A post on social media caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. An Australian had put a photo of her saddle up, saying that many people ask her at competitions if her saddle was broken. It wasn’t, but it’s an innovative, modern design that hasn’t made it into the grassroot market.
Obviously this meant that I had to do a bit of research.
Stuebben, of which I’ve not got much experience except for their old saddles which I never seemed very comfortable; have developed alongside Equi-soft, a type of saddle with a split tree.
This design, either as a jump saddle or a dressage saddle, has a divided tree, which facilitates and adapts to a wider range of back movement. Apparently this split tree reduces pressure on the horse’s back, and adjusts well to the movement of the rider. You can see that by having two separate sides to the saddle, a left and a right, the seat aids should be clearer and more precise because the pressure won’t be distributed to the opposite side. Which leads me to wonder if the seat aids could be too much for some horses – those with sensitive backs or heavy riders?
Having the split in the saddle also improves ventilation to the horse’s back, and helps prevent muscles overheating. I assume Stuebben have done some research using thermography, so it would be interesting to see results from a similar, independent study.
On a slightly different note, and I’m sure men will identify more with this, the saddle seat relieves pudendal nerve pressure (after a bit of googling I’ve discovered this nerve causes pelvic pain and supplies feeling to that region), which helps prevent injuries to that region – we’ve all winced in sympathy as someone’s crashed down onto the pommel, so surely having some preventative measures is a bonus.
The saddle also has a stirrup bar that can be adjusted to four positions which will mean that those of us outside the range of “normal” won’t have to look at specially made saddles to accommodate long legs (I don’t count myself as one of these people). It also means you can adjust your seat from cross country to showjumping by adjusting the position of the stirrups rather than just adjusting the length of your stirrup leathers. According to their website, the way the stirrup bars attach mean that the rider’s weight would be distributed more evenly and effectively.
The girth straps are also a new design, being attached to elastic rings, which relieves pressure, improves breathing, and allows the ribcage to expand more.
Unfortunately for me, this saddle is priced way out of my price range, probably why I’ve only experienced tired, old Stuebben saddles previously, so I’m unlikely to experience the benefits of these technological advances. Perhaps if anyone is ever running a study on the effects of different saddles, investigating effects on performance, as well as physiological measurements, then they can get in touch and Otis and I will be happy to oblige!