Archive for October, 2013

Twist width and saddle comfort.

There is a great deal of discussion about twist width and a lot of mis-information. Here are the facts:

  • Twist width refers to the narrowest part of the saddle tree. The British call it the “waist” which is actually a lot more accurate.  Here is a picture of a saddle tree which clearly shows the “twist”.
  • Once the saddle is made, you cannot see the twist. And it is almost impossible to measure. The shape of the leather on the seat DOES NOT indicate anything about twist width. The shape of the leather is purely a matter of style and not at all indicative of twist width.
  • Generally, riders with narrower hip/pelvic structure find a saddle with a narrower twist more comfortable. And, riders with wider hip/pelvic structure find a wider twist more comfortable. But other factors enter into whether a saddle is comfortable for a rider.
  • How do you know what kind of hip/pelvic structure you have? Jump up and down a few times. Then look at your feet. Are they more than 8″ apart? If so, you will likely prefer a medium or wide twist. If closer, a narrow twist may be correct.  This formula is a generality. If there are any abnormalities of your knee or ankle, the results may be skewed. But if your joints are normal and your thighs are not overly heavy, this gives you a good starting point.
  • Heavy thighs might force you into a narrower twist than if your thighs were thin. Think about it. Your hip joints evolved for walking. They have tremendous range of motion front to back, but only limited range side to side. Your hip joints can only spread just so far. When you are riding, not only the twist of the saddle and horse need to be accommodated by your hip joints, but also your flesh.  If you cannot reduce the size of your horse or your body, the only thing remaining is to change the twist width of the saddle.

Seat width and saddle comfort.

Like twist width, seat width determines comfort of a saddle. And what is comfortable is determined by pelvic/hip structure of the rider. If seat width is too wide, it will prevent the rider’s legs from dropping naturally down and around the horse’s sides.

When we sit on a saddle in the showroom of a tack shop, we are sitting on a molded and un-moving “saddle buck” which feels nothing like a real horse.  And many of us don’t know what we’re feeling. Riding on your own horse allows you to really feel a saddle. Try this test with the help of a knowledgeable observer.

  • Tack up and ride for 5-10 minutes to warm up. Ask for the rising trot.
  • If you are riding correctly, you will have ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment.
  • Sit the trot. Ask your observer to watch your alignment. Do your legs move forward into a “chair seat” position after a few beats? If they do, then the seat of your saddle’s seat is too wide. It gets in the way of your leg and if you’re trying to ride correctly, you should try a different saddle with a narrower seat.