Written by Amanda Anderson of Stubben Custom Sales and Saddle Sales
If you look at any used saddle pictures, you will inevitably run across the photo of someone holding a ruler up across the pommel. But ask people what it means and you’ll get a variety of answers, including the following:
“It tells me if I can fit my wine/beer bottle in the pommel.” (This is my favorite.)
“It tells you nothing.”
But the majority of the answers were: “It tells me the tree width.”
Since no-one seems to REALLY know what it represents, let’s explore how we define tree width, and what this “Dot to Dot” measurement actually tells us…
WHAT IS TREE WIDTH?
The actual definition of “tree width” is the distance from the END/BOTTOM of one tree point straight (through the withers) to the END/BOTTOM of the opposite tree point.
Well, hangonasec… that’s nowhere near the dots…
Based on the definition of tree width above, you’ll notice first off that I’ve had to take the saddle apart to get this measurement, because the panels and blocks often obscure where the tree points end. You’ll also notice that I’ve got the “ruler” wayyyyyyyyy lower than where the “Dot-to-Dot” area is. This is because you measure tree width at the LOWER END of the tree point, not up near the dots in the pommel.
So what does TREE WIDTH represent anyway?
Increasing or decreasing the distance between the end of the tree points creates different angles at which the metal bars (tree points) meet the horse’s back.
In the above picture, you can see how the top tree’s points have a wider angle than the bottom’s tree points. This is because the top tree is wider (31cm between points) than the bottom tree’s width (29cm between points). The top tree will fit a broader horse, while the bottom tree will fit a narrower horse.
When the saddle is the correct size for a horse, the tree points lie evenly along the horse’s side, with no gaps at the bottom of the points, like this:
Yes, but… what does this have to do with the dots? You’ll also notice that the “dot” in the above picture has zilch to do with the angle of the tree points. It’s just hanging out in space at the top of the picture, not even touching the horse.
In fact, here is the same picture above with a red circle placed where the “dots” would be. The tree points are angled differently, but the dots are exactly the same.
That’s right. In many brands of saddles, the “Dot-to-Dot” distance does not change. So a narrow tree will, for example, measure 5.5 inches from “Dot-to-Dot”, and a wide tree will measure (you guessed it) 5.5 inches in the same area… further proof that the “Dot-to-Dot” is useless in telling you the tree size.
Ready for more?
If your saddle fits, the “Dots” should never touch the horse’s back.
Why? The dots are decorative pieces of wool that are sewn into the panel where the panel ends and the hard part of the pommel begins. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway, because I see it far too often) that the hard part of the pommel should never, ever make contact with the withers.
1. Where we actually measure tree width is far lower than where the “dots” are located, and
2. The tree points actually start lower than the “dots”, and
3. The angle of the tree points has nothing to do with the “dot-to-dot” measurement, and
4. The area between the dots should not touch the horse…
So the “Dot-toDot” measurement is clearly not how we measure for tree size.
Why exactly are we measuring this “Dot-to-Dot” area anyway???
Well, don’t throw away this measurement as altogether useless yet, because we actually DID find that the “Dot-to-Dot” measurement comes in handy for one thing:
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