Fitting Universal Pattern Saddles
1. Have the horse stand squarely on a flat surface with it's head in a relaxed position. Remove the felt Numnah panels from the bars and place the saddle on the horse's back so that the front saddle arch is above the hollow behind the horse's shoulder.
2. The saddle should be sitting level with the rear fans slightly sticking up and away from the back . The arches and seat should be clear of the spine. With very high withered horses the front arch may not be clear in which case the blanket will need to be folded a special way to remedy this. (see our "How to fold your blanket" page).
3. The front arch must have enough room for you to get your hand either side of the horses' wither.
4. Check that the side bars sit fairly evenly along the horse's back and that the edges are not pressing into the wither or ribs.
5. Remove the saddle and replace the felt Numnahs.
6. Have your blanket double folded as per our "How to fold your blanket" page and place it evenly on your horse. Placing it slightly forward and then sliding it back makes ensures the hairs are lying flat. Put your saddle on with the front arch above the hollow behind the horse's shoulder. Push the front of the blanket well up into the arch of the saddle. (you should always do this before riding). Before girthing up check to see if the rear fans are off the loins and there is clearance at the front burrs. If not you may have to "envelope" fold your blanket.
7. Girth up your saddle, ensuring the short "V" attachment straps are buckled up in the same holes either side. (Moving these straps up or down determines where your girth sits behind the horses elbow. These buckles should not be used for general girthing and ungirthing.)
8. Have someone mount up. Get them to lean forward and then place your hand under the blanket. You should be able to run your hand freely over the top and down both sides of the withers.
9. Run your hand under the blanket down to the shoulder. You should be able to get your hand down here freely. If so get an assistant to pick up the horse's foreleg on your side and pull it forward. Even with the rider leaning forward you should be able to leave your fingers under the blanket without getting them pinched. Do this check on both sides. If your fingers are pinched then the horses shoulder will also be pinched and you will need to fold your blanket with the "envelope" fold.
10. With the rider leaning back check that there is sufficient room to admit the flat of your hand under the rear fans.
11. Ride in the saddle for about half an hour. Dismount and carefully ungirth and remove the saddle without disturbing the blanket. Quickly check the impression of the saddle bars in the blanket while it is still on the horse. The imprint will show if the bars are pressing evenly from front to back and top to bottom.
The most common places to find excessive pressure are at the top edge of the side bar behind the front arch and the bottom edge in front of the rear arch. A deeper impression in the blanket in these places will mean there is an undue amount of pressure in these places compared with the rest of the bars. Slight alteration of the blanket or addition of felt to the Numnahs can usually remedy this.
The 1902 Universal Pattern saddle was developed over many years by top Military horsemen, Veterinarians, Saddlers and Tree makers. It was designed to be repaired in the field with a "screwdriver and a piece of string" and was proven to fit nine out of ten horses. Hundreds of thousands of these were made before and during the Great War. They were the ultimate trekking saddle.
Conversely the 1912 UP or "Swivel Tree" saddle was more elaborate and harder to repair. Although they were made from 1915 onwards they didn't see much use during the "Great War" at all. The swivel action caused the bottom edge of the boards to dig into the horses' ribs when the saddle was girthed up and the lack of flare in the fans meant the board put undue pressure on the loins. Once the eyes and bolts wear on these saddles the front arch leans back causing the seat to sag and the boards tend to "walk" independently of each other causing the riders weight to be unevenly distributed on the horses' back. It is not recommended to use these saddles for riding.