Lumps and bumps are unfortunately not uncommon on the underside of saddles. Although we may not feel them when we run our hands along the panels, the horse has 100 to 200 pounds on weight bearing down on those panels and he will feel any irregularities in the saddle.
The picture below shows how poor workmanship has left a ridge of 2 thick layers of leather on the bottom of the tree. This was an expensive saddle from a well known brand that the owner had bought in late 2003 but had soon noticed sore spots developing on her horse’s back.
Here’s another view showing the problem.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the only problem. Point A in the picture below shows a protruding area of the metal head plate. This stuck up so much that you could actually feel this through the thickness of the flocking when just running your hand along the panels. Imagine what the horse felt with the rider’s weight pushing this into his back!
Also just visible in this picture is the large head of a rivet marked B. Below is a close up shot of it. This was used to attach a point strap to the tree. As the point strap is tightened this rivet head will be pulled hard into the horse’s shoulder – ouch!
A final aspect of this saddle we didn’t like when we opened it up was the large hard foam blocks placed underneath the cantle area of the tree. They’ve been added because the tree used is too curved to sit correctly on any horse’s back and the manufacturer is trying to achieve flat panels by packing out the bottom of the tree with this foam.
From another saddle, this time with a plastic tree, you can see another large step ridge of leather that really should have been pared down and tidied in manufacture. This made an already sensitive horse tense and jumpy as it was obviously causing some discomfort. When fitted with a different saddle the horse had a distinct improvement in behaviour.
Any of these bumps and lumps in any saddle can lead to considerable problems for the horse. Riders may not make an immediate link between the saddle and performance or behavioural problems but reluctance to bend, bucking, napping, ‘cold-backed’, shuffling gaits can all be caused by saddle problems.
In extreme cases, like the picture below, it becomes obvious when something is rubbing the back. When we took the offending saddle apart it had serious lumps underneath the saddle – similar to those illustrated above. We were able to repair the problems and the owner and horse are much happier.
The saddle construction pages also show another saddle with this type of problem.