TB makeover


First let me say that of course no one saddle model will be right for all the horses, or even one brand. I’m not claiming that a Harry Dabbs saddle will fit every OTTB in existance.

Generally speaking, OTTBs can be a challenging fit. The wither clearance, most obviously, can be hard to find. Less obviously, support through the hollow behind the scapula can be even trickier. Of course saddles need to have the right amount of curve, and lots of other parameters. To meet the challenge, Harry Dabbs saddle designers spent several years working collaboratively with the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Center in the UK and physiotherapists to design a saddle tree that made OTTBs comfortable.

The result is the Avant tree. If you have a beefier, broader OTTB there is the Avant XL which is more open the whole length of the channel without sacrificing wither clearance. These trees can be combined with a variety of panels to further accommodate different shapes of horses.

The performance panel is upswept in the back to free the lumbar earlier than a gusseted rear panel would, and this is super important as many TBs today are quite short backed.
The Future panel is an upswept panel with shoulder relief for a big-shouldered horse.
Then there are K-panels, extra deep panels, extra long panels, and so on. Front gussets are standard but not required.

The trees and panels are available on dressage, jump, eventing, GP, or endurance saddles with loads of options for flap design (dual, mono, different lengths, etc.), blocks, twist widths, seat depth, and so on.

I think it was 2018 when Harry Dabbs sponsored the Retired Racehorse Project and we did a demo with 4 previously unknown-to-us horses. All 4 horses went way better in the Harry Dabbs saddle than their own, including the one with a brand new custom saddle from another company and the one with kissing spines. We used off-the-rack saddles with no customization.

So yeah, I get pretty excited this time of year because I get to go down there and it’s almost like working magic the way I get to transform horses. And riders love them too, by the way. The most frequent comment about rider fit is that they feel very secure.

And as if that isn’t enough, they are incredibly affordable. You could get 2 for the price some trendy saddles are currently going for. They’ve even done an additional discount in the past for saddles being purchased for OTTBs but I’m not sure if that is going to happen this year due to the general state of the economy.


Not to derail, but is there somewhere with a list of Dabbs dealers/reps? I have an independent fitter contact but they don’t have a ton of saddles on the truck (usually they’re working on what you already have, or ordering something based on a naked tree and tracings). Dabbs has been suggested for my wide/broad/short backed/kissing spine OTTB, who will need a saddle if he comes sound from a suspensory.

Feel free to PM me, I’m in NC if that helps.

There aren’t many of us. Equine Aesthetics in eastern Pennsylvania, SL Saddles in western PA, May Valley Vet in Washington, and me, The Saddle Tree in Ohio, might be it in the US.
I do remote fittings and I enjoy working with saddle fitters elsewhere in the country to help find people the right saddle for them. Remote Purchase Consultations – The Saddle Tree

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Thanks for the info! Once we get the all clear for riding I’ll definitely reach out!

Little horse is lucky he’s cute (and the BEST brain), he’s been expensive lately :rofl:


There are scores for general impression and manners, etc. Those are added into the total score. So a horse that plays after the last jump may score lower on that box while still scoring high for the actual jumps.


I think the thing I try to explain to people is to read the score cards from the Rule book. It’s broken out a lot more because this is a TRAINING competition. It’s not about perfect spots if the pace is wrong or the straightness is missing. There’s just more to it.

Page 103 for the Show Hunter Scorecard

Page 104 for the Show Jumper Flat Pattern

Page 105 for the Show Jumper Scorecard.



Very interesting. Thanks for the link!

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@Xctrygirl do you know if they are penalized for trotting a jump (on purpose) or making a simple change? (This is in jumpers.)

Not penalized.

Nor is playing after a jump.


That would make sense, since there is no penalty for either of those things in a regular jumper class, other than possible time faults if they end up going over the time allowed.

Yes but again… The Makeover is a show unlike any other and the scoring and success is based on TRAINING not show round successes.

We have seen horses go VERY fast in the second jump round and they were scored down because jump off speed was NOT the goal. And folks didn’t read the rulebook or study the scorecard well.
The desire is to have a well trained horse that can do the job but is obedient and not cray cray.

We ALWAYS get someone that will argue with the judges about something that would have been a strength in a show class, but isn’t viewed as one here.