Archive for September, 2011

How to design a saddle Part 2

The tree would need to fit the baroque breeds like Fresians , Gypsy Vanners and Andalusians. Also, draft Xs that are becoming more popular. These broad backed horses are sometimes challenging to fit. After consulting with our saddle makers in England, we determined that we would use a “hoop tree”.  It needed to be of rugged steel and wood construction and adjustable here in our Hartford factory.  A spring tree with flex was a must. It would have pre-stretched  linen webbing that would not stretch and sag over time. And an adjustable stirrup bar would be attached to the tree to give riders the ability to place the stirrups appropriate for their own center of balance.


How to design a new saddle Part 1

First we needed to determine who would buy the saddle we are designing. We decided that we needed to design a dressage saddle that would be versatile enough to work well on the baroque breeds AND the larger draft crosses that are becoming so popular. Also, it had to be versatile enough for the amateur rider (most of us) and the elite rider.  It needed to be comfy in the showroom and on a real, moving horse in the dressage arena. But, if the saddle wasn’t comfy in the showroom, it would never be chosen for a demo ride.


  • It needed it to be soft. To protect the sensitive crotch area, the padding needed to be extra soft in the area of the twist. And the working center, or sweet spot, needed to be long enough so that riders didn’t bruise themselves as they learned to achieve a neutral pelvis.
  • The distance between the working center and the stirrup bars is what determines the rider’s balance. Since everyone’s  is different, we opted for an adjustable stirrup bar that is often found on cutback saddles used with gaited horses. With a little experimentation, the rider can determine his or her correct position and then lock the bar down with a screw.
  • The leather needed to be soft and slightly grippy. Not pigskin. Pigskin is very durable, but also very firm (hard).

Coming next: Part 2 – the tree


Trail Riding follow-up #2

Another reason people like a western saddle for trail riding is the deeper seat. While some English saddles have a very flat seat, that is not true of all English saddles, only jumping saddles or Lane Fox style saddles that are intended for high-stepping gaited horses.

A dressage or all purpose saddle has a deeper seat that can give the same security as the deep seat of a western saddle.  These saddles allow the rider to lengthen the stirrup leathers  and ride in a position very similar to that of a western rider.  I also find short stirrups uncomfortable.  And it’s not because I can’t bend my knees.  It’s because I feel unbalanced — like I’m perched up high.  This is a personal preference. I say that if you are comfortable riding that way and feel safe and balanced, then do it.

If you think that the seat of the English saddle just isn’t comfortable, than you have probably only ridden on saddles that don’t fit you.  If you find that your crotch is sore after a while, might be because

a) you are tilting forward slightly and your pubic bone hits the ramp of the seat.

b) the stirrup bars and therefore your feet are out in front of you. This causes you to lean forward to maintain balance and this tilts you pelvis.

c) the seat is too deep for you

d) the working center is not long enough for you.

Any of these things can make you saddle sore…even in a western saddle.