Although I have in the past discussed tree points in detail especially in regard to tree point angle and tree point width, I want today to address really one additional key issue with tree points – and that is direction.
Tree points can be forward-facing, straight (more or less perpendicular to the ground) or rear-facing. Forward facing tree points have been proven to be extremely detrimental to horse health in that MRIs and fibre optic cameras have shown the chipping of cartilage that can occur on the scapular bone. Every single extension of the foreleg (during trot, gallop – both at a time when jumping!) will cause contact with these tree points – and can cause eventual damage at the skeletal level. This, to the point that in some countries, the manufacture of saddles using these old traditional trees with the forward facing tree points has been banned.
Straight or perpendicular tree points are somewhat better, but will still cause contact at the scapula, especially during extended movement of the leg or during jumping – not so much at only the walk. Best of course is the tree with the rear-facing tree points, which mimics the scapular angle and allows maximum freedom of movement at the shoulder – which will be upwards and backwards.
You can demonstrate this yourself by lifting the foreleg and doing a ‘pedalling’ motion to see just how far the shoulder blade will rotate. This motion can cause 4-8” of rotation – which is difficult for the horse to do comfortably if every time it moves it hits an immobile, hard edged object. An analogy might be that every time you walk and lift your knees you bang them against a wooden board (like when you accidentally bump yourself when getting up from the table) – doesn’t really bother you too much at first, but the results will be cumulative and eventually probably completely wreck your knees.
The following video will demonstrate the above principles.
My point? Check your points! See what angle they are in the saddle you ride in and make the necessary accommodation to ensure your horse’s shoulders have room to move without hitting the tree points with every step – sometimes this means you might have to sit the saddle a bit further back (which admittedly can cause a whole whack of other problems...) but just be aware of the possible implications of this.
Jochen Schleese, CSFT, CMS, CEE
http://www.saddlesforwomen.com ~ http://www.saddlefit4life.com