mice hate them! They also work as wipes on your horses legs to repel biting insects. We put those dryer sheets inside the RV and trailer and leave the moth balls out-side sprinkled around the tires, to deter the mice from crawling up and getting in.

    Why should I purchase a flexible panel saddle? Looking back through the years of buying, selling, and trading countless new and used saddles, searching for the perfect saddle at a bargain price, being never quite happy, was a yearly event that passed like the seasons. When the first Delrin Panel System II saddle came into my life that trend was broken forever! The reality of the situation is that a top quality Delrin panel saddle will cost a couple of thousand dollars. I suggest setting your sights high and purchasing the most technologically advanced equipment on the market today. Take out an installment loan if you need to, but think big and bite your lip. A year or two down the line you will be glad you made the investment, because if you don’t, you undoubtedly will want to upgrade your saddle. You will probably spend more money in the long run than if you bought an advanced flexible panel saddle in the first place. The results you and your horse will enjoy with the advanced panel system will forever be worth the initial expense.

    What saddles do you personally ride? Ok here goes:  Cathy:  A 15" Ortho-Flex Express Lite from the original Ortho-Flex Company with System X panels. A 14" Traditional from the original Ortho-Flex saddle company with an Eddie Steel saddle tree and System VII panels. A 17.5 inch Evolutionary Cutback with System X panels. (shared with Rhea)  Rhea: A 16" original Ortho-Flex Caliente with VII System panels. Don: A 16" original Ortho-Flex Patriot Officer Saddle with System V panels.     A 16" Soft-Seat Traditional Ortho-Flex saddle original Ortho-Flex saddle company with an Eddie Steel saddle tree and System VII panels. A 19.5 Original Ortho-Flex Cutback with System X panels. And not used - but as an office ornament, a 16 inch original Ortho-Flex Traditional with Eddie Steel saddle tree and system II panels. Sonia: Shares with Don.  Kelly: A 16.5-inch original Ortho-flex Stitchdown saddle with System X panels. For Grand Children: A 13" Trail Partner saddles from the original Ortho-Flex saddle company with System II panels (in storage for grandchildren). For Guests: 16" Soft-Seat Traditional Ortho-Flex saddle original Ortho-Flex saddle company with an Eddie Steel saddle tree and System X panels.   My personal comment on all of this is, IF your saddle fits correctly and your horse can move freely and is not in pain (verified by PHYSICAL PALPATION), then you have no reason to change your current saddle. "If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it," and do your yearly equipment check on all your tack.

    I have heard that these saddles are no good, is that true? No, no, no! These saddles ARE the only saddle to use on your horse. If someone is having trouble it is caused by one or a combination of the following.
    The Horse. The horse may have an unresolved issue (i.e., unbalanced shoulder development, short back, high croup, narrow girthing area, mutton withers, "razor" withers, etc.). The horse’s physical and mental condition also need to be assessed. Does he have any old injuries, behavioral issues, or bad memories?
    The Tack. Does the fit correctly? Review "Saddling Basics"  
     (click). Something also may be technically wrong with the saddle. Remember, people make saddles and tack, and people make mistakes. The equipment should be reviewed annually for function and any worn out, missing or damaged parts should be repaired or replaced. Cars will not function properly if in disrepair and neither will tack.
    The Person. Believe it or not, the person might be doing something wrong. Review Saddling Basic

    What suggestions do you have on what to carry with you in your saddle bags? Lip balm; cell phone; a global positioning system (GPS) unit; tissues; a knife or Leather man ®; a hoof pick; a flashlight (preferably a head unit); fly masks for both horse and rider; an Easy boot or similar device, insect repellent that can be used on both horse and rider, extra reins, leather strips, snaps and Chicago screws: a lead rope or other rope, a camera and or binoculars; flora and fauna reference guides; a compass; blood stop powder, gentian violet, Vet wrap ®, nonstick bandages; waterproof tape; medications for horse or rider (e.g. aspirin, epinephrine, antihistamine); a water bottle (preferable a filtered water bottle); a bandana, a pen and paper, sunglasses, sun screen, lolli pop’s-or hard candy; granola bars; map of area; wire cutters and /or small hoof nippers; a flask of 151 - (for starting fires, disinfecting and easing rider pain,) matches; a whistle; money; rain coat and a weapon or other deterrent - if riding in the wilderness.

    Would you run in wooden shoes? That is exactly what we are asking our horses to do if they are not saddled in a flexible system saddle. Unless you are riding a flexible system saddle your horse bears more than the responsibility of the ride, he bears the concussion and shearing forces of a solid tree against its moving shoulders. The system has thin flexible panels attached to a solid wooden tree by mountings, which provide a ball and socket effect, allowing the skirts to flex at different angles from front to rear. When the horse turns, the panel flexes in an arc on the side that the horse flexes and straightens on the opposite side, moving with the horse and allowing freedom of movement. The best advice I can give you is to put you hand under the saddle-any saddle either on a solid saddle stand or on a horse’s back. Put your hand under the front, the center and the back of the saddle. Have someone sit in that saddle, lean forward and back and bounce up and down. What you feel on your hand IS what your horse feels. FACT, FACT, FACT!

    Why are there not more dealers selling these advanced panel saddles? The bottom line is that it takes about 2 hours to properly educate the customer on saddle fit, horse palpation, and the function of the saddle. There are not many stores, web sites or catalogs willing to devote enough time or space to do this. Also these businesses know that in a person’s lifetime they will buy 5-7 saddles because the horse changes shape or the customer gets a different horse and the rigid tree saddle will need to be changed. If the business sold the advanced panel system saddle in the first place, their repeat business would be lost. It all boils down to money.

    Will Delrin panels wear out? Yes, All Delrin used in the panels of all brands of saddles will wear out in time, just like tires on your car. The time depends on several factors-the rider’s weight, the maintenance and upkeep of the Delrin panels and how much you ride. With proper maintenance and using, for example, rider weight of 160 lbs., you can expect 25,000 plus miles from the improved System IX and X panels. This is because the technology of this panel system has progressed with the layering of materials. This progressive loading offers a longer and more useful life for your panels. As with any saddle, at least once a year, perform a safety check on all your equipment as described above under "tack related questions" on this page.

    What is Delrin? Early in 1950 research director and chemists Frank C McGrew developed a tough and heat resistant material he called "synthetic stone." During the years of development, which involved a patent dispute, DuPont patented Delrin® in 1956. Delrin® (Polyoxymethylene) is an acetal homopolymer resin that is a durable lightweight crystalline plastic, which uses a breakthrough in stabilization technology. It has an excellent balance of desirable properties that bridge the gap between metals and ordinary plastics. Delrin has a unique combination of strength, stiffness, tensile strength, hardness, dimensional stability, toughness, fatigue resistance, solvent and fuel resistance, abrasion resistance, low wear, low friction, creep resistance under a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions, with high fatigue endurance, corrosion resistance and mechanical resilience. Due to these outstanding characteristics Delrin is popular for its versatility within a broad use of industry applications, such as automotive, aerospace, electrical and medical applications.

    With the Evolutionary Saddle, why do you use nylon webbing instead of leather (harness leather) or polypropylene webbing?  And why don’t you use rivets to attach the saddles' rigging? First, we use nylon because it is stronger than leather.  It also will not rot away and weaken over time as leather or polypropylene products do.  At times we use polypropylene sewn in conjunction with leather to strengthen areas where the overkill of nylon is not needed. Second, we sew both leather and nylon instead of using rivets because using rivets actually takes material away.  A hole is pre-punched to put the rivet in), weakening the structure; in time rivets may pull through.  Copper rivets also corrode over time and weaken leather, so care must be taken if you have these on your tack.  We do use rivets where they are the only way to attach metal or hard plastic to leather.  We cannot sew through metal or hard plastic.  We also may use Chicago screws instead of rivets because they can be unscrewed and taken apart to replace worn pieces.  The down side of Chicago screws is that you must take care to add a drop of Lock-Tight-red so the screw will not accidentally come apart and you lose a rein.  .  Sewing is the strongest and most secure way of securing nylon webbing.   Therefore, whenever possible, we sew all nylon products.  We also use nylon thread because cotton and polyester thread, rots over time.  Nylon, whether it be webbing, rope, thread, or fabric is the product of choice for the marine industry because it resists salts and damp conditions.  We strive to use only the best materials for the job at hand, so don’t think that nylon is not strong—just look at your cars seat belts. These are the same belts that take astronauts into space and keep our troops safe within their parachute jumping harnesses.  Yes - that webbing is all 100 percent nylon, and it is sewn, not riveted.

    Is it true that the System VII, IX and X saddle will fit almost any size horse without too much adjustment? Yes, these System VII, IX and X will fit nearly all horses with little – adjusting. The biggest adjustment will be the girth length. The same saddle will fit a horse that takes a 20-inch girth up to the largest girth (so far) of 54 inches (and that is on a saddle with dropped rigging-long billets). These saddles consistently amaze even me. The biggest limitation is the tree that these incredible panels are mounted on and how they are assembled.

    When I first tried these saddles I felt like I was off the horse. Yes, that is correct. You are not on the horse’s back. You are slightly off the horse’s back, allowing him to bend and move. Believe it or not, you are actually physically closer to your horse and what you’re feeling is your horse moving under you. We know that English saddles allow you the "closest feeling" so let’s use that saddle as an example. Put a rigid tree English saddle on your horse’s bare (with no pad) back and measure from the horse’s back to the seat of the saddle. Then put the saddle (System V, VII, IX or X) on your horse’s bare back. You will notice that this saddle will measure closer to the horse than the regular English saddle. How can that be? First look at the panel. The panel itself is just 3/4 inch thick and the mount adds only another 1/2 inch before contact with the hard saddle tree, so you are a mere 1 1/4 inch from the horse.  (click for detail view) No other saddle with all the flocking and padding is this close. Now add your regular saddle pad and compare it to the pads used with the advanced system panel saddles. Is your pad 1/4-inch thick? Because the panels are so soft and pliable they do not require a thick pad to protect the horse’s sensitive back from an ill-fitting saddle. Now re-measure using your rigid tree saddle with the pad. How far is your saddle off the horse’s back? So, back to the original question: with the flexible panel system, you are not directly pressing on the horse’s back with a hard rigid tree. You are on your horse’s back with a saddle that will allow him to lift, bend and use his back. For some riders this requires more skill in riding. Because you are now allowing your horse greater freedom of movement you too will experience this movement. But with a little riding you will find your seat and balance and will never go back to a rigid tree saddle. What a thrill for both you and your horse.

    I went to a clinic and listened to a saddle maker talk about trees and saddle fitting. He said that flexible panels would be ideal for the horse’s back, but he’s seen horses develop hot spots and pressure sores beneath the rockers, so he doesn’t recommend them. Can you address that issue? Yes, your saddle maker is correct on both counts. There is nothing better than a flexible panel saddle for achieving a good fit for a horse that changes shape over time or for a rider who rides multiple horses with differently shaped backs. Just like your car’s engine needs oil to function correctly, so does your saddle. You will need keep your saddle lubricated, and perform a yearly safely check to keep it in top performing condition. ("What do I look for when purchasing a used flexible panel saddle", you will see photos of this  Click here.) Unfortunately for the past 20 years – and even currently, (YES, you heard correctly) to my knowledge, no other manufacturer informs customers on this detail. If the rider does not maintain his saddle or purchases a used saddle that has not been maintained, that rider unknowingly may be using a saddle with worn out Delrin panels and/or rockers, which will cause hot spots under the mounting pedestals. If the rider properly maintains his saddle, this should never occur. Some dealers may go out of their way, as I do, to inform the consumer of the maintenance required. We want this saddle to last you as long as you ride. (But if you’re like me, who rides in several disciplines, you’ll need several different saddles.)

    What can I expect as a horse owner? As a trainer/instructor, I tell all my students that five things will happen to you if you stick around horses long enough. If you survive these five things and still enjoy the horse, you are a true equestrian. You will be stepped on, be kicked, fall off, be bitten, be bucked off. All of these things will happen to you in time, so embrace each experience and remember that everyone else who is into horses has had the same thing happen to them. As my 6 year old daughter said loudly (crying and half smiling) after she got up from being bucked off , "Mom, I’m a true horse person now!" I did not get it at first, but then when I asked her she said that was the last of the five things that hadn’t happened to her until now. Good Grief! * A note * for new horse owners: Horse ownership is 10 percent love, hugs and kisses and 90 percent hard work, with pockets full of money. Caution: If you participate in equine activities you will be injured at some point. Injuries can range from minor cuts, abrasions and/or contusions, to death. The question is not if you will be injured but when. You accept all inherent risks, because all horses are living creatures with minds of their own and can exhibit unpredictable behavior and unexpected reactions.

    I hear a "clicking" when I ride my panel saddle, what is that? That clicking sound can be several things. First, if your saddle is new, the advanced panel system uses various adhesives during the assembly process. There may be some excess adhesive that leaked beyond the target area and with movement is breaking free. This is standard, like opening up a new book. The second possibility is that you may have your saddle too far forward on your horse’s shoulders so re-adjust the rigging to set it back a little. Third, the sound may be coming from the rocker mounts and washer assembly. You will need to oil this mount and the rear mounts with "3-in-one Household Oil."  This is available in any warehouse, supermarket or automotive store, etc. Lastly, if your saddle has been in a wreck and you hear clicking and cracking that does not go away with oiling, it may be that your Delrin panels are cracked, or the rivets used in the building process of the progressive loading System on all saddles maybe broken. (You may also notice dry spots or whit hair on your horse’s back, which is an indication that something is not right). Again, contact your dealer for the nearest service representative.

    Have you ever found these saddles not to work? Over the years - and I am talking about all the various Delrin panels used on the horses –I have found only one confirmed case of the saddle not "working". In this case the customer asked me to come out, she was tired of dealing directly with the manufacturer and had worked with System I, II and then III saddles with no positive results. I evaluated the horse, the rider, the equipment. The horse was great, the rider superb, the equipment in perfect working order and most of all the fit was a perfect match of the saddle and horse, but without question the horse could not deal with any type of movement on his shoulders or back, no matter how many times we tried to disengage his brain. We tested my theory with the rider riding bareback. The horse behaved as he did with the panel saddle. But when we put on his "old" saddle, the one he was trained under and had been ridden in for 10 years, he was wonderful. So, YES, one in a thousand or even 2 in a thousand! In November 2003, I found another horse who seems to be the same way, but I was not able to personally confirm this. Through e-mail correspondence I suspect that this may be the second animal, who does not care at all for a panel saddle. So looking at the percentages and based on testing several systems, with several saddle styles, with various manufactures, selling hundreds of these saddles, and with my background in animal science and as a sport massage therapist for horses, I can safely say that I have found that some horses, though very few, will not accept a panel saddle.

    I feel that I am sitting crooked on my horse. What is wrong? Several things could cause this sensation. 1) Check your animal’s conformation. 2) If your saddle has the adjustable System IV on the saddle tree, you may not have both sides adjusted evenly or your adjustment may not be maintaining the desired position. If that is the case, turn your adjuster all the way out, wipe away any grease that may be on it, then add a few drops of Loctite Blue® (found in any automotive supply store) and turn the adjuster back into position. 3) Your stirrup length may not be the same on both sides. Do not depend on the markings on the stirrup leathers or fenders themselves- measure the length. 4) If your saddle has adjustable rigging, check to make sure that both sides are set the same and that neither one has come loose. 5) Check that the girth is equally up on both sides and that it is the proper length.  6) Your conformation –is one leg longer than the other - hip or back issues? 7) Perform a saddle safety check as described above on this page. 8) If all possibilities are exhausted, send the saddle to a repair shop for inspection. Although rare, it could have one mount that is set in further than the other or a faulty rivet.

    How good is a warranty and what is the warranty on the Evolutionary TM  saddle? My personal opinion is, "A warranty is only as good as the paper it is written on." Look at what has happened to many of the prior panel saddle companies in the USA: (The Brown Saddle Company, The ‘Original’ Ortho-Flex Saddle Company, The Rocking R / Timberline Saddle Company).  With  my years of trials and tribulations with saddle and tree companies, I will conduct business only with those companies who comply with our mission statement. Products from those companies are the ones I can wholeheartedly put our name HILL VIEW FARMS â on, for their quality, service, dependability and above all else, INTEGRITY! As a consumer you can trust Hill View Farms. We offer the customer a full money back guarantee on all products with the HILL VIEW FARMS label as specified in the "trial period" of product use, see the facts. The warranty on Evolutionary TM  saddles is 2 years for quality and workmanship with 20 years on the tree.

    Why did you name your saddle line Evolutionary TM saddles?  This name was selected first of all, because I did not want any affiliation with the word “flex”, as there are too many companies using the word “flex” when selling their products (many of which do not flex).  Secondly, we wanted a name that would reflect the technological growth and changes that have occurred within the industry and we wanted to embrace that change.  So thanks to my dear friend Sharon, the name EVOLUTIONARY TM Saddles was born.

    Why does American-Flex show up on your web site?  Over the years I have come up with and purchased many names or have had the persons that I worked with purchase these names. Naturally I purchased Hill View Farms â and Evolutionary TM saddles among many others such as Camping with Cathy, as my camping with horses DVD launches.  Now for the rub, when you register a domain name, (and you can have hundreds) you must select one as your target or master that all the other names point to.  Well that is what I have.  As American-Flex was in print throughout many publications, I thought it best to just leave it there for now and have the other names directed to it.  Yes, it can be changed, but when dealing in printed materials the wait time is 10 years.  Other companies have modified our names or purchased them in another market, such as .org, .net, .co, etc., to imitate those currently owned by Hill View Farms â

    I am confused about patents, trade and registration marks, along with copyright - what does this all mean? First I am not a legal expert!  But this is what I know in a nutshell:  Patent numbers and dates last about 16 years, depending upon when the patent claim was filed, when it was accepted and the country in which it was filed. When a patent expires, anyone can copy it exactly.  Also if the owner of a current patent does not file a claim of infringement within the statute of limitations (6 years in USA) to protect an existing patent, the patent then becomes an Abandoned Patent, meaning that the owner of the patent relinquishes all claims henceforth. Therefore making it available to the public. As for new patents based upon earlier designs, they can be obtained if the new design change is greater than 20%.  So the point to remember is, all patents have a limited life span and do not last forever and to file for a patent will cost $20,000 plus dollars - again dependent upon the country in which it is filed. A registration mark â   and a copyright ©  do last forever, but only if the renewal paper work is maintained. The cost on this is minimal and affordable A trade mark  TM  simply means that the word or image cannot be registered for the time being as it is  not unique enough to separate it from common terminology or it has not yet become a household name associating it with a company or individual. After a period of time, if it can be shown that a trademark is unique enough, the courts might decide it can be registered or copyrighted. Of course, it costs considerably more to get that work done.

    Is the System X saddle just a "knock - off" of an Ortho-Flex saddle? No, this is an entirely new system and is not an Ortho-Flex® saddle; it is a new system. True, they use Delrin in the building process, but the way the Delrin is cut, shaped, and layered, using advanced computer technology in conjunction with pressure testing equipment has put this saddle in a league of its own.

    What are the panels made of and how are they constructed? The panels used on the System V, VII, IX and X saddles are of Delrin® -from DuPont – milled and assembled in the UNITED STATES! The Delrin panel system is a computer-designed, multi-layered advanced system that is so wonderful in providing all of the elements necessary for proper function and fitting on all of the unique and different back shapes of horses and mules. What makes this System so unique is the Easy-Slide plate in the rear of these panels. After years of experience working with all of the various brands of Delrin panel saddles, we uncovered the design flaws which caused problems such as: panels bottoming out, inflexible panels, thick saddle trees, washers stuck in slots, panels that wouldn’t move or slide, pressure points, worn Delrin, busted rivets, cracked panels, wood screw mountings, mounts that self adjust and improper rigging. We found solutions addressing all these issues. What makes this SYSTEM X panel so unique is now these panels are virtually maintenance free.

    Who can I send my saddle and tack to for repair:  Call the shops and SHOP around.  Some repair places OVER CHARGE.  Others have a LONG turn around time.  Some will not WARRANTY their work, while others are RUDE to their customers.  Here are the qualified repair centers.  FOR REPAIR CENTERS

    How do I protect myself against unscrupulous merchants? If a vendor or merchant is not taking credit cards, that should trigger a red flag unless the merchant has a real good reason. You’ll have to be the judge. If the bank or lending institution will not give the merchant or vendor credit to enable them to take credit cards, then the buyer should beware. Credit card companies do offer consumers recourse against unscrupulous merchants and misrepresented merchandise. Using credit cards also aids the merchant by ensuring payment for goods/services provided. Always, always get a trial period, with a money back guarantee and be wary of signing any contracts before finalizing your purchase! ". "What can I do? Please, can you help me? "I have a saddle that does not fit and they (the company/tack dealer) will not return my call or take the saddle back". I get calls like this on average of once a week. Your only recourse is your Credit Card Company or bank. For those of you who are looking for a saddle, heed this advice. Never, never, purchase a saddle unless you are able to return it after a test ride for your money back. If a retailer will not give you a money back test ride on a saddle, TURN AND WALK AWAY! It makes no difference who makes the saddle or what brand, if you can not get a test-ride with a money back agreement then you WILL BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF and both you and your horse will have paid dearly for your mistake.

    What is a saddle conversion and what is an upgrade? Which saddles can be converted? Who does saddle repair and conversions? A conversion puts Delrin panels onto your current rigid tree saddle. An upgrade puts the latest system panels on your current flexible panel saddle. Brands that can be upgraded or converted: Ortho Flex, Timberline, Rocking R, Stubin, McCall, Don West, TexTan, Circle Y, Big Horn, etc. and several UK’s.  Flex panels can not be put on a flexible tree, Aussie tree, Tex-flex, and any other brands that have a gullet opening of less than 6.75"or those with a ralide saddle tree. When converting any saddle that does not already have panels, new leather skirts need to be cut because the original formed skirts are not reusable. If its a saddle with a panel system and you want to upgrade, the leather skirts can be re-used and new fleece, neoprene, panels and inserts added. Contact.  FOR REPAIR CENTERS

    Why use a picket line? We put over 1,000 miles on our horses every year and have seen lots of things and will continue to see things as life allows. The one thing that I’m convinced of is the use of a picket line, or as some call it, a "high line." Allow me to share with you the problems that I have personally seen or experienced over the years with other restraint systems. The portable corral: A great way to allow your horse to move and not tie up; but horses roll, play, jump, squeal and kick. I’ve seen horses trapped under the portable gate panels; I’ve seen legs stuck, and shoes pulled off. Some horses when stuck lie calmly and allow you to help them; most will struggle and injure themselves. Trailer tying: This allows for the horse no movement, increasing your risk of tying up. Knowing this, people leave their lead ropes long, increasing the risk of major injury. I’ve seen horses tangled so tightly in their leads from trying to scratch, lie down or rubbing that only a knife could cut the rope. The quick release snap if used, usually is on the horse's halter not the trailer (have you ever tried to get close to a thrashing horse’s head to release him? It won’t happen). I’ve seen horses lie down and get stuck under the trailer. The horses legs looked like raw hamburger when he was freed; sometimes the soft tissue damage is so severe that your horse is out for the season. If trailer tying is your only option, tie the horse short so he can’t get his head below his knees. Note: after a 24 hour period horses must have the option to lie down to avoid internal distress.  The portable electric fence: This is super for allowing your horse to move and catch a bite to eat if on grass, but as I said before, horses will be horses. I’ve seen horses play in the morning and run right through the fence. Some horses get chased through the fence by their best buddy trying to reinforce the pecking order. These horses try to stop but slide through the fence, only to get tangled, panicked and end up free to run. Depending on the terrain, sometimes the posts can’t be set securely enough into the ground and topple over in the slightest breeze. Also, horses try to eat that last piece of grass from under the fence (portable corrals too) and get themselves into trouble. The worst accident I witnessed was at an endurance ride in the fall when the horses were blanketed. For some reason the horses got out (maybe they did not feel the shock of the fence through their blankets) and ended up on the freeway. One was killed instantly when it went through the windshield of a car (the people were okay). The other was horribly injured. I knew the girls and the horses. I cried. Granted, nothing is entirely safe, but we all do our best. The Picket Line: The horses can move, walk, trot (small circle) and lie down. They can kick and rear and even scratch themselves with a rear foot. The only two issues that I have had over the years (and I picket 5 or 6 head each time we hit the trail) are that, a horse may catch his foot in the lead rope, or halter. To free the horse, all you do it drop the line or quick release the lead rope or cross tie. You will just have to use sheer strength to release a foot from a halter, and make sure the halter is not loose next time!!! The worst injury one of my horses ever got was a slight rope burn on the rear pastern (horse was ridable, not lame). The ROPE picket line has give and bounce, which prevents a solid, cutting, horse-laming pull. The only other incident was when we left a young horse behind in camp; she reared and her front feet went into the line. The line gave, she could move around, it felt to her like a girth or lead rope, and all we did was release the lead rope when we returned. The horse was unharmed because the line gave. I have seen cables used at some parks as picket lines. I do not like them because they do not give. If you use them be careful and ALWAYS use a quick release at the top, away from the horse, so you can free him if necessary.  How to set your lead rope on your line? Adjust your line with your picket fasteners, spacing them far enough (about 10 feet) apart so that your horse can’t tangle with others. Also, when tying a horse on a lead long enough so he can lie down, you need to make sure your lead is 8 feet away from your vehicle, trailer, and trees. Then tighten the line with your "tight rope," and hang your leads so they hang no closer than 8 to 12 inches from the ground. The horse can then get his head to the ground, without any interference from the lead. After you hang your hay bags you may need to retighten your line if your rope has a tendency to stretch. We have also added D loops to the top of our trailer so we can use our trailer as a picket post. Our friends have done the same, so we have a picket line city when we camp. All in-all, we have found the picket line our best choice, even though we have had a couple of incidents.

    An interesting perspective on price: Written by John Ruskin, who lived between 1819 and 1900. "It’s unwise to pay too much. But it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better. There is hardly anything in the world that someone can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper - and people who consider price alone are this man’s lawful prey."

    What do I take horse camping? (this is our list, that has been developed over the years...enjoy)       (also here for PACK list for PACKING stock)                       

    Bread & crumbs
    Chips Crackers/gram/saltiness/etc.
    Buns: hot-dog/burgers
    Sour cream/cream
    Cream cheese
    Corn meal
    Spices: (marjoram/basil/cumin/cininum
    /parsley/yeast/chives/salt/p-pepper/lemon pepper/Greek-seasoning/bay leafs/ cocoa/etc.)
    Onion soup mix
    Baking powder/soda
    Corn starch
    Catsup/BBQ sauce
    Valley ranch dressing
    Hot sauce
    Soy sauce
    Worshire sauce
    Lunch meat
    Meat dinners
    Potatoes/vegetables Onions/garlic
    Green pepper frozen/corn
    Cereals hot/cold
    Juice: O.J/lemon/lime
    Peanut butter
    Granola bars
    Cream of mushroom/chicken Tuna fish
    Canned beef/meals
    Tomato: paste/sauce/canned
    Beans: kidney/pork n beans
    Mac n cheese/noodles
    Silver ware
    Coffee pot
    Paper plates/cups
    Paper towels
    Can opener
    Bottle opener
    Sponges/dish rag
    Dish towels/table cloth
    Dish drainer
    Liquid dish soap
    Laundry soap
    Window cleaner
    Wax paper/foil
    Baggies lrg & sm.
    Broom/dust pan
    Rubber bands
    Trash bags lrg & sm.
    Charcoal and fluid
    Cloths line & pins

    Soap: hand/shampoo/cloths
    Wash cloth
    Towels: bath/beach
    Shower mat
    Kleenex/toilet paper
    Personal care products
    Brushes: hair/tooth
    Tooth paste
    Chap stick
    Lotion: sun/hand
    Nail clippers/file
    Insect repellent
    First aid kit
    Sun glasses
    Potty chemicals
    Sewing kit
    Cloths hangers

    Sports bra
    Shirts: short & long sleeve
    Shoes: riding boots/sandals/-tennis
    Rain gear
    Pants inc. (riding)/ shorts

    Pillows & cases
    Sleeping bags
    Ground tarp

    Playing cards
    Games/ puzzles
    Writing paper
    Batteries all sizes
    TV tables
    Fishing rods
    Tackle/ bait
    Baseball bat & glove
    Water squirters
    Back pack
    Hunting knife
    Pocket knife
    Swim fins/mask
    Air pump
    Kite & string
    Bird book
    Game licenses
    Maps/road & trail
    Fire wood
    T.V./VCR & movies
    Cell phone

    Screw driver
    Adjustable wrench
    Extension cords
    Porta potty
    Fire ring
    Lantern & stand
    Lantern fuel/mantels
    Folding shovel
    Bulbs all sizes
    Volt meter
    Circuit tester
    Jumper cables
    Tire air gauge
    Water can
    Gas can
    Holding tank hose
    Fresh H2O hose
    Fire extinguisher
    Out side carpet
    Check: tires, all tanks, lugs, batteries, running lites, safety-chains, breaks, sway -control, coupler,

    Hay/saddle bags
    Fly spray
    Tandem pad
    Tack holder
    Riding gloves
    Rubber boots
    Tack box
    Vet box
    Wash bucket & supplies
    Picket line & tightener
    Pitch fork
    Ranch handler cart
    Fly nets
    Ferior equipment
    Ez boot
    Trailer ties
    Dog food


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