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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Asymmetrical tree point adjustments on dressage saddles

Asymmetrical tree point adjustments on dressage saddles
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SheaS
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 Posted: Tue Mar 28th, 2017 01:44 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,

I used to have a barn out in Santa Cruz area where I did mostly rehab-type training and craniosacral. When I moved to TX I began saddle fitting (and craniosacral) and this has been my main focus for about 5 years. I have a question for you. In the past year or so I have been coming across dressage saddles that have been set up with asymmetrical tree points and panels intentionally to fit asymmetrical backs. So one tree point is bent in on the horse's hollowed out side. When I have posed this question to the people who believe this is okay to do, they defend it as they believe that it keeps the saddle stable and that adjustments are needed every 3-4 months as the horse gets more symmetrical in their shoulders. This is perplexing to me as I believe in riding as horse mentally and physically straight and keeping things like tack out of the way of their ability to straighten, both mentally and physically. I don't see how this is possible when the head plate of a saddle is made to be crooked to match the horse's leaning pattern. I am very curious as to your thoughts on this subject. For me I can't seem to wrap my head around this but maybe I am missing something?

Aloha
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 Posted: Tue Mar 28th, 2017 09:41 pm
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This is hard for me to comment on and it took 6 tries before I had a reply I felt I could post in polite company. But this topic just strikes a nerve with me. I am a dressage rider.

In my opinion, adjusting saddles so often should be unnecessary. Are saddles really meant to be opened and closed so often? Maybe they should design them with zippers.

The horse's spine is not rigid like a 2x4. It moves and bends and twists and bounces and lifts and lowers. Then there are all those muscles. A class or two from Dr. Deb helps with this understanding. I just don't see how making the points asymmetrical could possibly be good for the horse.

Another problem with adjusting saddles asymmetrically is that when the saddle comes up for sale it will be a big problem for the next horse!

I took a class from a veterinarian once who stated, "99% of the problem sits in the saddle."

SheaS, I am with you in your thoughts. I'm not a professional, just a rider. But I agree with your line of thinking.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 1st, 2017 03:32 pm
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Shea -- Let's begin by saying that this topic HAS been very often answered here with a very firm NO -- NO NO NO, saddles should never be shimmed or "point adjusted" in an asymmetrical manner.

In regards to this and other saddle-fit topics, I sometimes feel that sitting next to old Wally in the tenor section of our church choir has set me in good stead. When I first joined that choir a number of years ago, Wally was in his 80's and still mentally OK. And he's a fine natural lyric tenor with a good ear. But then his wife died and, almost simultaneously, he received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. And what we have seen over the past three years is a steady downward progression. These days, Wally is disoriented a lot of the time and you have to watch him every second or he'll wander off. He sometimes holds his music upside-down, and unless his hearing-aid batteries are fresh, he sings with that high-pitched, off key note like a deaf dog, and sometimes a bar ahead or a bar behind too. And he's lost a good deal of short-term memory, so that he'll ask, "are we supposed to sing the upper line or the middle line," and you tell him, "choir director says we're to sing the upper line," then you count to five and Wally will say, "are we supposed to sing the upper line or the middle line?" And this will continue five, six, seven times. It's all you can do not to get impatient, but you just have to realize he can't help it.

Since you've been unable to find those previous discussions, I suggest engaging you in one. In other words, let's see if you can figure this out yourself, with a little guidance. The guidance that I will provide will be in the form of a series of questions, which you will then, if you care to, answer one at a time to the best of your ability.

The first question is this: what reasons can you list why a horse's back might be unlevel?

Before answering, I suggest you go to our main website at http://www.equinestudies.org, click on "Knowledge Base," and then download the paper from the big button on the righthand side of the page that's entitled "Lessons from Woody". I ask all students to thoroughly study this paper in any case, but it's particularly relevant to your question.

Come back with an answer once you feel ready. -- Dr. Deb

SheaS
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 Posted: Sun Apr 2nd, 2017 01:27 am
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Hi Dr. Deb,
Thank you for your reply. And yes, I would love to engage in a discussion on this as I highly value your thoughts.

I love your Woody piece. It has been my go-to for many years now. It just feels right and makes complete sense to me.

So based on what I have learned about the unlevel horse, I believe that the unlevel back starts with a pattern of leaning. Most likely due to a dominant side. Then once we put a saddle, and our weight on them, and ride them with no awareness of this leaning heavier on one side, it gets exacerbated. Then add an emotional stress from use of side reins or tie downs or tack that doesn't fit or rider that is pulling on the reins, the crookedness gets worse as then the horse braces or is constantly trying to escape. Setting the pattern in stronger. So I believe there is an emotional component to crookedness as well.

Based on what I have learned from you in reading your work and in your classroom, this makes me think that it's absolutely not okay to do these types of adjustments. But, what if a rider has no idea and believes that it is a conformational issue? And will keep the horse crooked? Are there circumstances where these adjustments could be justified? I am not always in a position to influence a rider's way but want to give them the best information or the best work to safeguard their horse's back.

Thank you again for engaging with me.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Apr 2nd, 2017 03:24 am
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Shea, your answer is sort of right, but not as specific as I need to hear. Probably my fault for not asking in a specific enough way. So let me try again, since you're familiar with the Woody paper:

If you have a horse that habitually leans to the left (let us say) -- this is the same as saying that he prefers to weight the left pair of legs, or that the left side is "dominant" as you put it. In such a horse -- will his back be level?

If his back is not level, again assuming he leans to the left -- which side of his back will be higher? Which side will be lower?

-- Dr. Deb

SheaS
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 Posted: Mon Apr 3rd, 2017 03:08 pm
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Hi Dr Deb,

My internet has been messing up so my last reply did not come through. So I will try again.
From what I understand, no...The horse's back will not be level. If the horse leans on the left side, then it seems the left side of the back is tighter and lower.
But, I have gotten confused lately. I have had the belief that their back is not level because muscles are tight from leaning and bracing. And that the goal is to get the hind legs working evenly, and encourage the top line muscles to let go so the back and base of neck can lift. But from what I keep hearing, is the the back is unlevel due to lack of muscling on one side. So a tree point is bent in until the other side gets "muscled up". It doesn't make sense to me. I thought, say for instance, if a horse is leaning on his left legs, that he will appear to be bent to the right, the left shoulder will be flatter and muscles on left side of back tighter and lower and the right shoulder will have a bulge.
Thank you again for having this conversation with me and helping me understand this better. Even if I am not in a position to encourage a change in the riding, I want to at least safe guard the horse's back and offer the best information that I can. I hope this time my reply goes through!
Shea

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Apr 4th, 2017 04:02 am
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Shea, it will help you NOT to go beyond the specific question asked. If your thoughts go looping out into outer space, you'll just fuddle yourself up. The issue of whether any of this has to do with "muscling" is very much a secondary matter. What we are looking for is what the SKELETON does when the horse moves. The muscles lie upon the skeleton, and their appearance is largely a function of what the skeleton is doing or how it is positioned.

Your answer to the specific question is in error. If the horse leans to the left, the left side of the back rises and the right side drops.

Look at the illustration below, showing a "normal" horse as seen from the top, as it trots. This horse is not leaning; it carries itself anatomically straight, and uses its hocks equally: therefore, the snakelike chain of "S's" that its back moves through is symmetrical right and left.

When viewed from above, a trotting horse's back wiggles -- first it's hollow on the right, then on the left, depending upon which diagonal the horse is on at any given moment. If you see the horse from above and to the rear -- as you would from the driver's seat if the horse were hitched to a cart -- you would notice that its back tilts from side to side with every step of the trot. When the animal's left hindlimb and right forelimb are on the ground, its body curves to the right and its back drops on the right (and rises on the left). When his right hindlimb and left forelimb are on the ground, his body curves to the left and his back drops on the left (and rises on the right).

Shea, incidentally, the fact that you answered the question wrong tells me that you also do  not understand how to sit the trot, because sitting the trot without bouncing depends upon the rider's understanding that the fundamental movement that the rider's seat must "go with" is not an up-and-down motion but this very rolling, or you can say tilting, of the back from side to side. Your hips and thighs have to tilt right along with the tilt of the horse's back, or else you are out of harmony with him.

We learn from this that the crooked horse is not using some alien mechanism; it possesses the same skeletal mechanism that is common to all horses. The crooked horse merely MIS-uses the skeletal mechanism by always having more/deeper curvature to one side, i.e. to the side opposite to that which it leans toward. Thus, a horse that leans left, if seen from the top, will show deeper curvature on the right during those moments of the trot when it should be hollow on the right side; and it will show concomitantly shallower curvature on the left side during those moments when it should be hollow on the left side. And the left side of its back, as I mentioned above, will rise higher than it should at the top of its rise, while the right side will drop lower than it should at its deepest drop, so that the left side will "average" higher, even though the body of the horse that carries itself crooked still wiggles to left and to right, as does the body of the horse that carries itself straight; but the crooked horse's "wiggle" is asymmetrical.

Now, on to the next question: in order to go forward, and especially to generate suspension, what do the horse's limbs have to do with respect to the ground? -- Dr. Deb






Attachment: Trot wiggle skeleton for Forum.jpg (Downloaded 103 times)

SheaS
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 Posted: Tue Apr 4th, 2017 04:06 pm
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Moving forward...each leg needs to elevate off the ground evenly for suspension. Am I understanding your question? So the left leaning horse the left limbs would have a harder time elevating which would inhibit suspension, if I am understanding.

Last edited on Tue Apr 4th, 2017 04:11 pm by SheaS

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Apr 5th, 2017 07:43 am
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Shea, once again I warn you not to go beyond a single, short, simple answer to the question actually asked. Have a little faith in me, please; I ask these questions because I know where we're going, or where I'm trying to lead you -- even if you don't. And it does yourself only harm if you persist in trying to guess. I promise, by the time we work through correct answers to each of the questions in turn, it will all come together for you.

Now I am going to ask the question again and give you a second opportunity to answer:

What do the horse's legs (and hoofs) have to do with respect to the ground in order to generate forward movement, and especially, suspension (which is the period of time in which all four feet are out of contact with the ground)? -- Dr. Deb

SheaS
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 Posted: Thu Apr 6th, 2017 01:05 am
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Push off the ground

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 6th, 2017 05:52 am
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Yes! Right! "Push off the ground" -- or to put it just a little more accurately, the hoofs have to push AGAINST the ground.

By Newton's physics law -- the law of equal and opposite reactions -- in order for the horse's body to "fly" up into the air -- in order for its feet to come out of contact with the ground -- it must first use its feet -- especially its hind feet -- to push DOWN against the ground.

Likewise, in order for the horse's body to go forward, its feet -- especially its hind feet -- must push BACKWARDS against the ground.

Note that pushing either down or backward requires that the feet be IN CONTACT WITH the ground.

So! Now that we have gotten this far, we can pat ourselves on the back for a second or two before proceeding to the next question (and concept):

If we go back to our example from the first question, a horse that habitually leans to the left, which of his hind limbs/hoofs/hocks tends to bear more weight all the time? And which therefore does most of the work? -- Dr. Deb


SheaS
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 Posted: Thu Apr 6th, 2017 08:08 pm
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The left hind!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 6th, 2017 10:50 pm
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Correct again! In a horse that leans left, both left limbs (left fore and left hind) bear more weight than either of the right limbs; but the left hind does the most pushing, because the hind limb of the horse is the limb that is designed to push. The forelimbs of the horse are designed to receive weight, but not to generate thrust.

So! Now we know that when the horse leans left, the left hind limb bears more weight and does more work all the time than does the right hind leg. This leads to our next question:

Which hind limb, in a horse that habitually leans to the left, would you expect to have greater muscular development?

Will this greater muscular development also be manifest in the left forelimb & shoulder? In other words, does receiving more of the body weight all the time create muscular development?

You're doing great, Shea -- and I guarantee you that our dialogue is being read by, and is helping, lots of other people. -- Dr. Deb

SheaS
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 Posted: Fri Apr 7th, 2017 02:06 pm
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The left hind would create more muscle development. And yes...receiving more body weight does create more muscle development.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 8th, 2017 07:05 am
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So, Shea, now you have your answer -- some perspective -- on exactly what role "muscle development" plays in this whole leaning scenario: the horse may -- or may not -- have greater muscular development on the side he leans toward, because that side is always doing more work. Muscle development will be greater the more severe the horse's lean (i.e. does he lean 2 degrees left or 5 degrees); the longer he's been leaning; the more work he's been asked to do; the more he's turned out and the larger the space he's turned out in; and the awareness of leaning/crookedness, or lack of it, of his rider. This is what I meant when I said in one of the initial posts, "muscle development is very much a secondary matter." The PRIMARY thing is the lean itself, i.e. what the skeleton is doing, the framework upon which the muscles rest and to which they attach. And to summarize, what we've learned about that is that when you have a horse that habitually leans left, the left side of his back will "average" higher and the right side will "average" lower, i.e. the animal's back will, most of the time, appear to be sloping downward to the right.

Now we are ready to think about your original question, which had to do with whether a saddle should be shimmed, padded, or have taller "points" on one side. You said, Shea, that you had been informed by some saddle peddler or some misdirected rider that this should be done, and is justified, because it's necessary to "level the saddle up". I have, on the contrary, said emphatically in this Forum, many times over, that nobody should ever shim up just one side of a saddle. Why?

Let's think this through, again by your replying to a question Shea:

Given that the saddle is girthed up and thus pretty well stuck to the horse's back, we can assume that when the horse moves, the saddle moves with the horse, and does whatever the horse's back does.

Given this fact -- other than putting shims or thicker padding under the side of the saddle which appears to be lower, what other way would there be to "level the saddle up" --?


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