Al Hicks was living in an area where Quarter Horse saddles were the standard and he and his family were riding thoroughbreds. Saddles that fit were hard to come by and he knew they were causing their horses to be sore. He started working with a local saddle maker to develop a western tree that would fit his thoroughbred horses. And while he was at it, his wife requested that they make a saddle seat comfortable for women. From his research he quickly learned that the majority of riders are women and found that saddle weight was also a prime concern, so the saddles had to be lightweight too. Al had a lot of elements to combine: horse fit, rider fit, lightweight.
He asked the question, why is it that saddle construction (for the most part) has not changed in hundreds of years? Olympic athletes don’t continue use the same runners, boats, vaulting poles, etc. that they did when their sports started. Al started researching, studying and testing various materials and designs for all aspects of saddle construction. Some utilized new materials with old ideas, and some were new and innovative. He secured a grant from the National Research Council to build on his experiences and pursue his goals. With that money he designed and re-designed, mixed and poured, tested and rode until he came up with the saddle design and features they were seeking.
At the same time, he researched and tested various methods of measuring a horse’s back and then translating that to construct saddle trees to fit the horse. So often there are few if any options for tree size and shape. There is not only whither width to consider. What about whither height & length, rock of the back, length and shape toward the back of the saddle? How can you consistently construct a saddle tree to fit individual horses or horses within a range? What happens when a horse changes shape over his lifetime?
Considerable time, research, testing, funding and innovative thinking has gone into Easy Fit saddles. We will continue to look at new designs and materials to keep improving our product. The market has confirmed that we are on the right track, giving positive feedback and backing it up with saddle sales. The quest for the “ultimate saddle” is ongoing and the dream of building quality, comfortable saddles will continue.