You have questions. We have answers. Here are some.
1. Why was the RP saddle system developed and how long has it been around?
Most of the changes in English saddle design over the past forty years have been made to increase rider comfort, often at the expense of the saddle’s fit on the horse. Computer pressure analysis was used to create the RP Saddle System, first to identify and then to address the shortcomings of conventional saddles. The result is a panel saddle that is flexible, spreads pressure over a large area, is user-adjustable, and allows the horse to work freely from behind and through the back. The first RP saddles were built in England in 1991 and have been available there ever since. Distribution began in the US in 1999 and in Canada in 2002. Expansion into Europe began in 2005.
2. What makes the RP’s flexible two-part panel saddle design different?
Conventional saddles have wool and synthetic flocked, or pre-formed plastic foam, panels that are sewn pockets on the bottom of the saddle. When “fitted” they are placed on an immobile horse, and a saddle that appears to make maximum contact under the panels with adequate clearance over the wither is deemed to “fit”. Little or no consideration is given to what will happen to the saddle fit when the horse moves. Conventional saddles often exert high pressures on the horse due a number of possible factors, including high pressures that can occlude blood flow and damage tissue and the muscles beneath the saddle. RP has large, flexible saddle panels which reduce under-saddle pressures by as much as 75%. RP saddle panels move with the horse, so a superior saddle fit is retained when the horse is in motion. Computer pressure tests verify that spots of higher pressure under a RP saddle are usually intermittent and randomly distributed, rather than fixed. These factors ensure uninterrupted circulation and virtually eliminate the potential for muscle atrophy under the saddle.
3. Are RP saddles high-quality?
Beginning with the leather, which is of the highest quality, and continuing through the assembly process conducted by master saddlers, RP saddles are second to none in look, feel, quality, comfort, and durability. Please contact us if you would like references from riders with many years – and thousands of miles—in their RP saddles.
4. Do the attaching shock absorber discs make four high pressure points?
Many people assume that higher pressure exists under the discs. However, because the panel design spreads pressure outward in a horizontal plane, and because there is contact between the bottom of the saddle and the top of the panels, pressure points are eliminated when the saddle has been properly fit to the horse. Computerized pressure analysis bears this out as does an examination of a horse that has been ridden consistently in a RP saddle. The horse’s muscular development and lack of back pain tell the whole story.
5. Will a RP Saddle need regular adjustment?
If use of the RP saddle is confined to one horse, the need for adjustment will be infrequent, as the RP system automatically compensates for the normal seasonal changes in condition. The saddle will also work on similar types of horses with no need for adjustment. However, if your horse has muscle atrophy, is growing, or is undergoing major changes in musculature or condition, you may need to fine-tune the saddle more frequently.
6. Is it easy to tell if the saddle needs to be adjusted?
If the saddle fits, your horse should be pain-free, move freely and athletically, and have smooth hair and an even sweat pattern when you remove the saddle. You should feel balanced and comfortable. There will be obvious signs if the saddle needs an adjustment. Our User’s Guide goes into great detail about troubleshooting and adjusting the fit.
7. Can I adjust the saddle fit myself or does it require a professional saddle fitter?
It’s quite easy to adjust the saddle; anyone with patience and a fondness for tinkering can do it. Adjustments to the saddle fit should be made gradually and symmetrically. Moving a panel or disc takes just a few minutes and will make an obvious difference to the saddle’s fit and feel. It can be daunting to adjust the saddle at first, but with just a bit of practice, it becomes quite easy for most people. If you have difficulty with symmetry or working with your hands, you will probably want to have an RP Saddle Fitting Agent fit your saddle.
8. How do I know if a RP Saddle will work for my extremely hard-to-fit horse?
A RP Saddle of the proper tree size can be adjusted to custom fit most horses – nearly 100%. By adjusting the saddle’s flexible panels and shock-absorbing discs, the angles of the saddle system can be changed to follow the conformation of even hard-to-fit or asymmetrical horses. Good saddle fit begins with fitting the saddle tree, which requires wither tracings. The template guide in the ordering kit helps you make templates of your horse’s shape so that tree size can be determined. Although rarely needed, custom trees are also available. Certain types of conformation present saddle fitting difficulties, and we have been able to help horses with bulging shoulders, dipped backs, razor withers, short backs, mutton withers, and damage from past trauma. It is a rare case we are unable to help. A saddle trial is usually the best way to answer tough fitting questions, and it costs next to nothing to try.
9. What about rider comfort?
Many riders have commented that sitting in a RP is like “coming home.” The seat is an extremely comfortable platform created by layering latex foams over a traditional hand-stretched web harness. Riders who have gotten used to imbalanced saddles are delighted at the ability to rebalance in a RP. People with back, knee, or ankle pain typically find greatly increased comfort in an RP saddle. In addition, many riders are surprised to find that they are actually closer to the horse’s movement than in conventional saddles or other two-layer saddle designs. Finally, our seats can be customized if our standard seats aren’t perfect for your body.
10. How do I customize the saddle?
From tree width to flap length and leather choices, the RP is very customizable. Options are detailed on our site. Our order package includes the Saddle Configurator, which guides you through the process of customizing every aspect of your handmade saddle.
11. Does the saddle come with everything I need to assemble and use it?
Absolutely! The RP system includes the saddle, panels, and shock absorbers in at least two sizes; detailed fitting instructions; a tool for separating the Velcro; our high-quality saddle cover; and a saddle pad set. We even include a ruler for measuring shock absorber and panel placement. You will need stirrups, leathers, and a girth (you may want to check out our Centrelastic girths) .
12. How long does it take to break in an RP Saddle?
Most people find the RP saddle is instantly comfortable—though the lanolin-infused leather will mold significantly to your body with friction and heat, which takes several weeks. No matter how comfortable the saddle is for you, the panels need to soften and take the shape of the horse, and this will take several weeks. Also, some horses which have been in restrictive saddles move so freely under an RP that they actually develop sore muscles. During the break-in period, rides of excessive length should be avoided, and a horse that is new to the system should be worked carefully and for gradually lengthening periods of time.
13. Are there panel options?
Yes, of course! Most horses are fit perfectly using our standard panels. There is a shorter size for small seat sizes, ponies, or horses with extremely short backs. There is a longer size for horses with long backs and for heavier riders in larger-seated saddles. There are also panels with especially flexible top edges for horses with “razor blade” withers. In all, we have six different panel types.
14. How do I care for a RP Saddle?
Since there is no stuffing, RP saddles will never need to be re-flocked. If your saddle is rarely adjusted, it is likely that no maintenance (beyond the standard cleaning and conditioning any saddle requires) will be required for years. If the saddle is being adjusted frequently, replacement of the Velcro covered components may become necessary. This is a simple and inexpensive process. Most parts of the saddle can be cleaned and conditioned with ordinary, high-quality products (we use and recommend Passier Lederbalsam and Passier Saddle Soap). Velcro areas clean up well with a lint brush or masking tape roller.
15. Are used saddles available?
RP customers tend to hang onto their saddles, so used saddles can be tough to find. From time to time, our demo models become available at a reduced price. Our ex-demos and private party used saddles are listed on the Discounted Saddles and Classifieds pages. You’ll need to start with tracings of your horse to determine your horse’s tree size. If you are interested in a used saddle and don’t see what you want on the Web site, please contact us , and we’ll do our best to help you out.