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Saddles - Fitted rather than fancy?

Posted: 22 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
I was asked at work what I was doing nice with my day off, when I explained they looked rather perplexed and gave me an odd look! To me it isn’t anything out the ordinary to drive 3 hours each way to have a saddle checked to ensure the fit and performance is spot on. Sadly though even in the equestrian world sometimes not enough attention is given to saddle fitting for horse and rider.

I also have concerns that whilst there are some superb top end saddles out there, the marketing machine that supports these companies and the resources they have to sponsor and support top / high profile equestrians is putting pressure on us that you need this equipment to succeed. These saddles can retail at 3k plus, made from beautiful leather, well crafted and amazing to sit on they are the latest must have. However do they really make such a difference and surely fit, comfort and quality can be found in many other saddles? For me the answer is a huge yes, in fact my historic experience of having such a big name saddle was not great.

Even at the lowest of levels you can’t seem to event without two saddles, while I fully accept a dressage saddle does help a riders position on the flat it is no way a must have if budgets are tight. Currently both my horses go in a jumping saddle for all phases and Sarnie evented up to 3* with me using a jump saddle in the dressage. I realise this may be a reflection on my riding but it can be done at all levels and should not be a barrier to competing or a mental restriction with riders feeling they are at a disadvantage.

Personally I have seen the damage a poor fitting saddle can have and the differences working with a top saddle fitter can make. Years ago I bought the most beautiful saddle after saving up for years, it was truly the best saddle I had sat in yet 3 months after using it my Sarnie's back was sore and had lost muscle behind the withers. My regular physio was called and could not believe the difference which was caused by the saddle gripping behind the wither. It had actually been made to measure following a fitting by the companies saddle fitter but realistically it was never right for my shape horse and had to be sold.

The saddle I bought for Pip after trying 5 or 6 fitted us both and gave her huge shoulders more freedom. This in turn made a massive impact on her paces and the freedom of her shoulders over a jump. Since then all my long / medium term residents have either had saddles from Nathaniel or like in Ellie’s case, saddles checked and adjusted to fit where possible. In really difficult cases Nathaniel has the added advantage he can make saddles to fit as well as offering a huge range of saddles both new and second hand.

Fliss actually turned out to be surprisingly difficult to fit when we went up in November. We spent a couple of hours with Nathaniel and his new team member Elly finding the right saddle for both of us. It is very much a team effort, whilst Nathaniel can select a range of saddles to try it is important the rider can feedback on how the horse is feeling in the saddle and also whether it is balanced for the rider. Nathaniel as a specialist remedial saddler will also work with vets, trainers and physios as appropriate.

I bought a new saddle, not a big name make (can’t even remember what it is) but the cost was less than half what a top of the range saddle would cost new. For me this is great value for money and gives me the fit, comfort and performance I need. Even if I was offered sponsorship I wouldn’t be looking to change, it is very much a case of when you find something that works for you stick with it. The results to me speak for themselves.

This week we took the trip back 3 months after having the saddle to have the fit checked. You can see in the picture the templates of her back how much her shape has improved in the 3 months with the saddle allowing her to muscle up underneath it. It of course it not just the saddle but the saddle combined with correct work, feeding and care. Again a full assessment was made of her ridden in the saddle before some minor adjustment were made on site to the flocking. The fit is checked using the numnah and gel pad that I will used for competition and working at home. There were fairly minor adjustments to help free her shoulder even more, riding in it again when the adjustments were complete you could feel her moving through even better. This is a distinct advantage of having a flocked saddle as the panel allows for adjustability, better shock absorbing properties and greater weight distribution reducing pressure, some of the popular saddles have foam panels which can't be adjusted.

With Fliss changing shape we are due back in 6 months to have her saddle checked and Ellie will have a yearly check at the same time. I would definitely recommend Nathaniel and Elly if you are interested in getting a saddle well fitted, we travel up to the Chard base but with Elly now part of the team I understand visits can be done around much of the South West including Cornwall

You can check out their website here

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Posted: 19 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
Today we went to Chard to have Fliss's saddle checked (more on that in my next blog). Stopped on the way back for to give Fliss a quick pop at friends on the way past.

Nice simple exercise but pleased again with progress, much less head tossing and starting to listen and focus, plenty of jump there. Threatening to get my brave pants on and take her to her first jumping show on the weekend.

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Posted: 17 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
Some very different training sessions in the last few days. On Friday I had a day off and took Ellie to the arena XC clinic organised by Threewaters Riding Club at Porth Valley Equestrian. A great range of different questions in the school environment which really helped sharpen us both up.

It was great for both of us, well within the comfort zone but good fun and got us thinking.

Fliss meanwhile had a session with Stef Eardley today or perhaps it was more I that had the session as Stef was trying to get me to focus on believing in my myself. A bit of a cry mid lesson shows I am still way off where I want to be and really struggling with confidence and self belief. However despite all that Fliss actually went very well, I look at the video and always admire her and the improvement is quite dramatic.

A little clip from the video, note at the end is the first ask for some lengthening and it looks like it will be really good in time.

I can't really pass on any training pearlys of wisdom Fliss wise as Stef was focusing on me!

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Posted: 16 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
Just a quick update although the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed, you can now make comments directly on blog posts. Happy as always to receive any comments or feedback and pleased to offer another way of doing this.

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Sponsor Feature - Horsequest Advantage

Posted: 14 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
I want to take the time to tell you a bit about the people that support Shoestring Eventing, not just how we work together but also a bit of behind the scenes and the people involved. I want to start with Horsequest Advantage who launched last year and I am delighted to be part of their A team of riders. Horsequest Advantage is a members only equestrian club offering large discounts on selected equestrian products and services, fabulous competitions (see picture), tickets to top equine events and unique experiences. Membership is good value at £3.50 a month with currently a free one month trial. The good thing is you can cancel at any time so if it is not for you there is no tie in.

As well as enjoying being part of the team I have taken advantage of some of their great discounts. I bought Ellie a Fal Pro rug with a 20% discount which resulted in a £30 saving. I have also purchased electrolytes which had 40% off, a show shirt to name a few as well as used the 12% discount with the sister Horsequest sales site. There is a good variety of discounts available with frequent changes and updates. I am very fortunate as an A team member I don't pay a subscription but if I had over the last year I would have saved probably 3x as much as the subscription cost.

So let me tell you a bit about the lovely team that runs the scheme. Between the Advantage team there are more dogs than humans! They involve a selection of Labradors in every colour, 3 Lurchers, a Patterdale terrier, an Australian terrier from Bondi beach and even a Chihuahua called Roy. 

They are a horsey bunch too! Alison Roeves the director of Advantage used to breed Welsh section B's and riding ponies, she was also a Dartmoor pony judge.  Fee has two horses, Eddie and Dave! They hunt as much as they possibly can.  Lisa is an Eventing enthusiast who can be seen travelling from one event to the next over the season and Beth has always had thoroughbreds and will always have a soft spot for them.   Since launching in May the team have have packed and handed out over 2000 goody bags to new members at shows. Members have claimed free tickets to over 10 of the top equestrian events in the UK including Badminton, Burghley, Gatcombe, HOYS, Olympia and Your Horse Live to name a few. There have been over 46 competition winners. Prizes included an Equi-Trek trailer, £500 cash X 2, a years supply of feed and a beautiful Stevenson Brothers Rocking Horse! Horsequest Advantage sponsored a team in the Cotswold Team Chase - HorseQuest Hedge Hoppers. Fee from the Advantage team took part while the rest covered their eyes.  We are striving to make 2018 even better for Advantage members. We have a HUGE tradestand at Badminton Horse Trials this year and will aim to spoil our members at the event, yes there will be a bar! We also have a lakeside pavilion there where lucky members can watch riders splash through the water on cross country day whilst enjoying lunch and a glass of fizz!   So for anyone who hasn't had a chance to become a member please do give it a try. Don't forget you can sign up free for a month and cancel at anytime.

Have a look at the website HERE which lists current offers, giveaways and competitions.

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Pontispool Arena XC Clinic

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 - Comments (0)
Yesterday we were booked into a clinic with Andrew Lovell at Pontispool, a big step up for Fliss in her cross country training and although green at times she learnt loads. The facilities at Pontispool are brilliant with the full range of cross country questions in the arena.

We met skinnies, a corner, steps, ditches and water. She soon started to take charge cross country and knew it all very quickly (or so she thought!). I was particularly pleased to jump a small triple brush which she understood straight away. Fliss has huge power and scope and as long as I remember to take it steady using trot if necessary she has the time to work things out. It is when we get too quick and cocky that things go wrong as can be seen the first time we did the corner.

Things were great, that was until we came to go in the water. Ever since I have had her she is sure crocodiles inhabit the waters of the South West, although with this recent wet weather she has become more accustomed to splashing through a variety of water so I wasn't expecting a huge issue. Well clearly the dark Pontispool water was infested and on no account was she stepping into the water even with leads from the other clinic horses. Eventually and not wanting to waste everyone's time there was only one solution - to get off and lead her in. Now please remember this was a cold day, the water was very cold and I had short boots and chaps on. My boots are waterproof to the ankles which meant once in and filled the water stayed in the boots. Luckily Fliss quickly decided that if I was in the water it clearly was safe and followed me in for a walk around. Two minutes of the cold water was all I could cope with so sharply exited and found a suitable jump to mount from and hopped back on. This time she happily went in and out the water so hopefully a lesson learned. Much as I would have liked to tackle the problem from on board on this occasion without making a battle she learnt what was needed and hopefully gained confidence. The trust she had in me on the ground will hopefully transfer to me when mounted.

Anyway a bit of video of the schooling, there is none of me getting wet so I added the pictures for your enjoyment here.

All in all very pleased with progress. I am in no hurry with the cross country as I want to focus on the dressage and show jumping but equally this arena facility is only available for another few weeks and seemed a great way to introduce some of the basic cross country questions in a relatively enclosed environment.

As for my short boots I think they may be taking a few days to dry out!

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