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How to Build a Back Map

What is a Back Map?

A back map is a useful tool for selecting the proper tree for difficult to fithorses and can be used by anyone to determine if their saddle fits the horse. Using a back map can also help you determine where shims and padding canhelp improve how well your saddle fits.

Our version of the back map is inexpensive and allows for you to visuallyevaluate how well your saddle or a saddle you are considering buying, fits yourhorses. We feel that our system of molded wires is superior to opaquefull-sized molds such as the Steele Saddle Tree Fit-To-Be-Seen ® or theEQUImeasure ® for most horse owners because it is much less expensive,reusable, easily transported, and most importantly allows you to see how thetree will fit your horse.

The Crest Ridge Saddlery “How to Measure” page shows how a single wire,and photographs allows an extremely experienced saddle fitter to determinewhich tree will most likely fit your horse. The system of using wires canbe easily expanded and adapted to provide horse owners a useful tool inevaluating saddle fit of your current saddle or any saddle you are consideringpurchasing. Below are instructions for using six wires in a saddlefitting aid or back map.

Materials required:

·107” of wire. The best is any piece of wire that can be readily bent butis stiff enough to hold its shape so you can make a tracing of it. Werecommend ROMEX or any other heavy gauge electrical wire that can be found atmost hardware stores.
·Permanent magic marker, fine or medium tipped.
·Tape measure or ruler. ·Optional, cardboard or card stock for cutting out traces.

·Cut 5 pieces of wire, each 16” long, marking the middle. Number the wires1 to 5 on one side only. The numbers serve to record the order of thewires and to allow you to avoid accidently flipping the wires around.
·Cut 1 piece of wire 27” long. Put five marks completely around the wire4” apart beginning 4” from one end of the wire. Number, on both sides ofthe wire, the ticks 1 to 5 which will guide where you put the wires. Thelength of the wire from the first tick mark to the end of the wire should be23”, which is the average length of skirting for Crest Ridge saddles.
·Align the first tick mark on the long wire at the rear edge of thescapula and mold the wire to conform to the horse’s back. The front ofthe wire will go up and over the horses whither. The wire extending backbehind the scapula, #1 mark on the wire, should end at or before the horse’slast rib.

Mold the wire labeled 1 (#1 wire) over the horses back at the first tick/mark.

On the long wire that is aligned with the back edge of the horse’sscapula (shoulder blade). The #1 wire should be centered over the long wire sothat the center tick mark of the #1 wire is directly over the foremost tickmark on the long wire. The wire should be vertical, perpendicular to theground, with the horse standing square and straight (not looking to the side)on level ground. Make sure the horse is standing with all four feet down andnot resting a foot. A properly molded wire maintains contact with thehorse’s skin along its entire length. If your horse’s spine is slightlyrecessed, causing the wire to lose contact with the horse’s skin for less thanan inch on each side of the spine, don’t worry about it. The saddleshould not contact the spine anywhere.

·Repeat this process for wires #2 through #5 at the corresponding tickmarks along the long wire. Again, make certain the horse is standinglevel and square, with its head forward and all four feet on the ground.

To assess how a saddle fits your horse:
·Turn the saddle upside down. We recommend you put the upside-downsaddle on a blanket to avoid scratching the saddle or getting it dirty.
·Lay the long wire along the back channel of the saddle with the #1 tickplace even with the conchos at the front of the saddle which gives you a goodindication of the front of the tree. On many saddles there is a copper rivetvisible which also indicates the front of the tree. What to look for:

The wire should lay along the underside of the saddle evenly if thesaddle has the correct rock for the horse. If the saddle skirting extends pastthe wire, it may be hitting the horse in the loin or interfering with the hips. This is easily checked by placing the saddle on the horse. If theskirting extends past the last rib, it is too long for the horse. If theskirt is past the last rib, but short of the hips, it may be possible to use apad to protect the horse’s loin.

If the wire touches the saddle front and back, but not in the middle, thesaddle is too flat, not enough rock, for the horse and will likely bridge.Proper use of saddle pads can correct some amount of bridging.

If the wire loses contact on the ends, there is too much rock in thesaddle. It is quite possible a saddle with too much rock will sore ahorse’s back.

Placeswires 1 to 5 at their respective tick marks you made.

On the longer wire used to measure rock. Make sure the fenders andstirrups are out of the way. You may need to gently and evenly press thewire into the fleece under the saddle to make sure the wire is measured againstthe tree, not the fleece. Be very careful not to distort the shape of thewire when pressing on it.

·An excellent alternative is to first place the wire over a piece ofcardboard, trace the inside curve of the wire on the cardboard and then cut outthe cardboard along the trace. You now have a cross-section mold of yourhorses back.

What to look for:
·A wire laying nicely along the tree without gapping indicates a good fit.

This set of wires was madefrom a single horse. The saddle on the left fits well. The saddleon the right is too narrow.

·If the wire rests on either side of the saddle and does not approach theback channel, the saddle is too narrow for the horse. The saddle willperch along the horse’s ribs near the outside edge of the bars causing pressurepoints. Pads and shims don’t fix the fit of a too narrow tree.

·If the wire pulls away towards the outside of the saddle, the tree is toowide and, if severe enough, may cause the saddle to sit on the horse’s spine. Saddle pads can help a too wide saddle tree fit the horse acceptably, butthere are limits to how much correction is possible with saddle pads.

·If the center of the wire makes contact with the saddle, the saddle willcontact the horse’s spine. A lift pad or a cut-out pad may protect thespine enough for the saddle to be used. The goal is for zero contactalong the horse’s spine. The saddle will likely cause pressure points oneither side of the horse near its midline since weight is not distributed oversome portion of the bars.

This six-wire system offers several advantages for horse owners compared toother saddle fitting systems on the market today. The use of wires allowsthe horse owner to easily visualize how a saddle will make contact with ahorse’s back. If you are using the mold that is shaped to the horsesback, you still can’t see how the bars will contact the horses back. Thewires are completely reusable, compared to the molds which are, at best, usablea few times. The wires, or cardboard cut-outs made from tracings of thewires are easily transportable. Best of all, the wires are veryinexpensive to make.