Archive for the ‘designing a saddle’ Category

How to design a saddle part 5

Deciding on a billeting system was one of the easier decisions. While there is nothing wrong with traditional billets, many new saddles have a “humane” or “swinging” billet in the rear. This allows more versatility in girth placement and helps keep the cantle of the saddle from lifting.  To allow smooth swinging of the rear billet, we would need to use slippery nylon webbing as opposed to linen webbing. (The seat would continue to be strained with traditional linen webbing) Then rugged chrome tanned dressage billets would be stitched to the webbing.


How to design a saddle Part 4

The flap would be wide enough so that those of us who have gained a little weight over the years , a flap that is flattering to our unfortunately larger thighs. Riders are not immune to the obesity epidemic  that is raging across the nation. While we’re not as heavy as the general population, we are larger than in years past. And it’s these heavier riders that are using the larger horses  like the draft Xs and baroque  breeds that this saddle is designed for.  Therefore, the flap would be slightly broader at the top so a rider’s thighs would always be on the flap — not on the horse.


How to design a saddle Part 3

Leg support was our next consideration.  A few of our customers are elite, grand prix riders. But most are not. Most of our customers, (and I include myself) are of intermediate abilities, constantly striving to learn and improve.   We want our saddle to feel secure, not restricting.  It’s not easy to find the balance between the two.  We eventually decided on moderate sized thigh blocks that would be short enough to not bang on the rider’s knees yet thick and soft enough to gently support the leg. This would be underneath a traditional styled flap.  After riding the demo saddle, we decided to add a soft bulge in the padded portion of the flap that would give further, gentle support.

How to design a saddle Part 4

The flaps:

The flaps would be flattering to those of us who have gained a little weight over the years. Riders are not immune to the obesity epidemic  that is raging across the nation. While riders are not as heavy as the general population, we are still heavier than in years past and dressage riders tend to be a little older and a little heaver. The top of the flap would need to be wide enough so that thighs remained on the saddle and not on the horse.  Somehow, the thigh looks bigger when it is not contained by the shape of the flap.

How to design a saddle Part 3

Leg Support :

This is something we debated and then debated some more. What do people like? Of course we want to design this saddle so that people will first, want to try the saddle and second, have a wonderful demo ride and want to purchase the saddle. We have found that some people love large forward blocks like our Ultimate Dressage saddle. They feel really secure on the plastic horse in our showroom. But once they put the saddle on their horse, those large blocks don’t work for them. Many actually get sore knees.  Since most of us are not riding at grand prix level, and are not doing “airs above the ground”, we don’t really need this much support. Indeed, it is sometimes in the way. So we opted for medium size blocks, very soft, to be located under a traditional flap.

Since we would be making a prototype saddle, we would have a chance to ride it and determine if the blocks were right or not.  But this is what we’d start with.

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