HEST SADDLE HINTS AND SAFETY TIPS
Version 4 - dated 18/11/2021
1. It is important to take your new saddle on short rides only in the beginning, think of it like a new pair of shoes that need to be worn in. Save longer rides for when you know your horse has become accustomed to your new saddle. Keep the first few rides to 20 - 45 minutes only.
2. When going on trail rides, it is imperative to ALWAYS use a Breast Collar. The Breast Collar (or breast plate) is a vital piece of safety equipment that could save your life and your horses. If your girth should fail or become loose during a ride out, especially at speed, the breast collar will prevent your saddle from sliding around to the underside of your horses’ belly, which inevitably results in your horse getting his legs tangled up in your saddle. Serious injuries have occurred when no Breast Collar was used, and the above unfortunate scenario occurred. This is particularly important if your saddle is treeless as the girth can loosen off during a long ride quite easily. So on to the next point…
3. Be sure to check your girth at various intervals during your trail ride (arena ride too!). This is especially important if you have a treeless saddle! The foam inserts in the panels of your treeless saddle, and in your pad, will compress as soon as you put your weight in the saddle, resulting in your girth loosening instantly. Check your girth after mounting and at various intervals along your ride out. This is imperative!
4. If all you want to do is trail ride, it is still vital that you and your horse be familiar with correct biomechanics of "proper riding". This means that you know how to ask your horse to use his belly muscles in order to lift his back and wither in order to carry you the rider, in the healthiest way possible for his own soundness, comfort and ease as well as yours. Riding a horse hollow and on the forehand is not good for his back and limb soundness PLUS it will negatively affect the fit of your saddle and your position as a rider. If you are not sure how to do the above, please invest in some riding lessons with a good reputable instructor that will focus on your position and your horse’s soundness.
5. If you did not purchase a saddle pad from HEST to go with your new saddle, then please make sure it ticks the following boxes: it is made of natural materials such as cotton or 100% wool felt or 100% real quality (Australian) sheepskin. Please also ensure that it is shaped for the withers (even if your horse has low withers), and that it is thick enough for the length of ride you intend to go on. This last point only really applies to non-wool flocked saddles such as the Western models I sell. The longer the ride: the thicker the saddle pad (Western saddles only).
6. If you have purchased a saddle with wool flocked panels, please have your independent saddle fitter check the flocking in your saddle after approximately 8-12 weeks of riding. New flocking will settle and can need minor adjustments at this point. Depending on how often you ride, you will need to have your flocked saddle checked and maintained at the very least annually.
7. Never put oil, saddle soap, or any saddle conditioner on any suede leather or Nubuck. Use a Nubuck/Suede cleaning kit that you can buy online. Check out Tandy Leather Australia. it is ideal for bringing back the nap of this type of leather. If your saddle has Oiled Nubuck (Ghost saddles only) then you can give this a light oiling from time to time.
8. Always store your saddle on a single rail type saddle stand: not the 3 railed ones you see for sale in tack shops: they will leave indentations in the panels of your saddle. Not good! This applies to all saddles but especially leather tree saddles, as they can easily become distorted if not stored correctly.
9. Never leave your saddle in a hot car, extreme heat can warp the tree and have very negative effects on the leather.
10. Safety Stirrups are essential with any saddle that has a closed D ring for the Stirrup leathers. In most cases this applies to treeless saddles only. However, safety stirrups are a wise choice for use with any saddle.
11. Please always use a mounting block. If you're out on the trail and need to dismount, it is usually quite easy to find a tree stump, fallen tree, a raised area on the ground or a low area in the ground where your horse will be lower than you...unless you live in the desert where it is very flat and there are no trees: then I guess you have no alternative other than to mount from the ground. Just know that pulling down on your saddle to mount, is very bad for your horses back and comfort.
12. Let’s talk horns. Horns on western saddles. On most of the saddles HEST sell, the horn is for ‘decoration’ only as it is most likely that the saddle is either treeless or has a flexible tree and should never be used for roping or ponying, (we do sell a rigid tree Wade saddle that is very suited to roping and ponying, however). It is the belief of many riders that a horn increases rider security in the saddle. This is simply not true. If anything, a horn increases the chance of rider injury. In particular, you must be crucially aware of the saddle horn when dismounting. As you lean forward to begin your dismount, make sure the bottom of your jacket/jumper/shirt, is not hooked over the saddle horn as you start to slide down or jump down to the ground. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done this at one time or another (who me?) and it can be just somewhat embarrassing as you rip every single button off your shirt, to a near death experience as your horse becomes a bucking bronc with you still hooked onto your saddle horn. SERIOUS injuries to riders from saddle horns have occurred many, many times. If you have ordered a saddle with a horn, please be especially careful.
In summary, please make sure to stay safe and enjoy the massive benefits you and your horse are now going to enjoy!