Because I got a huge response to my initial post on male and female saddles I decided to put another blog post together on the subject but from a different angle.
What I want to talk about today is the Q-Flexion and why it is so important to saddle fit and the *twist* in the saddle for the rider.
What is the twist? In the saddle world it can be categorized two different ways. The “twist” as it refers to the horse is the angle of tree as it lays on the horse’s back. For an interesting video on that “twist” please click here. The twist we are talking about today is the twist for the rider. Otherwise known as the width of the saddle between the user inner thigh of the rider. This is not to be confused with the width of the seat.
So first we need to look at the difference in the femur angle of the rider. The female rider has a steeper angle of the femur, otherwise known as the Q-Flexion, than the male rider does. In this image I want to show you male and female skeletons overlapped showing the difference in the angulation of the leg. To the right you will see the “Q-Flexion” highlighted.
Because of this different angle the way the rider sits on the saddle can be very different from men to women. Now this is a generalization as all humans have some differentiation from person to person. But as a cross section this can be seen as the norm. So when we rotate the femur out to span the saddle you can see the woman’s femur has to rotate 5° further in order to span the saddle. This can cause a lot of hip pain and impingement on the hip joint.
When we make the twist narrower on this same saddle we can account for that 5° difference and give the woman more comfort in the saddle. But this is not so easily done as just making a narrower saddle. What about the horse? In the diagram here I have narrowed the twist be bringing the saddle slightly higher away from the horse in the seat area. In this way we have not sacrificed and fit to horse in the tree we have merely moved the rider up slightly. This is often why saddles aimed towards women sit slightly further from the horse than a saddle designed for men. The argument is that the rider is then further from the horse. But in fact by moving the female rider up slightly we can actually get much closer contact of the entire leg down the side of the horse with better hip flexibility and therefore better feel and relaxation of the lower back and thigh.
In conclusion: There are many accomplished professional female riders who ride comfortably in a man’s saddle. A lot of them have been in a saddle from a very young age and have accommodated for the difference. But for the adult amateur rider learning to ride or for whom riding is a leisure activity this can make a hug difference to your comfort and lower back/hip health! Please stay tuned for a post on Seat Width and the Female Rider!