HILL VIEW FARMS® LLC
"Proven Products for Horse and Rider"

Saddle Repair and Safety Check
 For all Flexible Panel Saddles

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

System X Description Saddling Basics Saddling videos The Journey Saddle History Evolutionary ä Saddles Return to index

Call for questions or to place an order: 507-723-5937  Toll Free in US: 866-723-5937 E-Mail  or  Hillview@newulmtel.net

When looking to purchase a flexible panel saddle there may be many reasons why the previous owner is selling it. 

With any saddle yearly maintenance must be done,  with panel saddles you can see how that is done here perform a safety check.  

Things to look for when purchasing a USED SADDLE:  As repair costs can exceed $1,000.00 dollars, especially if the saddle was in a wreck. 

Areas that are of concern when purchasing a USED SADDLE:  Shoddy workmanship, broken tree, popped rivets, worn mounts, cracked panel, worn delrin, broken slide slots, immobile panels, torn seats, improper mounting, Polly propylene rigging with staples attached to saddle tree, immobile panels and home made repairs. Below you will see examples of this.

 Do you want to have your saddle safety inspected, cleaned, re-dyed, conditioned, oiled, waxed and shined?  Price for this service includes shipping in the continental USA. If repairs are required, we will call you with recommendations and costs. Price: $150.00.
 
Send Saddle with your note and return address to:  
Hill View Farms  41564 Co. Hwy 4, Morgan MN  56266
(Form to accompany saddle  &  Material cost with labor worksheet)

CLICK  FOR REPAIR CENTERS    What kind of saddle can be converted - To have the panels put on? 

Hill View Farms® LLC  CAN NOT guarantee saddle fit on horses for any conversion, upgrade or rebuild saddle.

With a saddle sent in, the following with happen:  We will call or email you when your saddle arrives.  We will take photo's of any and ALL issues that we see.  We WILL email or mail to you those photo's.  From there, we WILL discuss with you the options available to repair, replace or change your saddle.  YOU WILL BE a part of this process.

For a video of a real life safety check click Here

So how can you tell?  Below are panels from an Ortho-Flex System II saddle (left photo) and panels from the System V American Saddles - American-flex saddle (right photo).  The Ortho-Flex saddle belonged to trainer and competitive rider who had put many hard years and hours on the saddle.  This customer did not purchase the saddle from Hill View Farms but came to us for help after experiencing trouble with his saddle. He said that the saddle began to shift to one side and did not move as it should.  After performing a safety check, which the saddle did not pass, we removed the panels and replaced them. Below is what worn Delrin panels and mounts will look like. (This customer NEVER performed any maintenance on his saddle - ever!).  The other photo is from another rider who bought the saddle used and her horse became sore in the loins.

I cut away the encased covering and removed the masking tape that Ortho-flex had initially used to hold the layers of Delrin in place when riveting the panels together.  These panels are a System II, the Delrin was hand cut and assembled; the mounts were cross threaded and worn as well, so they too had to be removed from the tree and replaced.    If you look you can see that the panel cannot move freely in the slot. The mount assembly unit was worn down into the Delrin, locking the panel in place, effectively making it a System I. The screw assembly had worn down the inside edge of the slot causing the panel to list crooked on the saddle tree, also wearing away the Delrin.

 System II panels with worn mounts and Delrin. This affects all systems that do not have a slide plate.

BELOW: Notice the close up of the panel and how the mount assembly wore down and became level with the first tier. 

 

RIGHT:  This worn area now has become a problem as shown on the photo to the right. The worn down panel has now allowed the mount to come through the panel becoming the source of pressure points. 

 

LEFT: This is how the panel should look with pressure applied; there IS NO bump.  The mount is properly functioning with the Delrin material.  If you PROPERLY maintain your saddle this should never occur..

               
 

BELOW: The System IX (9) has the protective metal wear plate for the Delrin, (left photo) but when improperly assembled (right photo) this becomes a quality control issue and as you can see, the thin metal plate snapped and buckled.

  

THE MOUNTS

Below are up-close visuals of both: the worn "rocker" mount (left photo) and a new mount (right photo).  See the difference. 

OLD 45° MOUNT            NEW 45° MOUNT  System 7, 7E and 9 mount

     A new SYSTEM X MOUNT:  The washer has a radius to match the insert allowing a ball and socket performance.  The slide plate is 3 times thicker than other plates delivering tolerance with outstanding wear. This, combined with the proper mounting & quality control inspections, ensures life-long performance.

RIVETS

In the below photo a panel has been un-covered that has a broken rear rivet.  The aluminum pop rivets that are used by saddle makers in assembling the panels are cheap, fast and easy to use.  Also Aluminum quickly develops work-hardening fatigue, which means that with flexing it will not take much to break these rivets.   When you have popped rivets the progressive loading that allows for weight distribution is compromised and no longer functions.

Aluminum rivets pop due to fatigue - System VII

While copper rivets are strong and don’t normally suffer from work fatigue, they can still break under certain circumstance as shown in photo above. The breakdown in this System II panel was caused by the slide opening being hollowed out with wear because it was unprotected.

With that said, here is a System II panel (above) that was assembled using the incorrect size of rivet.  This extremely small copper rivet was too small for the job and broke.  All of the parts used in assembling a saddle, requires that each part be up to the task of top performance.  NO SHORT CUTS are to be taken

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE POPPED RIVETS?

It is very hard to know if your panel has popped rivets since it is either encased in a plastic zippered encasement or encased within a leather skirt of a saddle.  So you must look carefully.  Some outside signs of this are roaning hair, a saddle that lists to one side or is bottoming out.  Below (left) is a photo of wear to the underside of a saddle where the panel was flexed up and bottomed out on the underside of the saddle's tree.  You can see the wear through the leather and into the tree.  .

Other than popped rivet possibilities:  1. The zipper on the encasement could be hitting the underside of the saddle. 2. A crooked saddle tree. 3. Crooked panel mountings. 4. Panel inserts improperly placed or at incorrect depth. 5. The saddle tree is too straight for a horse’s back that is too “dippy” or sway backed. 6. A horse with one hip higher than the other. (Items 5. and 6. may be correctible with properly fit shims to prevent the panels from flexing too much and hitting or bottoming out on the saddle tree.) 

To know the saddle has a broken rivet look at the encasement (photo below right) to see if there is a bulge or if the rivet has broken through the encasement as shown. For panels that are encased in leather skirts you can use an awl or ice pick to get through the slot and under the leather to see if you can move the Delrin layers around. But, my advice is to call a qualified repair shop so they can inspect your panels and reset them to function properly if necessary.

                                                               
                     The wear to the under side of a saddle tree                                          A popped rivet that came through the encasement.

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) 1) First look at your panel spacing: If you have a System I, II, III, V, VI - 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. If you decide to "fix" your saddle yourself and mess it up, you may void your warranty.  However, if you must do it yourself, here is how you go about it. With that in mind, for all saddles except the System IV, V, VII, IX and X panels, you need a large Phillips screwdriver. For the System IV, V, VII, IX, and X you will need the adjuster tool or an Allen wrench. Find the hole in the panel where the pedestal is located. Starting with the front mounts, carefully turn the screw out 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 locktight. 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 the beveled side must be against the cone part of the saddles 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 System 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 on System II, III, V, VI and VII may be broken. Again, contact your dealer for the nearest service representative.

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  

For conversions or upgrades to the SYSTEM X you must have the dimensions shown below on your saddle.

  
(For English saddles the measurement from the front edge of the bar back needs to be 3 inches)

PLEASE NOTE that the System X development meshed the panels with a specifically designed SADDLE TREE.  As you do not have the SYSTEM X tree, the panels will be functional on your saddle, but perhaps not to the perfection achieved with the System X tree. Many trees are not faired, do not have the rocker needed or the bars are too straight or too thick.  The Saddle TREE will ultimately effect the end performance of the System X panels.  However, these panels ARE far superior to any of the preexisting panels..

 

 

 

 

 Hill View Farms® LLC  CAN NOT guarantee the panels function on any conversion, upgrade or rebuild saddle.

 

 

Here is another example of a saddle tree not correctly made for System IX panels.  The fender strap and the bar of the saddle put excessive pressure on the mule’s back causing a dry spot.  We had to put washer spacers in both the front and back under the insert to move the panel away from the tree so that the panel could move freely.  Now the mule has an even sweat pattern. (We also had to re-set the front insert, to properly space the front mounts as they were improperly set too wide, locking in the mules shoulders.)

Now we have a complete sweat pattern and happy mule owners.

CHECK YOUR SADDLE OVER.  To the left is a photo of shoddy work from another manufacturer.  They use STAPLES, which is common in the industry, but NOT common to use when putting rigging on a saddle.  We have done nearly 100 rebuilds/fixes or conversions so far ( about 35 a year) and about 2/3rds of all the saddles have the rigging put on using WIMPY staples.  How this has not resulted in injury or death amazes me ... or maybe it has.  Regardless look over ALL YOUR tack to make sure it is in good working order.  DO NOT use any tack that is worn, Missing Pieces or broken! 
JUST LOOK how saddles rigging was put on.  - by STAPLES 1/4 inch long - like that is going to hold your saddle on when your ONE THOUSAND Pound horse gets to twisting, turning, bucking stumbling, or what ever....  What a wreck could have ensued.

 

 

The photos below show how panels that are NOT correctly put on can sore a horse’s withers.  Just because you are getting a "flex" panel does not mean that it will fit!  The saddle TREE must be designed for the panel to function properly and then the FLEX PANEL must be put on correctly! In the case below the panels were put on too far forward and set too far apart causing the horses withers to become locked up in the gullet of the saddle.  The horse was also asymmetrical causing one side to become more injured than the other.

 

The photo below shows what can happen when the rear end of the tree is not designed for proper panel function. In fact, bottoming out in the rear is more common than in the center bar section. You can see this by the compression marks on the underside of the saddle tree caused by bottoming out on the top of the panel.  We will need to grind down the tree and also put in spacers. This is another example of a tree that is NOT designed for proper panel function.

this tree was not properly designed for this particular panel to work. 

You will get dry spots, hair rubbing off, etc.  Your horse may not be sore-sore but will eventually have issues. 

How can you know before your horse gets sore what the early signs are?  In the photos right and below are the results of the follow-up on testing the saddle for fit.  The saddle here is a system VII that has bottomed out - it does not have any suspension and thus created hot spots on the horse's coat. 

Take off the pad - in this case take the saddle sox off the saddle. Put the saddle on the horse's back and cinch it down - but not too tightly.  Look at the panel clearance in relation to the tree itself. You should have complete air space of at least 3/8 inch all over between the tree of the saddle and the panel itself. (This allows the panels to have suspension.)  Then have a friend of your weight mount up.  Have them lean forward - then back so that you can slide your hand under the panel in the front rear and center.  Feel for the tight areas. Do this for both sides.  Make a mental note of tight areas. 

Remember there should not be any pressure points, but even pressure all along the panel, as you do have your hand under a weight of 125 pounds or more. Also keep in mind that when your horse has his leg forward or back, this will cause the panel to have more or less pressure as the panels are moving with the horse.  So you must make your comparisons from side to side with the horse's feet lined up the same.  You can also walk with your horse as your hand is under the panel and feel just how it feels as the horse is in motion.

Then have your friend dismount and take off the saddle.  Flip the saddle over and on the panels, see photo below, mark the tight spots with cornstarch.  Set the saddle back on the horse and see if the corn starch spots line up with the ruffled or white hair on your horses back.  IF it does correlate to the areas of concern on your horse's back then you need to look at why and if it can be fixed.  (In the case below - the panels were hitting the tree - causing heat and some hair thinning.) We can do several things to get the saddle's suspension back..  We can shim, we can grind down the tree to allow sufficient panel clearance, we can put rear spacers in to move the panel away from the saddle tree. 

If the cornstarch marks on the saddle do not line up with any areas of concern, check your saddlebags, cinch or anything at all that may have been used in conjunction with the saddle that could have caused the white hair or galling.  Also check your saddle pad for unusual wear or debris as this too can cause skin irritations.

 

 

 

Below is another example of what to look out for..  11/08

TRICIA WITTENBRAKER from Welch, MN came to see us to purchase a saddle.  She brought two other saddles for us to look at.  She had sent the saddle pictured below to a repair shop to have it safety checked.  The saddle was fine, however the owners of the shop told her, the rigging needed to be changed. (Oftentimes, to make money, repair shops will do unnecessary repairs – as in this case).  Tricia did not have an issue with her old rigging and DID NOT want this done but trusted the repair shop’s judgment that she needed this cross fire rigging.  (BY THE WAY, this is NOT a proper cross fire / center rigging as it is done completely WRONG). 

 This (photo below) is NOT the way to attach rigging. This not only destabilized the saddle but also put Tricia at great risk as you will see below.

Rigging needs to hold down the back of the saddle. Putting rigging on this way caused this saddle to flip up, bounce and catapult Trisha forward.  The saddle also flopped from side to side and made her feel as if she was going to fall off.  Also, rigging should not be attached where the fender is hung and wood screws instead of metal screws should be used in a wood tree. Photo below shows how the bulk from the screws and rigging caused Trisha’s leg pain when riding.

More errors in the repair job on this saddle below:
(One set was from each side of the saddle)

When using nylon:  ALL ENDS NEED to be cauterized or MELTED SHUT.  This will prevent the nylon from fraying. Also when putting nylon on the Dee's, it should be SEWN on. You can see in the photo with the pink arrow where the nylon not only wasn’t sewn on, but was only attached with one screw on one side (the other screw missed the nylon). The photo with the red arrow shows where the frayed nylon was all that was holding the rigging since the screws didn’t even go through the backside of the thin leather strap. The nylon again had no screw holding it on one side and the other side was THREADS away from ripping completely loose.  CAN YOU IMAGINE what would have happen if those threads had given way while Trisha was riding?

This type of work is what gives Panel saddles and repair shops in general a bad name.

Another rigging issue.  Look at where the saddle repair shop put this rigging!  AGAIN in the center of the seat.  Causing the saddle to tip up in the rear.  For rigging to work correctly it must be attached at both the front of the saddle and at the rear of the seat/bars.

Very POOR placement       Proper Placement

Sometimes saddle makers/builders/trainers/clinicians and saddle pad sales persons say that these panel saddles put you too high off of the horse.  Not true. 
Below is an example of what happened in one such instance. The customer was talked into converting a system I panel saddle into a conventional saddle –as she would be able to feel her horse more. After the panels were removed and flocking put on it was the complete opposite, as she told me that she "felt like she was riding on an elephant" as she was so high up and in fact made the saddle *far worse than it was before,* as now she could not ride in it at all.

We removed the flocking and measured it.  It is nearly 3 inches thick. 
 
We measured our panels and added the spacing allowance for the tip of the insert that will go into the saddle tree.  Measures out at 1.25 inches. 

Below is Barbs saddle complete with the new close contact System X panels. No more Elephant riding for her

Keep an open mind and don't believe everything someone tells you.  Check it out for yourself.

Another one:   We got this tree in that the customer said was cracked.  Well that is odd we thought.   Then we started to grind down through a SINGLE LAYER of fiber glass to uncover the problem. This takes German technology to a whole new level - Why make a 17 inch tree when you can cut a 16 in half and add a wood spacer thinking that a single layer of glass would hold.  You see all kinds of funky stuff that people do that they think they can sneak by with....  Maybe if these folks and others really rode they would know a whole lot more!!


As we did not make the saddle tree or do the sewing on the example above, we cannot be responsible for the work of others. When we work on saddles, we fix them as we fix our own and each saddle is inspected and signed off on twice to insure that a mistake was not made on our end.

Below is how a seat is re-built:  This can easily take up to two weeks.

All leather is removed and seat worked up.  Next we have a bare tree.  A base seat is patterned, cut and shaped.  Next two foam layers are cut and sculpted as to the riders preferences.  This is followed by a layer of neoprene to smooth out and blend the foam layers.  The neoprene is covered by garment leather and sewed.  The new seat is sewn to the seat jockey and fitted back in place as per the original saddle.  saddle is conditioned and lustered and ready to ship.  The cost of this is $350.00. (with no blocking involved)

 

 

A disappointing purchase. One can only imagine the despair after spending over $3,000.00 for a saddle and using it lightly only to have the billets fray apart.  What gets me is that the company has a total disregard for the consumer and their ability to change/replace the billets themselves.  It is also very disappointing when the customer orders a more advanced system, the Mock 8 - short panels, only find the lack of product (delrin) substituted for foams which do not distribute rider weight and also cause the distance from the saddle to the horses back to be nearly 2.5 inches (with out the pad).  The system of the Mock 8 functions as a Mock One (system one) - with absolutory no ability to flex down into a horses back -making the rider use center shims in order to allow proper weight distribution.  As for the front of the saddle,  the edge of the "short" panels has the same weight distribution as if it were a rigid tree - as no improvement with this modification has been achieved over a rigid tree.  So if you are having issues.  Here is what we have done to assist this customer with her saddle fit. 


Billets are made with paten leather on the back side, cheep nylon which is not heat sealed and frayed with a low quality leather on the top side.  The rigging is then glued, riveted and sewn in between the layers of leather, making it impossible for any lay person to change out billets. (if you look closely you will see that rivet hold just caught the leather billets - good thing it was glued and sewed)  The company shows total disregard to making it's product user friendly.  We installed the quick change billets, made with top grain leather, true nylon, booth leather on the back side.  All glued, heat sealed and sewn, with lock tighten Chicago screws.


On the rear of the panel you can see that there not enough delrin for proper weight distribution.  The company used three layers of neoprene/foams to make up for the lack of using Delrin (which is very expensive). In my opinion when trying to cutting corners, this is a poor excuse in order to make money.  The panels are also put on with a screw, which can actually fall out if where to ever get loose, as the hole in the neoprene will allow for the screw to then cause a pressure point on the horses back.  The way the panel is designed, also does not allow any flexing in the middle,  as you can see with my hand pushing up in the center.  The only place the panel flexes is on the ends, which neither end will distribute weight.  Therefore you must rely on the saddle tree itself for this task, and then use shims for those horses who need them.  The customer then ordered center shims and a saddle sox in order to allow this saddle to function correctly.  This saddle now with the replacement of the billets meets factory standards.  It is unfortunate that a customer had to pay 3 times the real or true value for this saddle.  Paying for endorsements and advertising is what the rest of her money went to. 

The next situation is a perfect example of how WE CAN NOT help a customer with her problem... 

After a long and several telephone conversations with the customer and reviewing the issues, we suggest that she send the saddle in for an inspection - to see if we could help and if possible put our panels on.
The saddle arrived, we looked at her saddle.  We started with the saddle bars.  They have too much rocker which is causing the panel to bow out - soring the horse.  So regardless what type of panel is put on - it will still bottom out as the saddle tree has much rocker and this will continue to put pressure on either side of the horses spine.  The bars are also thick and bulbous.  The bars slope up in the rear and one would think the panel could follow this curvature, but this is a system one saddle, there is no slot in the rear to allow the panel to move away from the tree.  The panel is held in place with a large wood screw.  So the large gap in the rear is just that (as seen in the photo that has the makers plate on the cantle).  The saddle's bars serve no function to allow the panel to flex.

The last photo- in the group of six, shows the hanger bracket on the near side, which is bent - (you can see by comparing it to the first photo of the hanger bracket on the off side).  This twist, she was told "is how it is suppose to be" and "nothing is wrong with the saddle".  As she had sent the saddle back to the manufacture, as it bothered her leg and sored her horse.  The entire shipping expense was her responsibility as "nothing was wrong with the saddle" and in order to fix her horses sore back she needed to "buy a special saddle pad".  So with the shipping costs, she spent another $220.00 for the special pad, (which did not help correct the problem of her horses sore back).  We noticed with this bar being bent, is how one end pokes up which bothers the riders leg from the top side, and on the bottom side - it pokes down and actually pushes the panel away from the saddle tree - creating even MORE rocker.  Notice the gap between the panel and the tree to the left of the hanger bar, then moving to the right of the hanger bar, how it closes that gap.  So not only do you have bottoming out - from both sides of the saddle bars, but additional pressure from the hanger bar as well.  Then add the rider weight and YIKES!

   

As for the riders comfort.... you can see the bulge - circled in yellow below - that is created from the rear of the saddle seat, as the manufacturer did not take the time to skive down the thick edges of the leather for a smooth finish.  You can also see the bulge from the crooked hanger bar - as we have this poorly engineered saddle next to a similar saddle model (An Evolutionary Western Endurance) to show how smooth edges will be a comfort for the rider.

So what about the rigging?  The customers saddle has fixed rigging.  Yes we can put our English billets on the existing ring, but just changing this will not help with galling or other issues, as the rigging is fixed.  We would have to put on our fully adjustable rigging.

Below is the Evolutionary Western Endurance Saddle.  You can see how there is a space between the saddles bar, allowing the panel to go straight and even bend up slightly when the horse rounds his back.  This tree design allow for the panels to move freely in the middle, front and back, conforming to the moving horses body as he changes throughout his life.  We could put our panels on a poorly engineered tree, but that will not fix Dianna's saddle problem. We want comfort for the horse rather than money in our pockets - so we will not take Dianna's money when changing the panel will not correct the problem .  Dianna has nearly $2,000.00 in a saddle that can not be fixed for her horse.  We returned her saddle with no repairs done, because, "why bother with fixing the hanger bar and rigging when the main issue - the bars- can not be fixed?".  She will be selling the saddle... it should work on a narrow sway back horse and the new owner can decide weather or not to change the rigging - if needed, and decide if they can live with the lumps, - as many saddles have this type of construction as it is almost considered standard,  to "live with the pain" attitude of manufacturers when making their saddles.

Remember the System X panels are only as good as the tree they are put on.  I only can hope other manufactures can learn from us and improve their product for the good of the horse.

Be Cautious:  This work below was done by a company who poo poo's panel saddles (as they had lost control of their company) and now is trying to make a go of it by slamming other companies with his brand of scare tactics. These photos were sent to us so we would be able to inform customers what to be leery of.  This saddle is an original Ortho-flex.  The tree that is made for that panel system - must have a panel in order for the saddle to fit the horses back - or in this case a mule, correctly.  The customer was talked into sending her saddle in and having the panels removed for another type of panel.  This was done, along with changing out the rigging.  The rigging that was put on was ruff cut, not nylon reinforced and STAPLED on.  The old panels with inserts removed - (and the holes not even plugged shut), and the so called panels put on.  These panels were made of leather and foam with synthetic fleece.  This glued together mess was then STAPLED to the bars of the tree.  So poorly put on, the repair shop was able to rip it off by hand!  The customer paid $500.00 for a bad repair job and for a saddle that now sat on the spine of her mule -soring him!  She had to send the saddle in again for repair, but this time she selected a reputable repair shop who put on the proper panels, at a cost of $600.00.  Everything works now.  Be Cautious.

 

 Another one:  I received these photo's (below) from another builder wondering if WE could help this customer.  After looking at them and then picking my jaw up from my lap, I said "the saddle would have to be built completely over - starting with a bare tree".  I have had these photo's for a month before posting them as I could not bring myself to share this ladies travesty.  However, after a long deliberation and cool down period ... I realize that I MUST post these photo's;  if not to educate the builder, but to make the customer a better consumer.   The following series of photo's are from a renowned name in the panel saddle industry and charges a premium price for this honor.  This customer has OVER $5,000.00 with shipping in this saddle. 

This company does not offer a money back customer satisfaction guarantee. Also getting a warrantee claim is ZERO as this saddle is considered NEW and nothing is wrong
As a customer, seamstress, builder, sales person and business woman.... this is deplorable.  Period.  Remember this saddle is NEW.  And what you see is JUST the OUT SIDE of the saddle - what you can see...  One can only guess how the panels are assembled - inside and how they were put on... and who knows what the horse feels.... is anyone's guess.

The seat.  1) There are needle scratch marks on the seat leather where the needle did not clear the material and snagged up the leather. 2) The seat edges are coming loose.  3) A as well as a glitch in the sewing where the seat did not catch with the seat jockey - thus making shorter stitch lengths.  4) The sculpting of the seat is not balance from side to side.

The Cantle:  The back of the cantle is not cut evenly and is sloppily glued to the underside.

 

The edges of Cheyenne roll are jammed in  -as to tuck away the extra material, as the cantle was not cut correctly.  This is gapping and is already pulling out. The top of the Cheyenne roll is cut and shaped uneven and viewing from the under side will pull out and be a loose flap of leather in a VERY short time.

The back of the cantle is secured not by stitching but by screws.  These screws are at least an inch long and are high on the cantle.  Having these placed so high means that if you push on the seat from the seat side you can FEEL the screw tips.  What there were thinking??? They are neither a craftsman nor a rider.

The stirrups:  They did not use the special stirrup foot and foot plate (~ $130.00) on their sewing machine.  Thus, the horrid stitching, stitch length and skipped stitches.  Both stirrups are done this way.

The base seat.  The base of the seat should sit uniformly and match the saddle strainer.  This is not the case.  There was no wet molding of the seat.  There should be no gap between the seat and saddle tree.  Having this gap will cause the seat to squeak when ridden and also will pucker up and become warped over time.

IS THIS SADDLE WORTH....... $5,000.00 dollars?  

On 12/16/11,  The base price for these saddles is $4,500.00. 

Where dose the customers money go???

The customers money pays for slick ad's and for trainer/celebrity/clinicians endorsements.  The customers money is NOT spent on improving their product or hiring skilled builders.  Once the customer signs the contract and sends in the money, it is over. 
Paying this high price - with a NO money back provision is, of course, the customers - not so wise - decision. 

Do your homework folks.  Invest wisely.

A conversion that cannot be done on:  This company was once known for it's high quality work, but now they are cutting corners and charging more for less.  This saddle sold for $2400.00.  Which in reality should be valued at $500.00. When this company did things right, we were able to help customers with repairs and perform conversions, but now the saddle tree is so cheep and fragile, this saddle is considered a throw-a-way and with any drilling, the tree would crack or break.  Yes it is a light weight saddle, but look at what you are getting for that lighter weight.  The year is 1012.

The saddle came in (LEFT photo's ) was not fitting the horse and needed panels so the customer could take this saddle from a narrow to a broad horse.  We took the skirts off.  Two screws and three top stapes to hold the codura backed with synthetic fleece on to the saddle bars

With the 3/8ths thick codura/fleece cover pulled back you can see the saddle tree. (shown RIGHT)  The rigging is nylon - very good, however it is screwed into the THIN, - lightweight - low grade - wood saddle tree that has no epoxy or any fiber glass.  What good is this nice rigging if it pulls out of the saddle tree?  The fenders are also codura and have a nylon core that is up around the bars of the saddle tree.  That is good.

Left of this print;  is my finger tapping on an air bubble.  This tree or type of trees are from country's such as Pakistan or from bulk mills that use any porous lightweight wood.  The tree is then wrapped in wet rawhide - hand sewn shut and allowed to dry- shrink forming to the tree - as best it can... but if the trees are wet they continue to shrink and warp.  The tree makers had to use staples to hold down the loose rawhide.  The tree,  inside is not sealed, no epoxy or any resins have been used nor any fiberglass to seal the saddle tree or give it strength.  I have personally seen these trees delivered in bulk and dumped in a pile on the floor for workers to pick through and build on.  These trees sell for $35.00 dollars. (You can get a better deal if you buy in bulk).

To add to this disappointment, the saddle tree,  at it's thickest point is only 1/2 inch thick - which is by the fork.  This saddle has a saddle horn.  IT SHOULD NOT.  As any type of pulling from a horse or calf would rip the fork right off of the saddle bars. ( I have seen this before)  Because of this inferior tree no conversion can be done on this saddle and any attempt to do so would cause the degradation of the already crappy tree.  We put the saddle back together.  We also noted that other critical parts such as the crupper and breast Dee's were screwed into this weak tree.  The only selling point of this saddle, is that it is light weight.  Codura fenders, skirts and rear jockeys with rear billets, rigging, off billet and latigo of nylon, combined with a $35.00 tree with the fork cover, seat, seat jockey and cantle of leather, make for a lightweight - limited use $2400.00 dollar saddle. 

   

PANEL SPACING IS CRITICAL TO SADDLE FUNCTION
Below a customer sent in her saddle as it was making white hairs and hot spots just above the shoulder just down from the withers.  Saddle was ok when horse was young, but horse aged and has withers.  The panels also make a lot of cracking sounds.  The saddles panels were sent 2 inches too wide and also attached asymmetrically.  That is the tree was not straight and the company centered the panels based on the crooked tree,  thus the roaning of hair more on one side than the other.   With the panels set so wide the saddle set too low in the front allowing for the saddle to lock in the shoulders and the panels then prevented free shoulder movement.  this cause excessive pressure and also the panels snapping and popping when the horse moved.  You can see by the photos' that the tree is not symmetrical,  (the breast dee's are).  We used our template to check for square and re-positioned the panels correctly.  One must be aware, that just because you have a panel saddle... they are all NOT created equally.  One can not just slap a panel on a saddle tree and call it good.


Template. shows too wide of spacing and crooked placement.  second photo shows mounts removed and holes plugged with lines showing tree crookedness.  Last shows mounts drilled into correct position.

What is INSIDE your saddles panels??
Every spring we get inundated with repairs, upgrades and conversions.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the manufactures have improved their product.  So unless you take your panel apart you have NO CLUE what is hiding underneath.

This company use a SHARP rigid plastic to keep the bolt from poking and popping out this. Unfortunately this rigid hard plastic shatters and makes razor sharp points.  Points that can make ones fingers bleed.  I cut my finger on this one.  they get bent and crack and can poke through the saddles fleece skirt or encasement and can make an uncomfortable bump, which may lead to problems. This company used a softer plastic.  But this too fails.  As it just crumbles apart, leaving a huge hole.  This hole is the size of a quarter.  We removed this to put in a suitable replacement and noticed that the plastic that they had used was a cutout from the lid of The blue bunny ice cream, as it had the label on it. Nice thought but many companies now use disposable plastics that break down and deteriorate.
Another issue is foam/neoprene coverage of the delrin panel itself.  Two of the companies used a NON-Shrinking type foam.  This is good.  This is very important in so that the hard - rigid edges of the Delrin panel (which is a glass like material) will not cut into the horse's back.  Unfortunately one company did not, and this is a REAL problem.  If you do not have a thick pad - one inch at least you may have some serious issues.

The LAST STRAW
So you have yourself an expensive saddle - one with the fingered front ends for a soft fit in the shoulder and one that allows the shoulder to rotate FREELY back.  RIGHT?
Wrong.  These companies, now 5 of them... glue down their various layers of foam and neoprene,  Voiding out much - if not all of the benefits that you should be receiving from the fingered panels.  
Some of the foam layers are so stiff  and thick, that it makes the panel the same as a system two design.  So what did one of these companies do?  THEY JUST CUT OFF the front edge of the fingers,  which then made a hard edge.  So now this saddle is just like a traditional rigid English or western tree,  but is actually worse, because the delrin in the natural state is straight,  so this digs in, and the horses shoulder rotates back into this hard stiff edge!  At least a western rigid tree has flair and is in fact better!

Our panel is shown center below, as has a double layer of two types of foam. The backer layer (next to the delrin) is to keep bolt head from ever being felt, even by human fingers hunting for it.  The outer layer is non-shrinking, cracking foam that is beveled along with the delrin to the panels edge, avoiding any issues.  All these layers are fingered to allow comfort and free flowing shoulder movement.  The actual mounting point itself is enclosed in a non-deteriorating slot and is located 5 inches back from the front of the panels edge.   So when the saddle is on the horse in a balanced state, it is located about at the  T6, 7, or 8 vertebra depending upon the horses wither and length of back. (thoracic vertebra count, starting from the last cervical - neck).  This is further back than any saddle including rigid tree saddles.

THE EVOLUTIONARY BACKER LAYERS

The slit in the backer layer is how the panel is put on to the EVOLUTIONARY saddle.  The under side that is against the DELRIN, is of two layers making sure that the hardware is counter sunk so no way can any hardware hit the horses back or come though.

This is the Evolutionary Saddles backer foam layer system.

TWO layers of NON-shrinking backer layers to insure a life time of trouble free panel use.

REMEMBER:  NOT all panels are created equal, NOT all saddles are the same.  USE common sense and ask yourself... just how do other companies make and assemble their saddles?

As of 2012 Not one company has yet changed the way they are making their saddles and none of the above issues have been corrected.  Trust me they all are aware of them, but CHOOSE to look the other way.

THIS is WHY we reinforce our leathers with NYLON!  Look how regular stirrups leathers stretch.  They become thinner and thinner in both length and thickness.  NOT SAFE!

  

YES.... WE can re-use your favorite tack and re-work it... But do you really think that saving that $10.00 dollars is worth it?
Below is a series of photos that I took showing how beautiful we can get your old stuff to look.... But the question is... do you really want to use your old stuff?  Saving a few dollars may not be wise in the long term.


Wood Stirrup cores that customer stripped with leather off of so that we could re-cover.  This is plain wood that can and does warp.  They are subject to crack and break. They are reinforced with a tin banding that is thin and rusting.  This stirrup is compared to the same style and size of a nylon core stirrup.  The type we use.

The top bars from the pair of stirrups sent in. Notice that they are DIFFERENT lengths. 

You can see here that the one top bar is actually square!  these were covered up with the leather tab that is often seen on stirrup top bars.  I had to cut - saw off the wood top bar so that they were the same size.
Here is the wood stirrup covered, I still have to trim, edge, burnish, edge die and wax. It is next to one of the cores we use.

Now the top bar.  They are the same length.  I made the leather tabs so that I can hang the stirrups to dry after edge painting and conditioning the leather. See next photo.


Here are both stirrups covered.  The one is complete, while the other has been trimmed and edged.  It still needs burnishing, edge painting, waxing, conditioning and stirrup pad put in.

Again the old stirrup with our new nylon core laid on top.  The customer was concerned that there was no stirrup available, that would match her old ones.  The cost of her wood cores is valued  retail- at $10.00, so I gave her that deduction on the price of this recovering.

What is nice about the nylon core is that they are impervious to weather. I have never seen a pair break.  They do not crush and lock a foot in.  They are strong and they have a molded recess so that the bolt and nut can be hidden under the leather for a smooth finish.

The bold head can be left either exposed or covered over with leather.


Finished.  Beautiful, but notice how the stirrup on the right is WARPED!  That is a wood stirrup for you.  Also the nut is exposed.  So in the effort of saving ten dollars was this worth it? 
You never know what is underneath the coverings on your tack unless the company shares this information with you.  We do.  And please - Just ask companies if a certain style is still made,  chances are it is.

ON EITHER side:  Is a saddle that came in:  The customer WAITED too long before sending her saddle in for repair.  If this customer would not have allowed her panels to become destroyed to this level, the repair cost would have been ONE third.  In order to avoid this, do a safety check every year.

 

This saddle is a saddle made by Barry Swain of England.  The saddles made by him had various manufactures panels put on them, and may have the letters UK in the serial number.  With this saddle the mounts or inserts themselves are different and have to be  especially made for each saddle.  Thus we had to change both the front and rear mounts to the same height of the old ones, and weld a mounting plate to the bottom of each insert.  System X panels will work with SYSTEM X mounts.  So this special welding must be done.   See the photos below/sides.

 

side by side, old and new.

As a result of the added expense of this repair,  the customer did not want the encasements.  Using The System X panels without encasements will inevitably cause the demise of the panel, due to hair and dirt getting into the layers as well as destroying the backer layers.  But the customer is hoping for several years use before this happens.  Is this a case of cutting of your nose despite your face?  This is NOT advised and the customer was told so.  But you know the saying,...  "the customer is always right" and if they want to spend good money to just wreck it - then so be it.  Sad.

Saddle repair complete as per customers specifications.

ANOTHER FUBAR Saddle this time is one we have never seen before.  We are realizing that companies use the retail market to test what works and does not..... (I think many big companies do this too,... like the car companies)  SHAME on them all.  BELOW you will see a complete mystery.  Customer what having terrible spots on loins and shoulders.  He said there were BUMPS like orange size under the saddles skirts fleece.

Took panel off and bottoming out all over in rear see marks on both top of skirt and bottom side of bars.

We then opened up the skirt to look under the fleece.  We then had to open up the neoprene layers to discover a CD disk sandwiched inside!  What the heck??  The rivist were broken... (what is new there?)  but that lump locked down on the mount which then could not slide as you can see by the imprint left on the underside of the neopreen.  This saddle was a total fail!  If you have an issue with your saddle... PLEASE CALL US... DO NOT SUFFER. 

 

NEXT:  A typical worn out system 2 saddle from the original Ortho-Flex.  Mounts worn so bad that one side ate through TWO layers of delrin and the fleece on the saddle sox.  Can you imagine the HORSE!  No wonder he did not tolerate saddling.  With worn mounts, you will also have bottoming out as shown in the last photo, with huge dents in the saddles tree. 

WHAT HAPPENED TO PUTTING RIDERS SAFETY FIRST!
Below is Reactor panel saddle company- 
Billets are not sewn, no nylon used, and they used back side of SPLIT leather! Weak and worthless!  They also use STAPLES to hold saddle together.  WHAT IS YOUR SAFETY WORTH?

Below is Saddle works panel saddle company- they do not use delrin, they used cheep soft plastic and use a screw that is NOT counter sunk and bites into horses back!

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE WORTH!

 

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.

Can I do repairs myself?  Yes, but if the saddle is under warranty this is not recommended as it may void the warranty. However, if you have a saddle that is out of warranty and you would like to attempt to upgrade your  system you can order the panels including hardware and do it your self. (Order Form).  Call - do not email, for details.  No Returns accepted on panels and make note that the panels will only perform as well as the tree that they are mounted on.

WORDS OF ADVICE:----- Original Message ----- From: Hill View Farms To: Annette Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 6:30 AM Subject: Re: your catalog 

Hi Annette,  Yes I know about saddle height... I sell many cutbacks to those riders who have hip issues. 

As for saddles and good deals..  Our RAW cost on the saddle tree is 250.00,  our raw labor is 700.00, the leather is 550.00.  The panels with hardware is 650.00. this does not include foams, neoprene, pads, saddle hardware or any profit to the manufacturer or retailer. So as you can see our saddle prices are LOW.  If you can find anything for 1600.00 you are doing great.  I know that there may be saddles out there that do not use good leather, or none at all - which cuts that cost down by 70%.  Most saddles do not have much hardware on them or if they do it is not stainless - so there is virtually no cost there. Also if saddles are made with illegal workers or out of country you can cut that cost down by 80%.    You can also get plastic trees and that will be 50% less from the wood/fiberglass/epoxy trees or no tree at all and so no cost there,  and lastly the panels - you can get delrin, one layer and hand cut if for 100.00.  So when looking for saddles, new or used really check them out as there is more to the picture than price - but I think you already know that.  :-) 

Now with all that said, there are some good deals, from sellers not knowing the above or dumping for other reasons.  Just be careful and make sure you can get some type of a return policy if you get a saddle from any retailer.  Also this is the best time of year to be looking for a saddle.  Check my trading post site or on ebay. 

Have a great holiday season and let me know how I can help further. 

Sincerely, ~Cathy Sheets Tauer - President
"Helping one customer at a time" Add this link to your favorites: www.hillviewfarms.com
For a free catalog of "Proven Products for Horse and Rider" or to place an order:  Fax, email or call in your address:  507-723-5937 or toll free 866-723-5937 Cell 507-276-8571. Full retail store including Brenderup horse trailers, saddle & tack repair, warehousing, distributor of ToeStoppers and manufacturer of Evolutionary Saddles.  Hill View Farms, 1535 West Central St. Springfield, MN  56087
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 ----- Original Message -----   From: Annette To: Hill View Farms   Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 7:39 PM Subject: Re: your catalog 

Hi Cathy,  Am having second thoughts about keeping the saddle as I really think that I need an endurance type saddle without such a high pommel and horn. I injured my right hip a year ago and have trouble getting my leg up and over the saddle. My Fallis had no horn and was very low and so I could manage that. I am finding that this new saddle is just so high up off the horse, plus the added height of the horn is causing me major difficulty getting on, not so much dismounting. I am sick about this as the saddle fits the horse and is so very comfortable once I am mounted. I was going to contact you and see if you had any leads on an endurance style flex saddle that I could possible trade this one in on? If not I will probably just sell this saddle or trade it locally where I can try different saddles for fit on my horse and comfort for me. I actually thought about the horn and height on this saddle before I bought it but was just so excited to be able to own a flex saddle (and it does fit my horse so well) that I just ignored the warning voice in my head and felt that I would be able to adjust to it. Not so, in fact I almost fell off the off side while mounting the last time I rode as my hip froze up on me and that scared me to death. I haven't ridden since and this is just not a good situation.  

 If you know of any english or endurance style flex tree available I would appreciate knowing about it. I am retired and on a limited income so will have to keep that under consideration. I paid $850.00 for this saddle with girth and breast collar and would like to keep any trade or purchase under $1000.00 if possible.  

I will keep the address below in case I decide to send the saddle in for a check up.

Thanks very much Cathy.  Sincerely, Annette
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----- Original Message ----- From: "Hill View Farms" <Hillview@newulmtel.net>To: Annette Sent: Thursday, December 2, 2010 6:21:46 AM Subject: Re: your catalog
 Hi annette. Say send your saddle into the address below.  This is a good time for us to start checking and fixing saddles as the SNOW is thick here and no riding....:-(

 :-) thanks -Sincerely,  ~Cathy Sheets Tauer - President "Helping one customer at a time" Add this link to your favorites: www.hillviewfarms.com
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 ----- Original Message -----  From: Annette To: hillview@springfield-sanborn.net ; hillview@springfield-sanborn.net Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 8:03 AM Subject: your catalog

 Good Morning,  I have just purchased a used American Flex saddle from a client of my farrier and am absolutely loving it. I have a growing five year old TWH and my beloved Fallis Balanced Ride saddle was pinching him and leaving dry spots. I tried about 7 different saddles on him with no success and was pretty discouraged. My farrier brought the American Flex by for me to try and both my horse and I are delighted.

 I had a copy of your 2008 catalog (I had been dreaming of owning one of your saddles but as a retired person did not feel that I could afford one) and loaned it to my farrier who will not return it to me as she now wants one of your saddles for her Fresian and needs the catalog for her own dreams. Would you please sent me a new copy of your catalog for my own use?  

Also I would like to know if you would allow me to send this saddle to you, when the snow flies, for you to inspect for any needed repairs? I am the third owner, the saddle looks like it has been very well cared for but the lady I bought it from is very heavy and there is a click on the left when I am riding.

Thank you so much for your help. Annette Huddle

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN SADDLES AND PANEL SADDLES - PURCHASE THE ALL ABOUT SADDLING VIDEO:  TWO HOURS OF INFORMATION THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT SADDLES AND HORSES ALIKE.   Item # BK-DVD - Price $ 19.95

Repair centers.  
If you have a saddle that does not pass the safety check, PLEASE do not try to repair the saddle yourself, but contact:
 

(Remember to check all work when your saddle comes back as mistakes can be made) 

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