Horse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at
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April 2003
    2006 Cherry Hill

DVD-101 Horsekeeping Tips
Tack Care and Cleaning
Horse Handling & Grooming
101 Horsekeeping Tips DVD
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill

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Tack Issue

This newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting stories and helpful tips for your
horse care, training, and riding.

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillWeather Update

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillSpring Cleaning
    Books from my Library on eBay

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillApril Book Special

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillA Bit of Advice - Choosing a Snaffle

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillSweet Iron Bits

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry HillAsk Cherry
    • Saddle for a Short Backed Horse
    • Pad for High Wither Horse
    • English or Western Saddle for First Ride?
    • Choosing a Western Saddle


Weather Update

Since the last newsletter we went from drought to record snowstorm. Right around the first day of Spring we received 54 inches of wet, heavy snow, then a few days later, 8 more inches. So just in March, we've received over 6 inches of moisture which, in this semi-arid climate, is A LOT!! More than 1/3 of our annual precipitation. As I write this newsletter, we still have 18 inches of ice-covered snow on the ground. And we love it!

Spring Cleaning
Books from my Library on eBay

Being snowed in, we did some spring cleaning and found that we had duplicate copies of several excellent horse books by other authors in our library. We've listed them on eBay, so if you'd like to browse through them, go here:

Barn spring cleaning is next, so we'll be putting some tack on eBay soon too. Happy browsing!

April Book Special
Free Tack Booklet

In keeping with our tack theme, this month we are offering a free copy of "Tack Care and Cleaning", regularly $3.95 ( If the total cost of the books in your order (not including shipping) come to $45, just type "Free Tack Booklet" in the comment section of our shopping cart or PayPal, or write a note on your mail-in your order.
Your free booklet will be included with your order.

A Bit of Advice

A bit is your means of completing the communication equation with your horse via your hands. Along with your weight and leg aids, the bit can give you the means of balancing your horse left and right as well as from front to rear and of shaping the energy that comes from his hindquarters. Specifically, a bit is useful for teaching your horse to bend his neck and throatlatch so that he can be turned in both directions. It is also useful for teaching your horse to flex vertically in the lower jaw, at the poll, and at the neck muscles just in front of the withers. Vertical flexion is necessary for gait and speed control as well as for stopping.

When things "go wrong", the most common question asked is "What kind of bit should I be using?" Often the problem is not the bit but.........." (continued in the article)

Choosing A Snaffle

There are many options to consider when selecting a snaffle. Snaffle types include O-rings, Egg butts, D-rings, and Full Cheeks. The O-ring is the most common type of snaffle used on young horses because of its loose action. The rings moving through the holes in the mouthpiece set up a vibration in the horse's mouth that keeps the horse attentive and responsive. Most other types of snaffles are less moveable so are more static.

A snaffle's mouthpiece can be solid or jointed......(continued in the article) To read the complete article, go here:

Sweet Iron Bits

Bits are commonly made of stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, and nickel or copper alloys. High-quality, bright stainless steel has a smooth surface that won't rust or pit and is very long wearing. Cold-rolled steel is a type of steel compressed to form a uniformly dense yet softer material than stainless.

Although prone to rust, cold-rolled steel fans call the rust "seasoning" and say that the nutmeg-colored oxidation on the mouthpiece makes it sweet to the horse, thus the term "sweet iron". "Silver" show snaffles usually have cold-rolled steel mouthpieces but are called silver bits because of the engraved silver which is inlaid on the rings. Copper alloys with their reddish gold hues are used as solid mouthpieces and as strips inlaid in cold-rolled steel or stainless steel mouthpieces. Although salivation, a sensitivity-enhancer, is a result of the position of your horse's head and his overall suppleness and flexion, the metal you put in his mouth can either encourage or dry up the flow of saliva. Copper and cold-rolled steel enhance salivation; chrome and aluminum discourage it; stainless steel tends to be neutral.

I've found that although my horses work well and salivate in stainless bits, they do indeed seem to "take" to bits with a sweet iron mouthpiece and have a moist mouth throughout their work.

To read the complete article go here:

For more on bits and using them, see:

Making Not Breaking
From the Center of the Ring

Ask Cherry

Saddle for Short Backed Horse

Dear Cherry:

I am trying to fit my mare with a saddle that doesn’t hurt her back. I have tried an Arab tree and a semi QH tree but they both left dry spots and welts on her back. She has a short back and has been 4” higher at her rump than at her withers for years. She is 8 years old and 15.1 hands.

I am currently using a gel pad with the rear 2 pads removed and replaced with thin felt pads. She seems to move much more freely. I am 6’ and 190 pounds........

Go here to read the rest of the question and the answer:


Pad for High Wither Horse

Hi Cherry,

I truly enjoy your site and refer friends and family there continually. You have one of the most useful sites on the web and we appreciate it!

My question is this: I have a 20 year old TB gelding. Recently purchased. Due to his age he has a slightly swayed back and high wither. is there a particular pad you recommend for such condition? I have an
English saddle size 18 and I've seen pads advertised for this specific problem. they basically have a big hole cut out where the wither is to relieve tension. will this help?

Hi Lisa,

First I want to clarify "relieve tension". There should never be tension or contact on the withers from a pad or saddle. All saddle blankets and pads should be peaked above the withers with at least two fingers clearance between the withers and the pad WHEN THE RIDER IS MOUNTED. The weight of a rider causes the saddle and pad to "seat" down onto the horse and could cause the pad or saddle to contact the withers.
Choose a pad that looks like a horse's back - one that has a contoured topline - the wither section will peak up higher than the rest of the pad AND the portion that lays on the horse's back will be contoured (to the shape of a horse's back), not straight and flat (like a board). Take a look at the following pads in stores or catalogs to see how they would work for your particular horse (I mention brand names not as endorsement but just to shorten your time finding the answer):

Supracor (any of their models)
Todd Sloan felt pad
Professional's Choice
Classic Equine

By the way, the big hole cut in some pads CAN help, but also could cause rub marks on the withers if the hole does not match up to your particular horse's withers. Also, you could use a pad that is split at the withers or cutback at the withers which results in NO pad at all being over the horse's withers. Realize that with split or cutback pads, the withers are bare and if the saddle does not fit (such as bars too wide or gullet too low), the saddle could contact the withers - ouch!!

My personal favorite is a contoured wither pad, one that is molded to raise above the high withers. If you see these pads in person or a picture, you'll know what I am talking about.

Good luck. Cherry Hill


English or Western Saddle for First Rides

Dear Cherry,

I plan to use an English saddle to ride my 2+ year old quarter horse mare. She has had a little over 30 days of riding. Several folks have tried to discourage my choice of saddle, saying that a young, green horse should be ridden only in a western saddle so that one can better "hang on" through the inevitable spooks, jumps, etc. which are so common to young, green horses.

My thinking is that no saddle can hold a person on a horse if that person has not developed a balanced this correct thinking???? I do not have much riding experience, but what I have had has been in an English saddle and I feel more balanced in that type of saddle. Again, am I correct in thinking that I am more balanced in an English saddle????

Thanks so much for any comments and suggestions. Jane

Hi Jane,

I ride dressage and western. I use a western saddle on my young horses mainly because of the larger bearing surface of the bars to the unconditioned back of a young horse. Definitely you should use the saddle that fits the horse the best, fits you the best and you are most secure using. You didn't mention what kind of saddle the young horse was ridden with during the 30 days of riding. If it was a western saddle, it would probably be best to stick with a western saddle for a few weeks anyway. Sometimes young horses react to the concentrated pressure from the small bearing surface of an English saddle's panels so could tense their backs, especially if the horse was never ridden with an English saddle before. The horse is going to be getting used to a new rider, so it would be best if it was not being ridden with a new type of saddle at the same time. One change at a time would be safest.

Also, you don't mention what kind of English saddle you use. A well balanced dressage saddle is hard to beat but other English saddles (jumping, all purpose, saddle seat) might not be as balanced, appropriate, or secure for riding young horses.

Whether a rider is more balanced in an English saddle or a Western saddle.....well, a good rider in a good saddle of any type (or no saddle) will be balanced.

To close, here is one sentence from The Horse and His Rider, by Sir Francis B. Head, Bart., London 1860 (Note: "Bart." is the abbreviation for Baronet)

"If a saddle does not come down upon the withers and back-bone of a horse, the closer it approaches them, the firmer it fits; and as, in the matrimonial alliance which exists between the quadruped and the biped, whatever is agreeable to the one is usually so to the other, a roomy saddle, on which the rider can sit with ease and comfort, is also beneficial to the horse, because it spreads the weight he has to carry over a large surface, and the pressure per square inch being thereby diminished, a sore back is less likely to be created, and per contra, for the very same reason, the human skin is less likely to be rubbed."Cherry Hill


Choosing a Western Saddle

Hi Cherry!

I was wondering if you could tell me how to go about purchasing a western saddle. I live in a town that has no places to buy a saddle. What brands are the better ones. How do I fit it? Do I need to trailer my horse out of town to make sure that it fits him correctly? My horses have wide shoulders. Do I need to get him in great shape before I try the saddle on him? (he is out of shape, because he hasn't been worked in 2 months.) I don't know if I should try to order one. the shipping might get expensive if I have to keep trying saddles. I am new at this so I hope that I can tell if it fits correctly. I hope that I can trust the people that are going to try to sale me one. How can I tell if the saddle is centered? Any advice will be helpful and truly appreciated.

thank you   Jill

Hi Jill!
A western saddle purchase is a major decision so you are wise to ask the things you have.

In your case, I'd suggest requesting catalogs from State Line Tack, Schneider's, and perhaps Jeffers, Horse Health USA and Weise. You should be able to request the catalogs on line by typing the names into a search engine such as

These companies will give you a spectrum of saddle choices so you can compare.

Some brands that you will probably find in these catalogs that would be good to consider are Crates, Circle Y, Big Horn, and Schneider's might have their own brand. There are also other good brands but I am not sure what you will find so don't discount a saddle if it was not on my list above.

Your horse's shoulders should NOT affect how a saddle fits him as the saddle sits behind the shoulders. However, it is best if the horse is in working shape before you try saddles on him.

Most tack shops and catalog companies do allow you to try a saddle on a horse and return if it doesn't fit. You are right, it can add up to considerable freight if you try 3 or 4 saddles before you find the right one. Sometimes, hauling a horse to a saddle shop that has a large inventory is a better bet than the catalogs. And it is possible you could get some good advice if the shop has a knowledgeable sales person.

You really should find an experienced horse person help you evaluate the fit of a saddle - it is not something that can be easily explained in an e-mail especially without me being able to see your horse and the saddle(s).

From the sound of your letter I wonder if your horse is a Quarter Horse? If so, and he is wide and well-muscled, you'd probably start with a full quarter horse tree saddle and then go from there. If that type of saddle is too wide for him and sits down on his withers, then you might try a semi-Quarter Horse tree next.

A saddle needs to fit the contours of the horse's back without rocking from side to side or from front to back. When you put the saddle on your horse's back (over one layer of a clean bed sheet material for the test fit) it should just find the right position. If you think you've found a contender, keep the bed sheet layer on your horses' back (to keep the saddle clean) and place a very thin pad or blanket on top of it, then the saddle. Cinch up and mount. See if you can put two to three fingers in the gullet while you are mounted. You want there to be plenty of space in the gullet - it would be disastrous to your horse's withers if the saddle rested on his withers. Also be sure the back corners of the saddle should not come near to hitting your horse's hip bones.

There is no simple, quick way to find a saddle that fits you and your horse - you must invest time and money just to FIND the proper saddle. Things will go much smoother if you take your mentor along with you to advise. You'll learn a lot by trying on various saddles, and who knows, the first one might fit!Cherry Hill

For more on various types of English and Western saddles, see:

Making Not Breaking
From the Center of the Ring
Riding Western

That's it for this month. Don't forget, when you ride, keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side. Cherry Hill

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  2006 Cherry Hill 

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