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.