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Have you ever had a problem with your saddle blanket crawling out from under your saddle? It probably slid out the back, right?

Saddle makers solved this problem long ago. But it may resurface in modern times due to the shortcuts taken in the misunderstanding that the woolskin is only a pad. Some who think this way also think it is all right to replace the wool with a synthetic fleece.

But the woolskin served another important purpose, which was to keep the blanket or pad in place. This was done using the grain or nap of the wool. To understand this think of brushing your horse. The brush glides smoothly when stroked from front to rear. But if you try to brush from back to front you notice resistance because you’re going against the hair growth. That’s why the blanket or pad slides to the rear, simply because that’s the path of least resistance. The blanket would be unlikely to ever move forward since it would have to go up over the withers and shoulders as well as against the hair growth.

The old master saddle makers knew this, and that’s why they installed the woolskin with the butt end forward. That way the grain of the wool would be flowing forward, and counter act the above tendency. That’s why it’s not just as good to put synthetic fluffy stuff under the saddle.

When you go shopping for a saddle, this is an important thing to check. Tip the saddle up and run your hand over the shearling from back to front. Then, without lifting your hand, change direction and move your hand toward the rear. If it’s a well made saddle you should notice more resistance in the second direction.

That’s because the saddle maker took the trouble to make sure the butt end was at the front.

Certainly it’s cheaper to use the synthetic stuff. And it’s also cheaper to use pieces of wool shearling patched together. If you do it right, you get one saddle and a lot of scraps out of a sheepskin. But it’s the right way, and the way you will be most satisfied with.

Please Note: this article applies to Western saddles, not English

Tumblewwed Tack

Courtesy of Norm Wear of Tumbleweed Tack

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