Frequently Asked Questions
What is the weight and length of our trail saddles?
We will start with the weight. The weight is determined by many variables. Seat size, type of stirrups, other options like added rings, rear rigging, wood density, etc. Most of our saddles are going to range between 26 and 30 pounds. Average being 28 pounds. Out of all our trail models, the Wood Post Wade has a tendency to be the lightest weight. Length will depend upon the seat size and the fit for the horse. Average being 24 inches.
Do we add flare to our saddles?
In our opinion, you cannot add more flare to a saddle unless the horse’s conformation actually requires it. Several reasons. One being you have less bar surface for weight distribution. Another is, the saddle will want to move forward to the end of the flare and then it will be on the shoulder. We do not believe in sacrificing contact for flare. We do modify the front of the bar to allow for more freedom of the scapula without sacrificing contact, but we do not call it flare because it is more subtle than that. Some of our bars do have more flare, but the horse’s conformation has to dictate the use of these particular bars.
Do our saddles have a narrow twist?
First we need to define what the twist is. All saddle trees have a steeper angle in the front and a flatter angle in the back. The twist is in the middle of the bar where the transition happens between the sharper angle in the front and the flatter angle in the back. Without some kind of twist, the tree cannot set down on the horse’s back properly. The twist can only be as narrow as the fit required for the horse. In other words, if you have a wide, barrel shaped horse, you are not going to have as narrow a twist as you would have for a lean built horse. Only way to make it feel narrower, would be to build the seat higher, but then you loose contact. We remove as much bulk as possible. You will have as narrow a twist and as close contact as possible, for the fit required for your horse.
If I have a custom saddle made for my horse, I shouldn’t have to shim the saddle afterwards?
Some horses conformation require that you need something else, besides having a saddle that fits them. For example, the butt high horse. Once you place the saddle just off the scapula, the saddle will not be level. The rider’s weight will be shifted forward, causing undue pressure to the pocket/shoulder area. This also makes for an unbalanced, uncomfortable ride for the rider. Same thing happens with a high withered horse, with a steep drop off behind the shoulders. There are orthopedic pads available that you can add shims. We do not recommend the typical built up pads. They often create bridging in the middle.
I have a horse that has very little withers and has a flat, round back. If I have a saddle made for my horse that fits, will my saddle quit rolling?
Not necessarily. Often ill fitting saddles stay on a bit better than ones that fit, simply because there are sharper angles on the bar that are digging in. When you have a saddle where the angles of the bar match the angles of the horse, and no wither to hold the saddle in place, there can be a ski slope effect. You should still have a bar that fits this horse correctly, but don’t expect it to eliminate a slippage problem. Some horse’s conformation require more creative padding and additional tack to keep everything in place. Usually you want a breast collar on, that is adjusted properly. A crupper is highly recommended for these types of horses as well. If you have a good fit, you do not want to over pad. A thinner pad with some anti-slip properties will help.
I have a 3 year old horse. Is it too soon to have it fitted for a saddle?
Right off, we would say yes in most cases. However, some breeds as well as some individual horses are already very round and have as flat a back as they will ever have. The horses that are difficult to determine might start being narrow, and then by the time they get to 5-6 years of age, have changed considerably. If you have a tendency to buy the same body type horses, and know something about the breeding of the horse, sometimes you can come up with a good fit before the horse is fully mature. For example, if you gravitate to athelic/performance type quarter horses, and you fit a 3 year old that ends up needing a semi quarter bar, there is a good chance that this is going to fit later. Different breeds of horses mature slower than others as well as individual horses have different growth rates. So when is it safe to fit a horse for a saddle? This is a difficult question to answer. We think most horses should be a minimum of 4 years of age or older.
I have more than one horse. Can I have one saddle to fit all of them?
Again, if you gravitate to certain body types or breeds of horses, it is possible to have a saddle that fits more than one horse. Even though you might look at two horses side by side, and they look very different from each other, right where the saddle rest can have the same angles. The fitting forms can be tried out on a group of horses to see which bar fits the majority well. You might want to fit the saddle to the horse that you ride the most. If you have a tall, narrow Thoroughbred on one end and a very round Haflinger on the other end, it is not very realistic that you are going to have a saddle that fits both well.
Do you build saddles specifically for woman?
More than half of our customers are woman. There are reasons why a lot of western saddles are not comfortable for woman. We will use the typical working type, western saddle, as an example, but this probably applys to a lot of your factory saddles too and many custom. They are usually bulky, with not much time taken in shaping the seat properly. For men this is not as much of a problem, but can be. Women have a tendency to like a narrower feeling saddle. There also needs to be enough width where the seat bones are to be supportive. A lot of seats have too much rise in the front, and push the rider to the back of the cantle into a chair type position. This steep rise can also cause undue pressure in the crotch area, causing pain. We spend time to build a proper ground seat, so that you have a nice pocket to set in. All excess bulk is removed, so it is a very close contact saddle. It is a very well balanced seat which makes for a more secure ride. Your legs will be under you. So in answer to this question; we do not say that we build saddles specifically for woman, but instead we say that we build saddles with the features that woman want. If you want more details about our features, be sure to read the section “Why You Should Choose a J.J. Maxwell Trail Saddle.
Why don’t we build flexed tree saddles?
If a bar is flexible enough to fit then it can be flexible enough to unfit. Where ever it quits flexing can create a pressure point. Flex trees still have a solid swell/pommel and a solid cantle. They do not flex in width, only from front to back. Which means it still has to be built to fit the animal. Our philosophy is to find a bar with the proper angles, with as much contact as possible, without bridging or edges digging in. Granted the horse does move and the fit changes continually while in motion. Our goal is to maintain as much contact as possible at any given moment. A well designed bar, that is used in a properly built saddle, that fits the horse, will allow the horse to move and roll under the rider, but remain supportive and balanced.
How do you feel about treeless saddles?
First of all, the purpose of a saddle is to help distribute the rider’s weight over a bigger area. That being said, treeless saddles do not have a solid tree in them. Most have a solid swell and cantle, and the seat and underside are made of other materials like leather, neoprene, etc. On a normal western saddle, the rigging pressure is spread over the side of the tree and the skirts. With a treeless saddle the rigging is attached to the swell and the cantle, but really no good way of lessening the cinch pressure. The swell is pulled down tight around the barrel of the animal, and the points of the swell where it attaches to the skirts can be a pressure point in the pocket/wither area. The weight of rider in the stirrups puts more pressure in the same area, because there isn’t a good way to spread out the pressure. The other issue is right where the rider sits, because there is not a tree, there can be seat bone pressure directly down to the horse’s spine. For casual riders, that are lighter in weight, these issues may not be a problem.
Do you build gaited horse saddles?
Many of our customers ride gaited horses. All horses need the same thing. A good fit, and the ability to move freely. Gaited horses generally have more shoulder action. We offer 11 different tree bars. It has taken just about all of these bars to fit all the gaited horse that we have fitted so far. The bars represent body types. The tree maker has given them breed names. Three of these are considered fits for gaited horses specifically. One is classed as a Gaited Horse bar, another a Walking Horse, and the third a Paso Fino bar. However, it does not mean that these bars will fit your gaited horse. The Gaited Horse bar fits a lot of different breeds of horses. It is our most versatile bar. Fits a lot of quarter horses very well. It has more flare and rock than a standard quarter horse bar. That being said, many gaited horses have a fairly straight back, so this bar would have too much rock for many of them. It is not uncommon for a mule bar to fit well, which has less rock in it than a standard quarter fit. Our trail saddles have the features that many gaited horse owners are looking for, which are: a modified bar in the front to allow for more freedom of the shoulder, a unique rigging that lessens pressure at the cinch/shoulder/wither area, and spreads it across the side of the saddle, and a balanced seat that allows the rider to be centered, secure, and the ability to stay in sync with the horse’s movement.
Can you rope off of our saddles?
Our traditional custom saddles are considered working saddles. So roping off of them is not a problem. In regards to our trail saddles, two of them have a strong enough horn for roping. These would be the Wade Trail and the Wood Post Wade. It is necessary to have a rear rigging for roping. For hard and fast roping, the Hope rigging would not be strong enough. Breakaway would probably be okay. Upon request, the tree can be double glassed, a stronger conventional rigging, and rear billets and a flank strap can be added. However, you will no longer have a lighter weight saddle. The horns on all of the trail saddles are fine for dragging things like logs and ponying horses. Most models come with a horn wrap.
Is it true that Wade saddles fit a variety of horses better than some other type of saddle?
First of all, the Wade saddle is a style of tree, not a fit. It has been popularized by well known, cowboy clinicians, starting with Tom Dorrance and then Ray Hunt. Wades are an A fork type saddle, and most have a lower, bigger in diameter horn. Most of them are built on one of the three quarter horse fits. When a tree is ordered from a treemaker, it is ordered on whatever fit the saddle maker chooses. Most tree makers do not offer more than a few bars. Some might offer a mule and possibly an Arab bar. With all the different Wade saddles available out there, made by different tree and saddle makers, there is no way of knowing how each saddle will fit unless it is tried on the horse. We are not even talking about the cheap internet/auction saddles also available on a Wade tree. Most of these saddles are built on such an inferior tree, they will not fit any body type out there. Mainly because they do not have a twist in the bar. Which means the saddle will set perched up on the horse’s back, and all the rider’s weight will be concentrated in four small areas. Avoid these, no matter how good they look, at all costs. Currently, people are riding a wide variety of horses of varied body types. This is why we use our fit system. We are not limited to a few bars. We have the ability to determine the fit before the saddle (whatever style) is even built.
Do we build a mule saddle?
Many of our customers ride mules. One of our 11 bars is classed as a mule bar. It does fit quite a few mules, maybe 25-30 percent of them . This means that if you buy an off the rack mule saddle, there is a good chance it will not be the right fit. Some saddle makers are building mule saddles and are not even using a mule bar. Up to this point it has taken 4 of our 11 bars to fit the mules that we have seen. The real, round barrel shaped mules need a bar that does not have much rock, but needs to be fairly flat. Full quarter bars are not flat enough, and have too much rock. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the narrower built, saddle mules. They need something that is narrower in the gullet, but again not too much rock. A semi-quarter bar usually has too much rock. We see these two body types the most. The mule bar we use is similar to a standard quarter bar, with less rock. Occasionally, a standard quarter horse bar will be the fit, when they have more of a horse back. We do not build a saddle specifically for mules, but we do build saddles that fit and work on mules.
Can you have a saddle built for a horse that is under or overweight.
Ideally a horse should be in good riding condition when you have them fitted for a saddle. Usually horses that are overweight, will still be pretty round even if you get the weight off if them. If a horse is thin, and you do not know what the horse looked like before getting thin, it might be difficult to determine how he is going to fill out after wards. A lot of our horses pick up weight in the winter time and the saddles may not fit as well as during the riding season. Most people do not ride as much in the wintertime, so it is not as apt to be a problem. Could try using less padding in the wintertime.
What do we recommend for leather care?
There are lots of good leather care products on the market. People ask us what we like and use. Bee Natural Leathercare Products makes a #1 Saddle Oil. We use the one with the fungicide to prevent mold because we live in a wetter area. They also have a liquid saddle soap. The other product they offer that we like is called Rudy’s. It is a cleaner conditioner. This is nice for quick cleaning in between routine oiling and soaping. Oil has a tendency to dull leather. Rudy’s can be applied after you have oiled and the leather is dry. Then it can be buffed. Another product we like is Ray Hole’s Saddle Butter. This is a waxy type conditioner. If you use it on your stirrup leather (both sides), this will help eliminate some of the squeakiness. Just be sure to pull the stirrup leathers through the saddle tree, so you expose the part that is normally up in the stirrup slot of the tree. Just don’t pull them out. You can push and pull the leathers back and forth to get to most areas. If you want to prevent sweat from bleeding through the fenders and making a stain on the outside, apply the Saddle Butter periodically to the back side of the fenders. Saddle Butter is a great water proofer, but it does have its drawbacks when it comes to tooled leather. If it is not applied well, it can dry with a white residue in the tooling. So again, the Butter should be warm, so that is spreads out well. Take a small soft paint brush and work it into the tooling. There are other similar products that will do the same thing, for example, Feibing’s Aussie Leather Conditioner. Ray Holes also offers a rawhide conditioner. Another great product is Skidmore’s Leather Cream. Leather Therapy also offers a good line of products. Do not use Bentley’s Liquid Glycerin on light colored saddles. Will instantly darken to a reddish color. The important thing is the cleaning and conditioning of the saddle periodically. How often? This depends how much you use your tack and the environment you live in. A deep cleaning and conditioning once or twice a year will work for most people and a quick clean and condition in between to keep the saddle looking good. It is very important not to over oil a saddle. In this case, less is more. Too much oil on leather breaks down the fibers of the leather and makes the leather lifeless.
We hope that you found this section informative. If you have any other questions that you would like us to answer, feel free to email us and let us know. Thank you for visiting.