Occasionally people will be fortunate enough to find a good used Schleese saddle on ebay or second hand or hand-me-downs from somewhere else – but the reality of it is that sometimes despite being fitted as closely as possible they may not actually be the best choice for both a specific horse and rider. Over the years we have changed our designs as our knowledge of equine anatomy and biomechanic requirements increases, so that older models may not be as ‘horse-friendly’ as the newer saddles that are built today using evidence based scientific research. This answers another question we often hear – ‘why are there so many Schleese saddles available online?’ – because people like to continually upgrade to ride in the newest model!) But I digress...
Recently we had a client who managed to find an older model (about 15 years old) with FLAIR panels and had one of our Saddle Fit Technicians out to work with her and her horse to get it fitted. The horse showed inherent asymmetry and, unfortunately, despite best intentions, the results were less than 100% - for many reasons. As a result, the horse demonstrated a couple of bumps with fluid accumulation (‘blisters’ if you will) and dry spots – which the client attributed to bridging (in fact they were old injuries caused by her treeless saddle). While the saddle was fitted in both the tree and the FLAIR to accommodate for any asymmetry in shoulders and loins, there was still be some shift side to side with the way the horse carried his body, resulting in these irritations.
Dry spots are not an indication of bridging but in fact the exact opposite (for further reference please read the article on my website under www.schleese.com/saddlepads). With the FLAIR system dry spots are quite common under the stirrup bar area, behind the shoulder of the horse. Because a FLAIR saddle fits so closely to the shape of the horse and that is where the weight of the rider is carried and also where the billets attach there is not a lot of movement and therefore not as much air flow and so the horse doesn't sweat there. We see it quite often with FLAIR and is nothing to be alarmed about. A FLAIR saddle is actually quite incapable of bridging because when the girth is fastened the FLAIR panel moulds to the back of the horse
Usually a little swelling like that is caused by a lesion or small fissure in the tissue under the skin and can either be solved by time off to let it heal or using an extra (as in two) thin pads under the saddle to absorb the friction of the saddle. The lesion in the skin could take 3-4 months healing with no riding, or 7-8 month if you ride with 2 thin pads. Close to 90% of horses with high withers that have been ridden with a saddle pad not having enough wither clearance, or have been ridden with treeless saddles show this damage to the skin and as well as a disalignment in the withers. (Sometimes people forget to consider how much possible damage to both human and equine spines can be done by treeless saddles – trees are built in for a reason!) And - if you put rubbing/chafing pressure on your heel you will get a blister - how long does this take to heal if you don’t remove the irritant?
Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE