Horse Leg Markingsdaruma Fields Saddlery

Posted By admin On 23/08/21

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437 North Country Road • St. James, New York • 631.751.3600

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Horse leg markingsdaruma fields saddlery shop

Our shop in St. James, Long Island is fully stocked with the best equestrian tack, clothing, and other horse products. We also have lots of unique gift items and home decor products. Browse some photos of our store below.

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Old Field Horse & Home

437 North Country Road • St. James, New York

(631) 751-3600It's time for another update.




Extreme scapular movement demonstrated in a Spanish walk

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that scapular cartilage damage results from pinching saddle tree points at the shoulder area, despite the dearth of empirical research in this area. Fiber-optic cameras and MRIs have been used in diagnostic evaluations, but never has there been any “peer-reviewed scientific research” on the topic using the correct experimental methodology. In an Australian study, multiple dissections were done on horses that had been ridden for years (saddle brands were not noted but I will bet you that they had forward-facing tree points) with resulting cartilaginous damage appearing at the shoulder. I would take this one step further and add this distinguishing saddle characteristic to the mix of a study done over many years with autopsies performed after natural death occurred. This would, of course, be almost prohibitive in its scale to carry out, but it would quiet the cynics once and for all. (Or prove me wrong, which is always a possibility!)

My own horse was a victim of scapular damage caused by a saddle with forward-facing tree points. I didn’t realize that this was the problem until many years later when I began building saddles myself and started working with equine professionals on a more consultative level. At the time I was competing, I only knew that he developed this little “hitch” in his gait and was pulled out for lameness in the front left more often. We tried everything – the best veterinarians working with Germany’s young riders’ team were called in, but no one could figure it out. We “blistered” the area, laid him off for months—but within a couple of weeks the symptomatic lameness recurred and I had to retire him, which essentially ended my competitive career as an event rider.


Michelle J Powell – Schleese Saddlery.

sholder blad rotation

Shoulder blade rotation and movement are shown during various foreleg motions. It becomes clear that a saddle with an incorrectly adjusted tree angle, incorrect tree width, and/or forward-facing tree points (as in the illustration) can result in potentially serious issues at the shoulder cartilage.”

Tree angle (which needs to mimic the shoulder angle) is also a factor in ensuring that no damage occurs at the shoulder, as is tree width itself. All of these factors need to work together, be adjusted properly for your horse’s conformation, and checked regularly for continuing fit to allow your horse maximum comfort and freedom of movement. See for yourself how limited your range of motion is if someone restrains your arms at the shoulder—you will barely, or with great difficulty—be able to raise them.


y Many saddle manufacturers have made some crucial design changes to better accommodate equine anatomy to at least try to protect the horse from long-term back damage, but there are still too many “doing it the way it has always been done.” The materials may have changed from the traditional English spring tree with its riveted gullet and layers of laminated wood to incorporate titanium, polyurethane, or other chemical compositions, but some of the design changes made (or not made) are not necessarily always positive. Too many tree points are still either too short (digging into the trapezius) or still facing forward (impacting the sensitive cartilage on the tip of the scapulae). Saddle tree points (direction, angle, and width) are critical in their impact on equine scapular health.

Tree points are either forward-facing, straight (perpendicular to the ground) or rear-facing. They are usually relatively long (as in olden days) but some saddleries are now coming out with shortened tree points as their latest innovation. Forward-facing tree points and tree points that are too short have proven detrimental to shoulder health. MRIs and fiber-optic cameras have shown the cartilage chipping that can occur as scapulae rotate upwards and backward when the horse starts moving. Every time the foreleg is extended (during the trot, gallop, and of course simultaneously when jumping) tree points will hit the scapulae, potentially causing damage at the skeletal level. In some countries, the manufacture of these saddles with traditional forward-facing trees has been banned completely in recognition of the potential damage caused.

Horse Leg Markingsdaruma Fields Saddlery Tack


Dr. Joanna Robson, DVM.

Horse Leg Markingsdaruma Fields Saddlery Saddle

Tree Point Angles

Left-Center: Gullet plates with forward-facing tree points / Photo courtesy of Schleese Saddlery. Right: Horse galloping on a treadmill with fiber optic cameras inserted under the saddle

Straight tree points are marginally better but still contact with the scapulae, especially during extended movement of the leg or during jumping. Rear-facing tree points, which mimic the scapular angle allow maximum freedom of shoulder movement—both in the upwards and backward motion—to provide optimal scapular clearance and health. This is clearly illustrated in figure TK. But having the right tree points is just the start—they have to mimic the angle of the shoulder to allow freedom of movement “through the saddle” like a sliding door when the horse is in motion. Ideally, they should also be adjusted to ensure that especially the larger shoulder (usually the left) is not pinched. If the gullet plate (which ends at the tree points) cannot be adjusted asymmetrically, then it should at the very least be fitted to accommodate the larger shoulder and the panel stuffing flocked accordingly or shims used.

©2018 Saddlefit 4 Life®

Gullet plate

White hairs at the withers indicate a gullet plate that does not fit correctly, with tree points that are too tight, incorrectly angled and/or forward- facing.

You can feel for yourself the range of motion at your horse’s shoulder by having someone lead you while you ride bareback. Lay your hands left and right by the withers, and when you feel balanced, close your eyes. You can feel the movement of the muscles and the rotation of the shoulder upwards and backward. It surprises me when people maintain that the scapular movement is really quite insignificant—take a look at Photo TK, which shows clearly how much the scapula protrudes during leg extension!

Learn from my mistakes and don’t put your horse through the kind of pain I inadvertently subjected mine to. Cartilage damage is irreversible and will cause your horse much pain and distress—acute as well as chronic. You want to keep your horse healthy for a long life of companionship! Have your saddle fit checked regularly and visit our YouTube channel at for more saddle fitting pointers.

Jochen Schleese established Saddlefit 4 Life® (2006) as an independent organization to teach saddle fit evaluation and analyses, and certify professionals in equine and saddle ergonomics. Jochen lectures at the German Professional Trainers Association in Warendorf Germany, at veterinary conferences in Brazil and is a frequent clinician at trade shows and equine forums worldwide. Saddlefit 4 Life® courses are taught at various universities across North America and certification in Equine and Saddle Ergonomics is available. Jochen is the author of the best-selling Suffering in Silence: The Saddle Fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses (Trafalgar Square 2013, 2015, 2017)

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