Helpful hints to assist you and your horse get the best out of your SMART™ RigidFree™ saddle.
Initial fitting advice from a Solution Saddles trained Approved Advisor should enable any rider to use the SMART™ saddle system comfortably with confidence. The principles of fitting SMART™ saddles are very straight forward and enable the user to make adjustments quickly and easily without constantly resorting to professional assistance. Whilst being a different concept, is easy for even the novice rider or horse owner to understand and utilise without the need for continued specialist help. However, in the same way that you would schedule routine checks from a saddler for a traditional saddle, we recommend that you have regular reviews.
Please do not hesitate to contact your Approved Advisor for advice as they have seen you and your horse, conducted an assessment and fitting and are in the best position to provide you with any ongoing support. There is always help and advice on hand. Our Home Consultancy Service is available for routine checks or if you would like help with fitting to different horses or riders.
We recommend that when a horse is first introduced to a SMART™ saddle, you take things slowly, particularly with a horse that has had a fundamental or dramatic change in the way of going. The horse may be using different muscles in a different way and will require conditioning with short repetitions, building up, to avoid fatigue or strain.
SMART™ Saddles should be stored either on a smooth round surface, such as the Stubbs Saddle Mate or, ideally, on a narrow, rounded saddle pole that sits through the gullet.
Store your SMART™ saddle and any accessories in a dry place away from damp and extreme temperatures.
Always remove the saddle cloth and any pads from your SMART™ saddle and allow to air after each use. Do not store the pads under your saddle as this may cause them to compress unevenly over time, compromising performance and reducing their shelf-life.
It is important that you do not store your SMART™ saddle on metal racks or with items placed on top. To prevent marking or other damage, avoid saddle brackets that support the saddle on the soft underside panels.
All SMART™ saddles from Solution Saddles come with a fleece-lined SMART™ Deluxe Saddle Cover; the water resistant shell and adjustable elastic trim ensures your saddle is protected from dust, dirt and scratches when not in use.
Leather is a natural material and needs to be protected from drying out and cracking. Environmental factors, such as exposure to sunlight, wind and rain can cause the leather to lose some of its natural properties. It is therefore important to take steps to maintain leather in good condition to optimise performance and increase its longevity.
Solution Saddles recommends using a leather soap & conditioner to not only keep your SMART™ saddle clean and supple, but also to protect it from the elements and maintain peak condition. Use regularly to soften new leather, helping it to “wear in”. Continued use will maintain condition and appearance.
On the seat and base panels where soft hide is used, apply a conditioner sparingly, and only sufficient to remove any dirt before buffing to a shine. SMART™ saddle skirts and knee flaps are made using a pre-oiled leather, it is necessary to lightly top-up these parts with oil occasionally. Black leather is more susceptible to changes to the hue/colour over time as it has to be dyed to give its appearance; this is normal and should be expected from any dyed leather product. The tannery which supplies the leather has issued some guidance on maintaining the leather of your new SMART™ saddle over time:
If your SMART™ saddle gets wet, apply conditioner straight away then allow to dry in a well aired, warm room. Once completely dry, reapply conditioner until the leather returns to a supple texture and buff the sheen back to the surface with a soft cloth.
It is imperative that breastgirths are not attached to the long girth straps as this can cause damage to the saddle. All SMART™ GP, Jump, VSD, Traditional and Eventer saddles are fitted with knee D-rings for the purpose of fitting the SMART X-Over Breastgirth. Knee D-rings can be retro-fitted to other SMART™ saddle models on request.
Horses change shape constantly throughout their lives due to maturity, muscle development, fitness levels and weight fluctuations. For example, in just a week, a fluctuation of 3-6 kilos in weight is perfectly normal. The horse carries most of his stored fat deposits over his top line, so variations in weight can affect saddle fit.
The SMART™ saddle system is designed to be used with balance pads where the horse’s back shape or conformation requires. The saddle does not permanently mould to the horse’s back, but flexes into the back shape with the horse’s movement. Some well muscled horses or those with rounded backs may not require any balancers, but those with a prominent spine or muscle wastage generally will need some support.
SMART Balancers are designed to be used with the SMART and SMART SPORT saddles to give additional support and balance where needed, without adding bulk to the fit of the saddle.
The durable, leather covered balancers can be easily inserted into the base panels of your saddle to give additional support when fitting to the horse or balancing for the rider.
They can be used alone or in conjunction with the SMART DSP or Shims if the horse is lacking in muscle.
Depending on the level of support required, balancers can be positioned individually or together along the length of the panel.
It is unnecessary to place the saddle as far back as many treed saddles require to be placed, as the flexible Solution will not restrict the lift and swing of the horse’s shoulder, but lift and move with it. This is particularly the case with the more forward cut models (GP and Jumper), where the flap can lie comfortably on the shoulder.
The fitting check is done with the rider mounted and the girth tightened. The saddle should be as close to the withers as possible without causing uneven uneven pressure.
There is no need for clearance (or the old rules for treed saddles: three fingers gap under the pommel and daylight through the channel etc), as we are no longer trying to protect the horse’s back from a steel frame. Instead, we are just aiming for close, even contact around the back, with no pressure points. finger test
At halt, you should just be able to push one finger knuckle (without a glove on!) under the front binding of the pommel, between the saddle and the saddle cloth or pads
“The walking finger test” is used to gauge optimum fit.
It may feel a little tight at halt, but as the horse walks forwards, he will lift the base panels of the saddle with his shoulders and back muscles and the whole saddle will ride a little higher.
You should feel this lightening of the pressure on your finger, giving the sensation that your knuckle is held snugly in place without being tightly squeezed.
If you cannot feel this lightening of pressure and your knuckle is uncomfortable, then the fit is too tight.
If you have the saddle fitted too high or loose on the back, there may be a loss of stability as the saddle will not be engaging correctly with the back and flexing with the movement.
The Dorsal Supplement Pad (DSP)is a gulleted pad which supports the under panels of the saddle, designed to give support where the back is lacking dorsal muscle. It is used to ensure that the spine is evenly bridged and pressure avoided.
The Standard Dorsal Supplement Padgives a level lift along the length of the saddle with a single thickness. Useful where the saddle balance is good for the rider, but the fit is a little low on the horse’s back because of a prominent spine.
The Front Wedge Dorsal Supplement Pad (FWDSP)is designed to give more lift at the front for a high withered horse or where the rider needs to be positioned further back.
Provide extra support for a prominent wither and fill the “tree point hollows” either side of it. Shims support the front of the saddle to give lift over the wither and can also be used to help balance the rider by raising the front of the saddle and placing weight back over seatbones.
Lift the rear of the saddle providing more cantle support to the seat. They can also be used for rider balance if the horse has a dipped or asymetrical back.
To fit shims:
The SMART X-over breastgirth is the only design that is fitted with straps that move and stretch independently, so eliminating pressure points and allowing complete freedom of movement.
It is important that the design of any breastgirth does not hamper the movement of the scapula, but in order to be of any benefit, it must be fitted so that there is some tension on the saddle and the girth. - For this reason, it is essential that the straps are fully elasticated.
Easy to use:Simply clip the lower strap to the top D rings and the top strap to the knee D rings. (The breastgirth should NOT be attached to the to girth billets. All SMART Jump & GP saddles come with knee D rings as standard.)
Security and stability:The girth strap helps the girth to stay in place and ensures it does not slide back.
Perfect fit:The SMART X-over breastgirth should fit snugly when the horse is standing, as it will be looser when the neck is raised in movement. The tension should be equal on all straps and the leather straps can be adjusted as needed
The unique features of the recommended girths allow the user to employ a non-irritant method of girthing the horse, particularly in retraining a horse who has suffered discomfort in the past from tack or insensitive saddling methods.
Try this graduated method: Buckle the girth loosely so that it is just touching the skin, and pull it into position over the sternum and behind the elbow. Make sure that the horse is standing squarely and not tucking his foreleg under his body.
It is a good idea to loosen the girth before dismounting as when the weight of the rider is removed from the saddle it will spring up, having the effect of tightening the girth and making it more difficult to loosen from the ground.
We recommend the Wintec girth as this has some give in it which prevents over tightening. We also recommend that the only accurate way to check your girth is to take a pull on the girth straps – if it goes up a hole, it was too loose - do not lean down and put your hand under the girth to check it as this twists the flexible saddle and may make the girth feel quite tight. Some horses are sensitive to this and will tighten their rib cage against it.
It is possible that with a narrow horse the girth may seem tighter than normal. It is quite common for narrow horses to be ridden with a fairly loose girth on a conventional treed saddle because the clothes peg effect of the tree points can grip against the wither and hold the saddle firmly in place, even when mounting from the ground. This can cause injury to the dorsal spinal processes and the soft tissue support structures of the back. The Solution saddle’s soft layering system will not damage the back.
Wherever possible, in order to mount in a way that is most comfortable for the horse, use a mounting block or a leg-up. If this is not possible, use an assistant to counterbalance the saddle by holding the stirrup on the other side. Where necessary, mounting from the ground can be easily achieved if the correct technique is used. The stirrup should be long enough so that it can be easily reached and the toe is not pushed into the horse’s barrel. Ensure that the girth is securely tightened.
Some of the old “rules” that were traditionally adhered to for using conventional treed saddles simply do not apply to the flexible SMART™ saddles' innovative design.