Sometimes we have saddles that come into the shop for suspected broken trees. The reasons how they broke are endless. Trashed it from being loaded onto trailers fully tacked, run over by vehicles, stirrup leathers were pulled down and snagged on something as the horse panics, tacked up horses that flip over backwards on the lunge line you name it, it’s happened!
Most of the time, when a traumatic event like this occurs, the saddle suffers in some way. So if you’ve had anything like the above stated happen, you may want to check your saddle out to ensure the soundness of the saddle. Is not only important for your comfort and safety, but for your horse’s as well!
Two simple flex tests can be performed to check for possible damage for both English and Western saddles. First, place the cantle end of the saddle against your abdomen and try to pull the pommel toward the cantle. Next, while holding the saddle the same way, try to ‘wing out’ the points of the pommel.
If you notice an asymmetrical pull from pommel to cantle, chances are good that the tree is broken somewhere along the rails of the tree. Tree points that move are also a good indicated that the tree is broken somewhere in the pommel. Be sure to grasp the tree points and not the leather in front of the tree points. Seat wrinkles are not a positive indication that the tree is broken. This is especially true of English saddles whose seat leathers are softer to begin with and can wrinkle just from use.
Although the tests above are very good indicators of damaged trees, the only way to positively know if a saddle’s tree is broken is to take it apart. Sometimes a saddle that’s been in a traumatic accident can pass the “flex test” but still be broken. Unseen damage that a “flex test” cannot pick up is severe twisting, snapped metal or tree points, uneven tree points or hairline or joint fractures.
If a saddle has been in an accident, the use of the saddle should stop immediately. Try out the two flex tests and see what you find. If you are still concerned, take/ship your saddle to your trusted saddler for a closer look and possible repair.