Many saddle makers and tree makers use the “Dennis Lane Card system” for the following reasons.

Simplicity – This is by far the simplest, quickest and easiest method of any that we know of at this time. A complete set measurements of one horse can be achieved in a matter of minutes. All you need is a set of the cards, a pencil and paper to record your results.

Communication – The sizes that your horses measure, can be conveniently and quickly communicated over the phone or email to anyone else who is using the Dennis Lane Card system. There is no need to send drawings or castings of horse’s backs by mail. 

Reliable – The cards are more reliable and easier to use than the old “bend a piece of wire over the horse’s back” system.

Comparable – Using this system, the measurements that you take has instantly provided a category and size. This is comparable to other sizes, and you see how the other sizes compare. Back-maps and casts do not in themselves provide a size and are not easily compared against each other.

Economical – A one-off investment enables you to measure and record and infinite number of horses. Unlike any of the casting type measuring methods. 

Consistent – Due to the above advantages this system of measurements and numbers is being used by more and more saddle makers and saddle tree makers. This is leading towards a more consistent terminology throughout the industry.

Plastic – The cards are made of UV stabilised cour flute.


“As we all know” saddle fit is a very controversial subject. I for one don’t believe in the terminology “saddle fit”. The only thing I see is the ramifications of a poorly fitting saddle. I think the issue is tree fit (not saddle fit), for the tree is the foundation of the saddle and it is from here that many fitting  problems stem.

Saddle makers, saddletree makers and their customers can benefit greatly from standardising the way that saddle trees are measured. Communication between all those involved will improve if everyone involved is using the same terminology and system of measurements.

Clear Communication

An example of clear communication and its benefits is shown with horseshoes. Commercially available horseshoes (in Australia) range in size from 00 to 6 or 7 off the shelf. If for example you purchase six sets of size 3 shoes, made by various companies, you would find that despite a small variation, they would all fit a size 3 hoof. With saddletrees, this is not the case. Saddletree sizes vary according to the maker, style and discipline. It is this issue that I am attempting to redress. Just as horse’s hooves are categorised into different sizes, so too can horse’s backs. Once the general size/category is found it does not take much fine tunning to have a tree fit an individual horse, just like the shoes.

During the past twenty years, I have put a lot of thought into the problem. The first thing I needed to know was the range and shape of horse’s backs. Hans Van Hees shared his method of measuring horses with me and I have used it ever since. I have not invented anything new all I have done is to collect measurements of horse’s backs. It was creating a simple and easy to use system, for collecting this information that is the revolution. The following system is an attempt to simplify this mystical procedure.

While collecting the information and developing the system, I have found that I have been able to constantly check and update my saddletrees and improve the accuracy of their fit for customers. It is my wish to share this information and technique with fellow saddle and tree makers, in the hope that we can improve the quality of service, that we provide to our customers.

This system of measuring horse’s backs, I feel is the first step towards developing a more standardised system, of categorising the “fit” for all saddle trees.


The cards that can be supplied are designed to classify the horse’s backs, identifying the differences between the width, angle, rock crown and twist. Identifying these differences should assist us in choosing the appropriate size tree, to fit our customer’s horses. It also could lead us to designing better fitting trees.

I have adopted the letters D & S to designate the broader categories, of the shape of the horses back. This originates from Xenophon, a famous Greek horseman who was considering this problem in approximately 360 BC. Xenophon described horse’s backs in two ways, double back (D) or single back (S). With the double back, the flesh rises on either side of the spine, so that the spine lies in a slight depression. Single backs, have the spine rising above the flesh forming a ridge.

I have added a number to designate the size within these categories. Thus I have a code: S4, S5, S6, S7, for the single backed horses and D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9 & D10 for the double backed horses. There are 4 rock/bow patterns R3, R6, R9, R12. I have made trees in every category, but have found that some are more common than others.

The next step in the process is to calibrate the trees to the horses. I am asking individual tree makers to take the range of trees that they produce, (as far as fit is concerned and not style). Put the trees on horses and assess which horse they are designed to fit.   Then using the cards find which category their horse fits into.  

Complimenting existing systems

This is not meant to interfere with any method that the tree maker currently has in place, only to complement it. I am supplying this system to saddle makers and tree makers in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada in the hope that it will be adopted by the industry, as the standard method of tree fit classification. Regardless of manufacturing methods, material used or the quality of the trees. At this point in time I am happy with the system but as more tradesmen analyse it and use it around the world, I am sure it will continue to evolve. It is not perfect (no system is) but I think it is a good place to start. Anyone can use this system. Measuring their horses to send the size to the saddle maker, who can order a tree from any tree maker using this system and have it fit with a high rate of success. As all are talking  the same “language” there is less chance off misunderstanding.

If a horse appears, that falls outside the general range, a tree maker can use the cards to ascertain (if he needs or wants to), where and by how much he needs to, change the tree to fit that horse. It also means that a saddle maker, who is a long distance from the tree maker, can communicate their needs for a tailored tree with more ease. I think the system is a useful tool to gain accurate information from our customers. The system also demonstrates to customers, that one size does not fit all.

Better Fit

The cards can also be used to show where and how much padding to use, when making a manipulative pad, to match the shape of the horse to the setting of the tree. Just like the horseshoe, once you get close to the size, it is relatively easy to manipulate the shoe, to fit the individual hoof. For example a size 3 shoe, won’t fit a horse with a size 4 hoof or a size 2 hoof but, it will fit a size 3 hoof and the variations that we see within that size. When making these pads if we use quality material, we can also reduce the concussion aspect of tree fit. So by getting the tree to fit a given shape and using a manipulative pad, to fine tune the tree using quality not quantity, it will allow us to build a narrower fitting tree, which in turn is more closely suited to the human pelvis.

 In the package I supply an instruction sheet, on how to use the cards. It is the same one that I supply to my customers and a results sheet to record the settings. I advise them to keep a copy of the results, so that they can compare the changes from season to season and year to year, horse to horse. I feel that if a customer acquires a new horse, then they can use the system to check how their old saddle, will fit by comparing the new horses measurements, with those that the tree was designed for. I add all the results to the database to help with further research.