December 2009

New Better Saddle Fit!
Endurance Champion David Kaden uses New Technology for Better Saddle Fit
Article and Photos by Elaine Macdonald


Riding trail with your horse is one of the most satisfying experiences in the world of horses. While riding the great outdoors, your horse is expected to climb ragged, rocky hills, cross unpredictable creeks, and be versatile on most any terrain.

An average riding horse weighs about 1,000 pounds. The basic rule is that the hard working horse can easily carry 20% of his weight, or 200 pounds of rider and saddle.

However, depending on the make-up of the horse’s bone structure and condition, the horse may be able to carry up to 300 pounds on shorter pleasure rides. But what the owners need to know is how does this weight, over a period of time; affect the horse’s back?

A little investigative homework is always advisable before purchasing a saddle for your horse. Buying the wrong saddle can be an expensive lesson, and may be unpleasant for the rider and/or painful for the horse.

Through today’s modern technology there is help to determine a better saddle fit.

Avoiding Back Injuries

The Force Sensor Array, or (FSA) pressure pad is a diagnostic tool used to give people a visual effect of exactly how their saddle fits the horse and how it applies pressure to the horse’s back. Originally developed by Vista Medical of Ontario, Canada to study the cause of bedsores on human patients and to help devise a solution to the problem. Vista modified the pressure pad and designed a mat specifically for the horse’s back.

Endurance rider David Kaden purchased a pressure pad and its computer program as a means to help people understand accurately what degree their saddle actually fits the horse.

“The pressure pad is a problem-solving device,” Kaden said. “I purchased the pressure pad program to help people understand the saddles impact on a horse’s health, movement and how to keep from injuring the horse’s back.

“For an accurate reading, the pressure pad is placed between the horse and saddle blanket with the rider astride the saddle,” said Kaden. “The pad is attached by an electronic cable and interfaced with its computer program. The computer program indicates the hot pressure points on the horse’s back, and how many pounds per square inch and where the weight is applied.”

The visual effects are displayed in colors. A good reading indicates distribution of pressure throughout the saddle resulting in a uniform color of blue on the computer screen. A poor reading would show bright red or orange pressure points.

Kaden is accomplished in the sport of endurance. His home bas is located in Canutillo, Texas where he operates an endurance-training center. “I logged over 3,000 miles in endurance competition,” said Kaden. “I enjoy riding all types of terrain in all parts of the country and on a variety of good endurance horses.  Indians used to measure a man’s wealth by the number and quality of his horses.  In this regard, I am a very wealthy man.”

Champion Designs Saddle

Champion Designs Saddle

Kaden’s achievements include winning two, 50-mile National Championship Endurances Races—the American Endurance Ride Conference and International Arabian Horse Association.  He won each race riding different horses; both horses were selected for the best-conditioned horse award. Kaden also attributes the superior performance of his horses to the pressure pad test and a good fitting saddle.

“I wanted a better fitting saddle for myself because of my sport,” said Kaden.  “In 1998 I started making adjustable saddle prototypes and in 2000 I started my own company, Specialized Saddles.”  His Specialized Saddle Factory is near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

There are three dimensions of saddle fit---width, arch and angle that he calls the 3-D Fit System. “I developed the only adjustable saddle fit system that lets you independently adjust all three dimensions of fit for all shapes and sizes of horses,” Kaden said. The saddle adjusts over a 4-inch range of width and infinite adjustment of arch and angle.  “I give about 15 clinics a year to folks who have saddle fitting problems on their horses,” said Kaden. “The clinics focus on the pressure pad test with the riders own saddle. I also give people the opportunity to test ride one of my Specialized Saddles. The pressure pad really puts me on the hot seat to prove my claim that my company’s saddle will give a good fit to the back of any size horse.”

“I believe that saddle fitting is a science, in its infancy,” Kaden added. “My clinics help educate people to the challenges and remedies of saddle fitting difficulties. Ultimately I am helping to remove discomfort for horses, which is a real payoff for me. It’s very satisfying to alleviate sore backs in all types of horses working in all sorts of disciplines. Helping people is fun and very rewarding. In the long run, your horse will thank you.”

To learn more about adjustable saddles, go online to  Anyone interested in purchasing the (FSA) pressure pad system, and/or taking a three-day course to learn the technique of the pressure pad saddle fitting can contact Kaden at 575-882-3342 or 915-726-0550 or go online at or email Dave Kaden at

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