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Saddles are usually the next most expensive purchase to be made after the horse itself. Yet, sadly, they can be the cause of so many problems. I have had my fair share of them, and the accident I had a few years ago (mentioned in the About Me page) was eventually attributed to a badly made saddle. Yet the saddle had been supplied by a well-known saddler and looked like it had cost the earth (it had!).
I have since been privileged to meet remedial saddler Kay Humphries during my training, and she astonished me by revealing some of the unorthodox practices carried out in the less reputable domain of the saddle industry. Super-looking saddles often hid warped trees, with other mind-boggling adjustments and paddings added to make things look right. The unsuspecting rider then unconsciously compensates for unevenness by sitting at an odd angle, or adjusting stirrup leathers unequally to balance things up. This tends to twist the tree and puts uneven pressure on the horse which can lead to a host of problems.
Kay taught me what to look out for. I still use my old saddle, but only for demonstration purposes and as a warning to others of the potential dangers.
Symmetry is the main feature of the new British Standard for wooden saddle trees launched in July 2003 at the Walsall Leather Museum.
The idea for BS6635:2003 arose from a meeting called by the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, involving Kay Humphries, the Society of Master Saddlers, the Walsall Equestrian Society and BETA, together with representatives of the veterinary profession and the saddlery manufacturing and retail trades. All agreed that the symmetry of saddle trees should be emphasized at every level from training to manufacture as an important factor in producing a well-fitting saddle.
Walsall tree makers took on the challenge of identifying the symmetry criteria - what should be measured and how. A prototype measuring jig to test trees for symmetry was developed to very demanding tolerances.
The Saddlers' Company then approached the British Standards Institute (BSI) with a view of incorporating this information into a new standard which has now been authorized and published.
I am an approved saddle fitter for The Saddle Company, a small privately owned company designing and manufacturing saddles in Walsall, England. The company was the brainchild of directors John Fuller, a specialist in leather and synthetic materials, and David Johnson, a master saddler of 35 years standing. David, is very well known internationally for the work he has done over the years in the design and development of saddles and trees. He has designed and developed a brand new range of synthetic trees which he owns and markets under the name of Tree Tec. These trees carry a ten year guarantee and are virtually indestructible. They are injection moulded so are always constant in size and shape and are designed to fit the horse and place the rider centrally in the saddle.
The Saddle Company provide saddles to meet all budgets with quality and comfort being the highest priority. Saddles can be part leather, part synthetic or all leather models. The company use serge wool panels which provide just about the softest and most forgiving material that you can put onto your horse’s back. The flocking underneath the serge is soft and springy when it leaves the factory and the first few hours of the saddle’s use are critical in moulding the serge and flocking to fit your horse’s back; this is known as the ‘bedding in’ period.
This is an example of just one of the new additions to the company's product range. It is the Verona Endurance, a very lightweight part leather, part synthetic saddle with extra wide panel for maximum horse comfort.
You can find further information about the company, and the full range of saddles, from The Saddle Company website.
The Saddle Company does not sell direct to the public. However, if you would like to see or purchase one of their saddles, I can make all the arrangements and would be happy to visit you and your horse to ensure the perfect fit for maximum comfort and safety.
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