Deb Hafner reviews Smart Ride Rx and Thera-Tree®

TC customer Deb Hafner offered to "do a little write-up" after Tad and Kelly visited her area for a Demonstration & Discussion. We hope you enjoy reading her account as much as we did! Thanks for all of your efforts with this, Deb!

Innovative Saddle Maker Discovers Remarkable Side Effect in Tree Tech

"I've ridden exclusively in a Tad Coffin Performance saddle for the past six years, and I've always loved it, as has my horse, a 16 hand quarter horse mix with no withers. I keep my horses at home, but I have a trainer and I go to a few horse shows and events. About a year ago, I knew I needed to upgrade my saddle, and knowing Tad takes his older saddles and repairs them, I decided to send mine back to him for a refresher. (Note: my saddle was made 20 years ago. I bought it used from Tad. And it was so beautifully crafted, it lasted…20 years). By the time I finally decided to send my well-loved saddle back to Tad for an upgrade, he had begun to manufacture an all-new tree system cleverly named SmartRide Rx™. I was intrigued by the technology behind this system and set out to learn more about it.

A Saddle Solution
Tad’s saddle system covers all the bases that a rider wants: performance, balance and comfort for horse and rider. The craftsmanship is remarkable. And when you order a saddle, from start to finish, you talk to Tad. This was always the highlight for me. How unusual and refreshing it is to have the owner of a company working with you on your purchase, as opposed to the saddle sales reps that wearily drive around the state selling their wares and meeting whatever quotas they may have. Tad is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, which gives him celebrity status, and makes talking to him even cooler. With a deep concern for the welfare of your horse and you, a willingness and drive to share knowledge, and a genuine and gracious manner, you come away with an education in saddle fit and the right saddle for you and your equine partner. If you look here (, you can read about the extensive team and research that has been over 25 years in the making.

All of the aforementioned qualities combined would be enough to sell one on this saddle brand, but then there was this thing – this really radical, magical, agenda-setting development that Tad and his team of engineers and designers noticed as they were developing the SmartRide Rx™.

An Unlikely Discovery
Through the course of experimenting with the materials and configuration for his new SmartRide Rx™ tree, Tad made a remarkable discovery. Spoiler alert: there’s lots of science and innovation here. It may seem unusual to us horse people, who have for so long been deprived of real innovation and scientific discovery in our field.

It turns out the carbon used in the saddle tree creates a small charge, somewhere in the range of 40 - 60 millivolt (mV), as a result of a piezoelectric effect. I detest oversimplification, but just so we can all wrap our heads around it, this means that the saddle tree is pressing materials together hard enough to create a small electrical charge (piezoelectricity has been around forever, to learn all about it, click here

Far Infrared Spectrum
The charge created by the piezoelectric effect is then reradiated as an electromagnetic field in the far infrared spectrum (FIR). The electromagnetic spectrum is a huge field of energy waves of varying lengths, from X-rays to rainbows, with the FIR, since it is red, closer to the bottom. FIR is one field of energy that we can’t see with our eyes, but it has scientifically proven therapeutic modalities. Published studies have shown many beneficial effects of electromagnetic fields in the FIR, such as relaxation, faster healing and recovery time, relief of muscle fatigue and pain relief. Read more about the science and efficacy of FIR here.

H2O Phases
We all know that water exists as liquid, solid and vapor. We have also seen (and admittedly purchased) ionized water and PH balanced water at the store, to see if it helps us hydrate any better (I don’t think it does, save your money and put it toward a new saddle). However, there is some research being done on the water that our cells hold, and how the varying electromagnetic fields, specifically FIR, affects it. This is still a relatively new field, with few scientists publishing and experimenting. If you look at this video, it’s really cool to see what happens to water when it has a charge added to it [insert link to video]. Dr Pollack is at the forefront of this research, and it seems a lot of folks from across different sports are interested in this type of cellular-level water. In theory, this type of cellular-level water is affected by the piezoelectricity in Tad's saddle tree. While there is a lot of research that still needs to be done, it is a nice bonus to consider.
Tourmaline, Far infrared, Piezoelectricity and Water - Dancing with Water).

The effect of the earth's electromagnetic field on humans and animals is a real thing. Here's a paper from the NIH about it. (The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.) (The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response...
Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface...)

Tad has developed a bunch of products that help you ground your horse. You can read a bit more about these fascinating products and how they work at

If you want more information about the history, science and applications of piezoelectricity, FIR, phases water phases, and grounding, you can geek out here (, here and here: (Detecting the limits of the biological effects of far-infrared radiation...)

Thera-Tree® Is Born
Tad started taking a closer look at developing a separate piece of equipment outside of the saddle housing, and named it the Thera-Tree®. The Thera-Tree® is a device that looks like a small saddle and can be worn over blankets, in a stall, or in the wash stall. Read more about the development here:

If you haven’t been to Tad’s website and seen pictures of his gorgeous home base, which includes his manufacturing facility, horse test subjects, and office, you should check it out here Tad keeps horses for clients and his own set of horses on which to use the therapeutic technology he is developing. Over the course of the past four years, all of the horses have experienced significant health and performance benefits from using the Thera-Tree®. Read veterinarian Melissa Holland’s year-long study here.

I have to admit I love to read scientific papers, and I read most of the information, explanations and background. But I still wanted to find out more and see it work for myself.

The Eponymous Saddle Maker Comes to Utah
We had the chance to observe this new saddle technology in action when Tad and his wife, Kelly, visited Utah. Hosted by Dynamic Equestrian, owned by Travis and Carly Atkinson, about ten of us spent the afternoon with Tad and Kelly and got an extensive demonstration of the Thera-Tree® and the SmartRide Rx™ in action.

The Coffins showed up a little early to meet some of the horses stabled at 

 and we sorted out who we would use to demonstrate the SmartRide Rx™ and the Thera-Tree®. We brought the first two horses in, one of which was my randy OTTB who never stands still in the wash stall. Tad popped the Thera-Tree® on him, and in a matter of minutes he was relaxing, with his neck stretched and his head down.

I noticed a difference in how the horses traveled, being more relaxed through their backs and even with their hind ends.

You can lease the Thera-Tree® on a month-to-month basis, or, if you are in the market for a new saddle, the technology is incorporated into all of the new Tad Coffin Performance Saddles, so you get a saddle plus therapeutic device in one piece of gear. The Thera-Tree® is also a small enough, easily moveable device that fits all horses (and humans can carry it around or sleep next to it!) and ponies, so it is a one-size solution to share in your entire barn.

Tad and Kelly talked for a bit about the different wavelengths of light, and how in our day and age we are being bombarded with extra frequencies and waves that do myriad different harmful things to our bodies. They had us all turn off the blue light on our smart phones as it disturbs the FIR fields (side note: your phones and the light and radiation they emit need to be examined further. For now, it is probably a very good idea to turn off that blue light. Find out how here How to turn off blue light on your iPhone with Night Shift, and make it easier to fall asleep at night).

Putting It All Together
Over the course of the afternoon, Tad put the Thera-Tree® with and without the grounding girth option – some with a copper lined girth, others with a plain girth– on a variety of horses in the wash racks. It didn’t take more than a nuanced glance at the horses to visibly see a reaction. All of them responded positively, with two of the horses who started off pawing and calling, with heads in the air and big eyes, falling sound asleep, eyes closed and practically snoring, once the Thera-Tree® was on their backs.

Next, Tad rode a variety of horses, starting with my OTTB, who responded incredibly well to the saddle and the secret technology housed within. Tad is an exquisite rider – from the moment his foot is in the stirrup you can see what sets an Olympic gold medalist (two-times) apart from every other rider on the planet – and it was a sheer joy to watch him ride. (Also he liked my horse, and that made my year. I just bought this horse and was having a bit of buyer’s remorse, scared I got in over my head with a young OTTB, so yeah for me!).

Exceeding Expectations
Tad rode three horses in the same saddle, after each had worn the Thera-Tree® for a tiny bit of time. We hadn’t, at this point, fully digested the many factors working together in the technology to enhance performance, so we were just staring at a bunch of really good rides on our horses. Tad rode four horses in the same saddle and bridle combination, and we watched as all the horses had improvement in movement, a gentle willingness, an improvement in top line and an overall excellent response to the Thera-Tree®. Working with saddle tree technology to get such an overall improvement in how a horse travels has been Tad’s mission for almost 30 years.

What better way is there to sell a saddle then to show you, on your own horse, how it makes a difference in performance? At the end of the visit, we were all sad to see the Coffins go, but thrilled to have been able to witness this new and exciting saddle technology that will hopefully have a huge impact on our equestrian sport.

New Not New
Our sport, in all its exciting, expensive, multi-faceted, leveling-up goodness, can be antiquated and not super innovative. Sure we have new bits, fancy bridles, a little bit of trendy stitching and padding here and there, and every now and then new gear, but most of the stuff is for our aesthetic, for controlling the horse, and to prevent big vet bills. When is the last time a saddle was completely dismantled and made anew into something better – better at performance plus comfort and better for the overall health of the horse? These days saddle customization and measuring is big business, but when people resell their custom saddles, there are always buyers, so how custom is it, really? We saw Tad ride three horses, all different shapes, and they all showed partnership compliance, willingness to work, and cooperation. Isn’t that a great way to define proper saddle fit, as opposed to having humans interpret what horses need?

In this insta-world full of reps and sponsorships and big box companies and less human connection to a product, it's invigorating to behold the dedication of Tad Coffin to his craft and to his human and horse clients. He doesn't give saddles away or sponsor trainers and coaches, nor does he send salespeople out en masse with demo saddles ripping through barns filling orders. Instead, Tad gives a personable, hands-on, almost old-fashioned approach to a product that is his passion – one that he personally has had a hand in remaking, refining and improving from bottom to top.".


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